I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I run my own business is to spend more time with my (many) children. How ironic then, that the onset of the school holidays – and the opportunity to spend more time with them – threatens to send my business, house, mental health, life spiralling down the plug hole every year (ok, a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point).
After 12 years of parenthood, and 14 years of self employment, these are some of the tricks I’ve learned along the way:
Everyone: “It’s easy, just find an extra hour somewhere………”
Me: “mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…….. pass the Gin”
It always makes me laugh when people say ‘just get up an hour earlier than the kids’. That’s all well and good but what happens when they get up at 4.16am? By 8pm I’m ready for bed so staying up later and later every night doesn’t really work for me either.
However, take it from me – there are some canny ways that you can squeeze an hour or so out of the day to get shit done without completely ruining everyone’s lives (sometimes even more).
- Soft play is your friend. Yes, I know, it’s hell on earth but as long as your kids are old enough (i.e. they can actually climb stuff without any help) it can be the perfect temporary office. There is generally air conditioning and a café – what more do you need? Just do yourself a favour and check that they have wifi before you arrive (if they don’t, it’s really easy to tether your laptop to your phone and use your 4g data. Providers generally do some kind of bolt-on for a few quid which gives you extra data on the go). If they fall asleep on the way home, even better! You might even get the afternoon off parenting duties too.
- Play ‘home cinema’ – it’s basically chucking a film on the telly, throwing the cushions all over the floor and handing out bowls of popcorn. They think they are doing something really exciting and you get 90 minutes of work time – RESULT!
- Find a minimal supervision game that keeps them busy. Personal favourites are: ‘paint the fence with a paint brush and bucket of water’, ‘fill a washing up bowl with water and let them wash their scooter / bike / slide’, ‘making perfume out of leaves’, sticker books, Playdough, Lego. Ideally something that keeps them in one place, so you don’t have to keep going to look for them. If you just fancy a rest, ‘guess what’s on my back’ is a winner. You lie face down and your child/ren run around the house looking for random stuff to put on your back. You then spend ages trying to guess what it is. It definitely helps if you shut your eyes. Don’t forget to take a photo of it for Instagram, #blessed.
- Do a ‘kids swap’. Now, this is clever – you give your kids to someone else to look after while you get a load of stuff done. The real genius though comes from who you choose to offload onto. In an ideal world, they should be someone with less kids than you and definitely someone whose children are way better behaved than yours. That way, when you have to have their kids back to yours to return the favour, they are a great influence on your lot and you might even get more stuff done. This also works well when combined with numbers 1,2 or 3 – both sets of kids are out of your hair and you get yet another hour of free time.
- Ever wished you could split yourself into 8 different pieces? You can: delegate and automate absolutely everything possible. If you run a class: is there someone who could teach a few of your sessions whilst you have the kids off school? Run your own business: could you afford a Virtual Assistant to answer your emails and only forward you the really important ones? Blogger: could you line up some blog posts now, so they are really to post during the 6-week break? Do you have to post in your Facebook group every day or could you use something like Hootsuite to post automatically for you (or even better, could you just let your clients / customers / audience know that you will be cutting back on your hours for August? They will be so busy themselves they probably won’t even notice)? Parent: get the kids to pull their weight at home too so that you’re not spending your potential work time cleaning up after everyone. Can you do the food shopping online? Or send your other half with the kids so you get food + work time? What about your ironing, can someone else do that (or just leave it like I do)?
- Help their grandparents stay young. There are lots of studies that say that looking after grandchildren actually helps older people stay younger and more active. Do the old folk in your life the gift of health by palming off your children on to them as often as possible.
- Get a sling. it’s a well known fact that doing things with two hands is way easier than with one (there are a couple of exceptions that spring to mind but we’ll save those for another day). Chucking your baby on your front or back frees you up to do so much more. If you’re breastfeeding, you can even do that no-handed too – although maybe not if your baby is on your back……
- Use nap time to have a rest yourself. Yes, it might seem counter-intuitive, but actually allowing yourself to recharge will mean you can maintain your energy levels longer. There is no point hoovering whilst baby is asleep if you then collapse on the settee as soon as she wakes up (just for the record, crashing out on the settee is perfectly acceptable behaviour when you have children). Looking after children full time is really bloody hard work and remember, even mass murderers get tea breaks in prison.
However you spend the school summer holidays, it’s bound to involve juggling, guilt and atleast some moaning (from both you and the kids). Set realistic goals and expectations and be kind to yourself if you can’t perform at 100% all of the time. It’s perfectly OK to have a telly day whilst you catch up on work and the kids chill out. Pizza and chips won’t do them any harm (don’t forget to eat something yourself) and you don’t have to be #makingmemories every day of the holidays. A day in the garden can be just as great as a day in an expensive theme-park and if it saves a few of your precious marbles, then that is a worthwhile day.
It’s all very well to try to burn the candle at both ends, but make sure you leave enough wax in the middle for yourself.