Summer holiday survival for work at home parents
It’s the last day of term, the biggest child finishes school at 12:15 today, the smaller two both finish at normal o’clock.
I am not prepared for the summer holidays. I didn’t get any work pre-done, as if doing extra work beforehand to squirrel away for a sunny day would make working at home with three children any easier?!
I am, however, ready for no school run on Monday. I am very much looking forward to not having to leave the house, reminding each child (many times) to double, no triple check their bags, PE kits, coats, letters, reading books, glasses, packed lunches, water bottles and all those other things that they say they have ready, then suddenly remember that they’ve actually left in the hallway halfway to school. Such fun.
Now, before I get into this, please let me explicitly state for the benefit of some, that I love my children very, very much. I’m glad I get to see them during school holidays. I love spending the days with them playing on the PS4, making forts in the living room watching movies or in the park with books and picnics and ball games.
But, and here’s the thing, I’m a normal human lady and I’m not perfect.
I work for myself, by myself and, as much as I want to play, mama needs to get shit done.
So here are my top tips, in no particular order, for getting through the holidays as a work at home parent (aka the things I’m planning on doing and I’ve written them down for accountability.)
1. Schedule a play date each week
We’re all in this together throughout the summer holidays. So let’s get together, go the park, beach or pile round someone’s house and *ignore our children together while we drink tea and coffee. Total win.
*obviously don’t ignore-ignore your children but, you know, there’s safety in numbers and we could all benefit from another pair of eyes and ears while we’re having a chat.
2. Play and Walk away - classic Supernanny (remember that?) tactic
Remember Supernanny?! Is that still on?? Anyway, she used to do the ol’ play and walk away trick where you introduce the kids to an activity, stay for a few minutes, engage them with it and make sure they're settled and content.
Then, once they’re happy cracking on, back the fuck away like you’ve just encountered a lightly sleeping Fluffy guarding the trapdoor in the third floor corridor at Hogwarts.
3. Technology is your friend
Don’t stress yourself out by telling yourself that you’re a bad parent for letting the kids watch YouTube, have movie marathons, play computer games or play on their phones. And don’t let anyone else make you feel that way either.
Honestly, the kids will be living their best life if they have a gaming day. Some of my absolute favourite days were spent sat playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my Mega Drive. Or watching my Disney videos in order of release, that was a great day.
4. Get a kitchen timer
This is one of the simplest and best things I ever implemented into my parenting. It has saved me so much hassle and nipped so many arguments in the bud.
You can time the children taking turns. Tidy up time. Time screen time. Countdown to lunchtime, snack time, home time, setting off time. Honestly, it’s bloody brill.
It’s a great, simple trick. The kids get to watch a visible, tangible amount of time tick away and practise their time management skills (that almost sounds like a proper parenting tip!) and you get to out-source some of the constant clock watching and refereeing.
Just make sure any especially crafty children are unable to adjust the timer to shorten their sibling’s turn or make theirs longer (Georgia did this a few times!)
5. Gather supplies
A giant central box of crayons, washable pens, cheapo stickers etc and a roll of paper from IKEA each. Bosh. Instant (and almost endless) fun.
6. Wear them out. Get shit done
This is my classic go-to move.
We’re very lucky to live pretty much next door to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (the new entrance is in between the kids’ schools, less than five minutes by car from our house) we have annual passes and frankly, in the school holidays me and the kids live there.
Now, I’m not suggesting you move house to live next to a zoo. We go to YWP just for the play areas and parks most of the time (obviously we do also go for the animals but the parks are great and lions sleep a lot).
A couple of hours of bombing around the playground and play areas is the perfect way for the kids to get a bit of fresh air, shake off cabin fever, expel some energy and is a great chance for you to sit with a cuppa on a bench reading, planning, working, catching up on emails or napping. I won’t judge, I’ve nodded off on a bench in a playground more than once.
Once you get home, they’ll be ready for some chill out time and you can crack on.
7. You can’t be everything and do everything. That’s ok
The house will be a little messier. You’ll get a little less work done. You won’t be able to get the kids out on Facebook worthy epic days out every single day.
8. Ask for help
This one's for me really. I’m rubbish at asking for help, I really am. I’ve always just got on with stuff and made compromises and tried to do everything when it comes to stuff like this. I often feel like I’m putting people out and I can cope myself, so I keep calm and carry on.
This year, I asked my mother if she’d have the kids one day a week for me so I could get a full day of uninterrupted work in. And, not only was she absolutely happy to help, but she also offered to have the three of them THE NIGHT BEFORE to save faffing about in the morning. Fucking amazing.
It doesn't have to be a sleepover and a full day. Just an hour, an afternoon or someone there with you to be you for a little while you pop into your office.
Some people forget to offer, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to help.
9. Take time off
No one can keep going 24/7. The huge benefit of working from home or for yourself is the flexibility. You are for the most part in charge of your own work schedule, so make that schedule work for you.
Enjoy the summer and enjoy the time you spend together. Enjoy the small things and the little moments. Take photos, play on the swings, have the big ice cream.
10. Don’t worry, you’re doing great
You really are. You’re walking the line between stay at home parent and working parent. You’re being an awesome example of a strong worth ethic for you children.
Some days will be long af. Some days will be stressful and shouty. But, so many more days will be fun and silly and full of laughter.
And for those days when you feel like you’ve not got your shit together or have been run ragged, there's always tea. And Cake. And gin. And wine.
Pop over to Instagram to catch up with my summer stories over the holidays