School holidays are a nightmare for most working parents. How do you juggle the kids who have up to 12 weeks a year at home on school holidays and most working parents only get 4 weeks holiday a year? Clearly the way our working lives are structured is not conducive to stress free parenting. Spare a thought also, for the Virtual Assistant, or any self employed small business owner.
Taking time off is not really an option and what happens in reality is most end up doing two jobs at once, parent and business owner. My own stress levels usually sky rocket over this period as the “clear headspace” for thinking during the day just never happens and I feel pulled in all directions.
However, I have found some coping mechanisms which may help others in the same position.
Early morning walks
I wouldn’t call myself a natural ‘morning person” but early starts are a way of life when you are a mother and I have got used to getting up early in the morning. I like to walk and I usually head out at 5.00am for an hour or 45 minutes, before I need to make school lunches or get the kids up. The walk is my clear thinking time and I can mentally run through my day and what I need to achieve. I have also found it a stress buster and I arrive at my desk with a clearer head and better able to cope with a demanding day.
Early starts or Late nights
During the holidays if I can get an hour or two of work in before the rest of the household is awake, I have more family time with my children and I’m not constantly checking my email during the day. Obviously this works just as well at the other end of the clock. If you are a night owl you may be able to squeeze in some productive hours once the household is in bed.
School Holiday programs – The cheaper the better!
Most school holiday programs are heinously expensive and if you utilise them for more than a couple of days,most of your income is going to be lost on paying for it. However, there are some lower cost alternatives that will give you 2-3 hours of productive kid-free time to work on your business.
My local Gymnastics club runs a fabulous program with a variety of activities lasting 2-3 hours over the school holidays. The RSPCA also runs some great low cost programs. It’s inexpensive and my children enjoy it. Most importantly I get those vital few business hours to get through my workload.
Sharing the load
If you are lucky enough to know another mum in the same boat, often you can “share” the minding, by one of you taking both your own children and someone elses for the day and then the next day swapping. It means cramming your productivity into just a couple of days a week but may be just enough to get the important work done. You can even do half days if full days are too daunting.
Telling your clients
If you are struggling to meet deadlines and have limited availability over this period, don’t forget to let your clients know. If they have children themselves they may well be in the same boat and will be able to empathise. Let them know if they need to call during certain hours or time periods. Ask them if you can contact them after hours if you need to (however, be considerate here and let them know this is a temporary situation).
Try to stay sane. Tell yourself the situation is temporary. Mark the days off the calendar. They do go back to school eventually.