By Louise Deverell-Smith, Founder of Daisy Chain, the flexible working platform
With school holidays around the corner, that dread of entertaining the children whilst working is creeping up on me (and haven’t we all had enough of this in the last 18 months?). So, this year I have a goal to be organised, and I thought I’d share my top tips on balancing the school holidays with work. That work-life balance is always a juggle, but in the school holidays, this is when it can really feel overwhelming.
My top tips for finding the balance:
1. Plan activities ahead – Why not plan out several days’ worth of fun activities in advance? And let the children know the plans so they can get excited. There will be days/mornings/ afternoons that the children will have to entertain themselves (here’s a confession of mine – I think it’s good that children get bored sometimes! Life is not constant excitement and planned activities.)
2. Set up playdates – Reach out to your parent network and see if you can set up some playdates with them – and share the childcare. It’s a win-win for all involved. Kids are happily playing with their pals, and us parents have some childcare sorted.
3. Manage everyone’s expectations – Have an open dialogue with your employer, your clients and your family. If you have to be in the office, ask your employer if you can work remotely that day as your children are on holiday. And let your children know when you have important meetings and deadlines. With a little context, everyone – even kids – are much more understanding.
4. Set work boundaries – We are all guilty of our working hours running into our home life (the negatives of having our phones on us all the time). But during the holidays, you need to be strict with your time and turn off work. Try the Pomodoro Technique for efficiency. Write your to do list, set a timer for 25 minutes, focusing on that first task only with all other distractions turned off. Take a 5-minute break and tackle the next.
5. Flex signature – Add a signature to your emails stating you are working, but it’s the children’s hols so you might not reply immediately. If you work flexibly anyway, you should consider this signature permanently anyway.
Here is my flex signature to help inspire yours:
“I’m all about the flex, so I’m sending this message now because it’s when I’m working. Please don’t see it and think you have to read, reply or action it outside of your normal working hours.”
6. Don’t run yourself ragged – The pressure of trying to do it all can really creep up on you if you are not aware of it. Try and limit playdates/ activities to 1 a day and also be aware you will be more ‘in demand’ over the hols so park the less important things until post-holiday. I love the saying ‘decide what is important and forget the rest’. It couldn’t be more relevant during times of a proper juggle like school holidays.
7. Kids clubs – It may be obvious but do book camps and liaise with the parents of your children’s friends to book them in together if you can. If you are employed, have a look if they offer a voucher scheme to help pay for these.
8. Put in a flexible working request – If you don’t have a flexible working contract, now could be the time to start applying for one. Here is a link to guide you on applying for a flexible working request.
If you have had a flexible working request denied, then I’d suggest you look for a new employer (and here’s where Daisy Chain can help!) We are a platform for parents to match and connect with flexible employers who recognise the importance of work-life balance.
9. Don’t compare – We have such a tendency to compare our life with others. We will all be bombarded with the images of family trips to the zoo, cooking activities for the whole family, and general happiness…but be realistic. These are lovely snapshots of happy moments but we also know no one’s days are like this all the time.
10. Eliminate guilt from your mind –Your days won’t go to plan, and that’s okay. Sometimes we drop 1, 2 or 3 balls (actually I might get the kids to learn to juggle in the holidays – could entertain them for a few minutes!)
From one mum to another, good luck with it all, and if you have any questions about flexible
working, do get in touch.