Top tips for working parents. How to get the work-life balance right during the summer break.
The days are getting longer, and the schools will soon be closing for the summer holidays. Your kids are getting excited about the long, lazy days ahead. But you find yourself getting increasingly anxious. How will you keep your kids busy all summer while running a business? Where will you find extra childcare? How much will it all cost?
School holidays can present business owners with a headache. But with a little planning and focus, you can stay productive. With some creativity, you can find solutions to fit your schedule and your budget. Here are some tips to help you get organised.
Plan your child care
Now is the time to start planning the summer months. Probably your biggest challenge is finding a minder for your kids during the regular school hours. Your existing minder may be able to increase their hours, or a family member may step in. But if not you will need to find some new solutions.
You can start by talking to other working parents. What arrangements have they made? What child-minding solutions are available locally that you may not be aware of?
Think creatively about other solutions. Do you know any teenagers who would cover a few hours a day for a small fee? Do you have a niece or nephew living abroad who would like to visit and look after their cousins? Is there a local language school? Investigate if you can host students in exchange for some child minding. If you have an extra room in your house, maybe a short-term au pair would solve the problem?
Start booking camps and other activities early to avail of discounts. To find options suitable for your kids’ ages, ask parents with children a year or two older than yours.
Camps can be expensive so check subsidised options like Cul Camps or Parks Tennis. If you are a member of a local sports club, ask if they offer free or discounted camps. Always check for a sibling discount too.
Camp hours can be short but to help working parents a lot of camps or minding clubs now offer early drop-offs or late pick-ups. Local sports centres often run camps that last longer than the usual four hours. They offer good value too, and their camps can cater for a range of ages.
Check your local library. Some host book clubs and reading sessions for children and teenagers. Although these sessions can be quite short, they could still provide a valuable hour or two to process some emails. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown libraries produce a three month ‘What’s on guide’ for the summer months that’s worth checking.
Use online resources
There are lots of excellent websites and Facebook pages to help you do your research. Here is a list of links to other local and national websites. Check for similar ones relevant to your area:
- libraries.dlrcoco.ie (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Libraries)
Collaborate with others
Remember you are not the only one juggling work and entertainment during the summer months. So work with other parents and friends to alternate childminding duties on certain days or hours. Work out a rota for camp drop-offs and pick-ups too.
Ask around if there are parents who would like to mind extra kids along with their own on a formal basis during the summer months.
Organise your work days
You may have to be creative about when, where and how you work. Figure out any fixed times during the week that you must be available for clients or staff. Identify other times when you can be more flexible.
There are lots of different ways you can plan your working hours around your kids:
➢ Instead of a typical business day, your work time may be three hours in the morning and three hours later in the evening
➢ You could work three long days when you have childcare support and then take the other two days off
➢ If you are working at home, work early if your kids sleep late or work late if your children go to bed early
Prioritise your work
It is important to be very clear about your priorities during the summer months. That way you can be productive when you get uninterrupted time to work. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available. De-prioritise any job that is not essential. Categorise your work to identify:
- Important tasks that require a high level of concentration
- Less important tasks to do when energy and focus is low
Schedule the high focus work for a day that you can work free of interruptions. Fit in lower energy tasks into short blocks of time or when you may be surrounded by noise and distraction.
Use a planner to help capture your weekly objectives, schedule, and tasks in one place.
Working productively at home requires discipline. Avoid getting caught up in domestic activities that may sometimes be more appealing than your work. If possible set up a dedicated space where you can go to get into a “work mode”.
If your kids are at home with a minder while you are working, they may seek your attention. Negotiate so they understand that you need uninterrupted time to work. But balance this by being totally “present” when you are taking care of them.
Manage the expectations of clients too. Can you negotiate longer timelines for projects? Continually evaluate if a less essential piece of work can be postponed until the summer is over.
Sometimes it’s easier to be more disciplined when you have less time available. Who knows, the summer challenge may help you develop productive habits that you can retain for the rest of the year?
And finally, remember that flexibility is probably one of the reasons you work for yourself. So try to enjoy the extra time with your children. With a bit of planning, self-management, and help from others you can stay on top of things and still be productive.
Let us know in the comments any of your tips or solutions that work for you. Best of luck.
Written by Moira Dunne of beproductive.ie.