So, the school holidays happen on Friday. Friday, 3.10 pm to be exact. My friend was telling me last week that she was so relieved that the holidays were coming. “We’ll be able to sleep in and laze about and head out for little excursions,” she said. “That sounds like bliss,” I sighed, deeply regretting every choice I’ve ever made that has led me to become a working mother.
The relief I feel as the school holidays approach is tempered by the terrifying prospect of having my kids at home while I work. Some of the time they will be at friends’ places or their grandparents, but a lot of the time, they’ll be home, pestering me. Wanting food.
I know I’m lucky. I work from home and have children old enough to not need constant supervision, so my days of frantically booking my annual leave, or the kids into holiday camps and activities are over. What a relief that is. None of my three ever liked a single holiday camp that I managed to find. Each kid would be dragged in under duress, adding an extra sting to already-crazy work mornings. For the love of god, I used to think, why couldn’t I get ONE extroverted, social child?!
Those days are done, yet here I am, still wanting the holidays, not wanting the holidays. Pretty much business-as-usual in the life of a working mother. Relief and terror are constant companions. Relief that I’m out working, doing things just for me, using my skills and my merrily contributing. Terrified that I’m not 100% focused on my kids. Relieved that I’m not 100% focused on my kids.
This year I am taking time off at the end of January – the last two weeks before Max hits high school. Other than that, I’m working through. Part of me is grateful that I don’t have time to buy into the ridiculous notion that our children’s lives need to be entertainment central. So what if they are home, schlepping around, all holidays. It’s up to them to make their holiday a relaxing, rewarding break. Over the years I’ve worked out many ways for us to get the most out of “working school holidays”. Here are my top three tips:
1. Keep structure in our days. I talked about this in this post, but wanted to emphasise the need for it here. Unlike my non-working friend, a working mum can’t afford to have complete ‘lazy, hazy summer days’. Set meal times and bed times make a big difference for keeping kids on an even keel. I also plot out ‘outdoor’ and ‘indoor’ time for them and, if I’ve got a really busy day for work planned, I basically get them to schedule their entire day ahead. That works a treat.
2. I’m not afraid of the ‘I’m boreds’. I reckon it’s when kids get bored that they get interesting. Being bored means they’ve lost the ability to tap into their innate curiosity. So, let them be bored. Let them wallow in boredom. The only thing they are not allowed to do is to tell you about their boredom – that won’t do at all. When my kids tell me they are bored, I make them sweep leaves around the pool. That quickly reminds them that, (a) having nothing to do is not such a bad thing after all and (b) we have a bloody pool so get in there, kids!!
This is also our go-to list for home-based holiday fun: 125 (not even remotely boring) this to do at home.
3. We swap with a friend. My kids have two types of friends. The friends whose parents I don’t know well and the friends whose parents are my friends too. The latter are my saviours. These are the families that my three are happy to spend an entire day with (and generally beg for a sleepover to boot) and, most importantly, the families who are happy to have them. They are also more than likely prepared to take my kids to the beach, the local pool, the movies, etc because they know I can’t. In return, I’ll have all their kids to our place for a weekend sleepover so they get a weekend without the kids. It is no surprise to find that this arrangement suits us all so well.
How are you with the holidays – relieved or terrified?