Well, they are finally here, the vast majority of the UK schools have now broken up and its officially school holidays (Sorry Yorkshire, not long left for you)
A time that the kids look forward to, and one that working parents kind of dread, as the inevitable juggling act starts for the next few weeks. And as a mum of two teenagers, Sandra has survived years of balancing spending time with the children, our kidsbeehappy business, and the inevitable mixture of whatever the Scottish weather can throw at us, so here are my top tips to help you get happily through the next few weeks:
I am not one of life’s naturally planners, I am much more someone who tends to roll with it, and take it as it comes. However, even I have found the magical impact that planning can have on working parents during the summer holidays. Each year Alistair and I sit down and work out who’s got what on when, and what takes priority at certain times, enabling us to plot a plan of who is working when, and who is looking after the kids when.
This really works, because even when that niggle starts about the things that I “need” to do, I already know that I will have time planned to sort it, so it stops the stress before it starts. After all, it’s not the ‘doing the thing’ that causes the stress, its the ‘thinking about the thing that causes the stress’. So knowing when you’re going to do it means that you’ve given your brain permission to “park it” until then.
PICK ONE THING AND DO ONE THING.
As women we are told that we are great multi-taskers, but i’ve found the secret to getting the best out of the summer holidays is to pick one thing and do one thing at a time. If I’m out with the kids then that’s what i’m focusing on, being with them, and enjoying that time together, and being a mum. During this time i’ll ignore the pings from my phone for the time being, knowing that i’ll be catching up with the later. This if you like gives my brain, and my heart, focus 100% on the kids, and the freedom to enjoy the time with the kids with being distracted.
The same applies when I am working. When i’m working I will have made plans to know that the children won’t need me during that time, so that i’m free to work diligently and with concentration and without distraction. This has got a little harder over the past few years with the onslaught of text and messages from teenagers, but basically, the kids know that if I’m working, I’m working, and as long as it’s not life threatening (and no, running out of chicken nuggets isn’t life threatening), then i’ll sort it out when I get home.
And there are of course times that things come up that need to be dealt with promptly – so as my kids will tell you that means its cup of tea time. Time to head to the nearest coffee shop, grab a cuppa and some wifi, and spend 20 minutes on the phone. This works so much better than trying to type on phones one handed whilst answering questions from the kids at the same time, or make calls whilst shushing the kids in the background.
USE THE TECHNOLOGY
Technology is fab, and makes it completely possible to stay in the loop even when you’re out and about. But use technology to help you rather than distract you. You’ll already know that when you pick up your phone you have notifications, and my top tip is to really use those notifications to filter whilst you’re out and about. If you pick up your phone, and check the notifications, swiping them as you go when irrelevant, what you are able to do in a matter of just a few seconds is to reassure yourself that no-one is urgently trying to reach you, and there is nothing that urgently needs your attention, and the world is spinning just fine without you, so you can go back to spending time with your kids without the niggle that there could be things that need your attention.
Although it is incredibly appealing to take advantage of lack of school runs to have a lie in, one of my top tips is to get up the same time as normal and to use those lovely hours before the kids wake up to blitz through any tasks on your todo list. The other upside of this plan is that you don’t get too worried when the kids are up later than normal, as you know they’ll sleep on in the morning. Unless you have very young children, the majority of children are slow to get going first thing in the morning in the holidays, taking advantage of the long lie ins and breakfasts in pjs in front of the telly. So why not plan your days activities to always start that bit later in the day, and claim those 2-3 hours before 11am daily to follow up calls, emails and enquiries.
THE 24 HOUR WORLD
In reality there are very very few things that are ultra urgent. So instead of trying to keep up with everything as it comes in, carve for yourself a couple of hours everyday where you can catchup and reply to everything. Before the kids get up, after they go to bed, during the middle of the afternoon when they are tired, after tea when you’re partner is around. There is always a slot. And knowing that you have a slot each day to keep up with things really means that you properly enjoy the time that you spend with your kids. And you get so much more done in an hour or two of focused time than you do by grabbing multiple 10-15 minute slots continuously through the day.
TAKING THE KIDS TO EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS
School holidays can be an expensive time for some families, and so what better way to occupy the children than the opportunity to earn some money of their own. Jessica has been running her own Kids Bee Happy events since she was 9 years old – she was quite capable of dealing with all of the practicalities, and she already had a lovely ability to talk to people of all ages. So, make the most of your young helpers, and if they’re doing it well, step back and let them take a bigger role. My top tip here is to pay them on the day, whilst you’re still at the event, that way the continual requests for money come out of their wages. Sneaky but it works.
What you find is that when the children are going to the events with you in this role, they tend to have a different perspective which makes the day more enjoyable for all of you.
If you have little kids, then take a friend with you to the events. They’ll often appreciate the ability to go the events for free, you’ll have company and you know that there is someone there to look after your children whilst you man the stand.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
If you have a partner that works too, then you’ll know that the number of days that the kids are off school and the number of days holiday that you get just don’t balance out. A few years ago we started doing divide and conquer and it meant that the kids got the best of both worlds. Basically, Alistair would take some time off and take the kids out or away for a few days, giving me the chance to get the head down to work for a few days straight through, and then we’d swap and do the same thing again a few weeks later. This way, the kids got to spend some special time with both of us, and they also got two mini holidays instead of one. Dad’s camper van trip is now well secured in Patterson family history, and grudging as I am to admit it, the fact that it was so special for the kids was precisely because it was an adventure just with just Dad.
If you’re a single parent, then you might feel the weight of the summer holidays even more, because all the childcare sits on your shoulders. When the kids were very little, before we sold our previous businesses, My husband Alistair had a house clearance company and this put him away from home from Sunday to Thursday most weeks. Which meant that during the holidays it really took some planning to create time for me to work. What I did was the Kid Swap. I figure that if you are looking after one child, then you might as well be looking after 2 or 3 or more. So I would get together with a couple of my childrens’ friends parents, and a couple of times during the holiday I’d have their kids over for a couple of days and a sleep over, and they’d do the same for me. It meant that the kids got to have good times playing with their friends, and it gave me the opportunity to do one thing at a time. When you have 3 kids under 6 all around to play then you know that you’re on parent duty, and then a week later when we’d swap around, i’d have a good chunk of quiet uninterrupted time to concentrate on the bigger projects and the plans for next year.
Use your kidsbeehappy business to make your summer better. One of the biggest opportunities with Kidsbeehappy that everyone loves are the festivals. What a fab thing to do as a family. Free entertainment, camping, BBQs and picnics, (wine), a mini holiday, and you get to do a bit of work and be paid to be there at the same time. Other people pay hundreds of pounds to go to festivals – we get paid to do it!! Rope in your friends as “staff” and take them along too, and their kids – make a party of it. Add a stopover on the way there and you’ve got a fab mini holiday.
Look around and see what opportunities are available, as well as festivals you’ve got things like Carnivals, truck shows, air shows, pet shows etc. Buy a tent. Join the caravan club. Do you know just how many camping weekends the Dog Agility competitions have? Endless possibilities.
BUT MOST OF ALL – ENJOY IT!
School summer holidays are a bit like those first few months of having a baby. When you’re in it you feel like its the longest neverending tiredest time of your life, and when you look back it was just a few short weeks. As my girls grow, and I know that I have only one or two more school holidays to get through, my biggest tip is to make sure that you enjoy it, its so easy to get bogged down with the juggling and the balancing that you forget to actually enjoy the time. Kidsbeehappy is a family business, and that means that we all have families and the one thing that I know for sure after all my years in Kids Bee Happy is that its completely possible to keep your kidsbeehappy business running well through the holidays and to have time and fun with your family too.