The half term holiday this week has been really tough. Not because I don’t like spending time with my kids, but because balancing work and being a mother is hard at the best of times, and working from home around children can be almost impossible.
Being a freelancer has loads of amazing perks.
The only person who you have to answer to is yourself, so taking the odd day off just because you aren’t feeling it or can’t get childcare isn’t a problem; it offers complete flexibility. However when you reach the school holidays it can be very difficult to manage your workload whilst looking after the children.
Christmas holidays are tricky because everything stops, dead. It gives you time to spend with your family which is great, but in the background there is that monologue of ‘Will it pick up? Will I ever work again?’. Of course it will, and you will. This busy February half term holiday has been proof of that.
So many things I want to do; so little time. There is no doubt about it…
Working from home with children about is hard.
So how do self-employed parents survive the school holidays?
1) Be inventive with childcare
The easiest way to work from home during the school holidays is undoubtedly to do it when the kids aren’t there.
For the big school holidays, summer camps are an option. They are fairly expensive and must be booked in advance, but it makes sense if you have to work. We have a day during the Easter holidays booked up for my oldest, my youngest is too young to make use of them yet.
This week, we disappeared down to my parents’ for a few days, one of which I spent typing like a woman possessed! However ad-hoc childcare is really hard to source if you don’t have relatives nearby or perhaps you’re worried about over relying on someone’s kindness.
If you’re worried about taking the mickey, you may have to be inventive. Striking a deal can be a great idea.
My sister in law and I have a deal that we have each other’s children for 2 half days. This means I know I have a least 2 opportunities to get some work done! Sharing child care is a great way to take off the pressure. Laura from Dear Bear and Beany
Although working from home may mean you do the bulk of the childcare during term time, during holidays it shouldn’t just be your responsibility.
Your children’s other parent – whether you live together or not – should be able to help out. However they might not automatically think about it or even know when the holidays are, so bring it up well in advance and ask them to book some holiday and make plans to get the kids out of the house so you can work.
Both my husband and I are self employed so we have a rota of who works when and who does the childcare, then ensure there is some time set aside for family time otherwise we’d never spend anytime together! Mandi from Big Family Organised Chaos
3) Go where the WiFi is
If your children are old enough to be trusted then a trip to somewhere like Kidzania, or the local soft play with WiFi (and coffee), can give you a few hours to work while the kids are entertained. It may not be distraction-free, but the kids won’t be bored.
4) Work smarter
Do not open Facebook; there is nothing there that cannot wait and it will just suck what little time you do have away. Take it from an expert procrastinator.
If you need to log on to social media for work then spend a few hours before the holidays scheduling posts for social media using the Facebook scheduler, or a third party app like Buffer, so you’re not tempted to log on and waste your precious and limited working time chatting and doing quizzes to find out what kind of cheese you are.
5) Make lists
Make a to-do list and do not deviate from it. Work through, one item at a time. Sounds obvious, but it works. You can do this!
Emma Reed suggests that you might want to make two lists to keep work and family life separate;
Keep the list to the important tasks, filter out things that can wait and prioritise the big jobs. Ticking these off will not only help to keep your mind clear but it will also be satisfying to see that you are making progress when you may feel that you aren’t.
The family list should cover all the activities you want to commit to over the holidays.
6) Lighten the load
Think of the things that you usually do that can be put by for a week to make room for working.
I have a very tongue in cheek post about time saving hacks here but actually, no one will die if you don’t hoover every day or if the bedding doesn’t get changed that week.
Shopping and cooking can both be time consuming so consider meal planning which will save you time each day and stop you reaching for the freezer food.
Alternatively, buy a meal kit with recipes your family will love to make your life easier. I’m a big fan of HelloFresh and they do some great family recipes. You can pause and activate your subscription at any time, meaning it’s easy to get a box delivered in time for the holidays.
A family of four can have up to four recipes a week delivered and they’re easy to make and nutritious. A bonus is the recipe cards which come with each meal, which mean you can recreate favourite recipes easily; we still love this simple Speedy Sausage Pasta!
7) Pull the graveyard shift
Not ideal, but sometimes needs must. I find it really hard to concentrate late into the evening so I prefer not to leave work until the last minute, but if you have a deadline to meet and you can’t work effectively from home during the day with the children around, then you might have to suck it up and pull a late one.
I work in the evenings when my husband comes home and the boys are in bed. It works really well for me as I can concentrate so much better and enjoy the time I spend with them during the day. Jaymee from The Mum Diaries
Be disciplined; sitting in front of the TV with your laptop and a glass of wine isn’t really a recipe for success (and you know it) however your day has gone!
Getting up early is another possibility… But this obviously depends on what time your children wake up!
8) Do not feel guilty
As with every aspect of motherhood, it’s almost impossible to work from home around the children without feeling the dreaded mum guilt.
Balance is key. Realise that your children do not need to be stimulated every second of every day of the holidays. If you have to be at your desk for a few hours while they are watching a film, that’s fine, especially if it means when you’re done you can take them to the park for a few hours without your mind on your bulging inbox, or worse, worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills.
9) Remember, it’s OK to say no
You are only one person. It’s entirely possible to make happy memories with your children whilst earning a living but you need to make sure that you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself to simultaneously do everything or you’ll burn out.
It’s OK to say no, or to politely suggest a later deadline. Set an out of office explaining that you’ll be away from your desk and may take longer than usual to respond. Be honest with the people you’re working with, and if you do lose out because you couldn’t be there right at that moment, then accept that it wasn’t to be.
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