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Hello, fellow working mums! You’ve just stumbled upon a goldmine of school holiday survival strategies tailor-made just for you, put together by a mum (me) who has been there and done it, year after year.
Let’s face it, the double-edged sword of school holidays can be both a blessing and a challenge.
On the one hand, the opportunity to revel in the joy of your kids’ company is truly unbeatable. Yet, on the flip side, this abundance of ‘quality time’ can sometimes feel more like a high-wire balancing act between your career and family.
But worry not! I’m ready to equip you with a toolkit of 14 invaluable tips honed after several years of practice.
The tips I’ve put together are to guide you through the maze of school summer holidays while you simultaneously focus on work and make the most of those precious moments with your children.
IS IT THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS AGAIN?
As a new mum, did you ever have that brief moment of fantasy where you thought…
“I just need to worry about childcare until my darling offspring start school?”
Yes, it’s very easy to think that school will be the answer.
The reality is very different.
The school holidays!!!
There are LOTS of them.
Not least the long, long school summer break.
For some parents, the school summer holidays can be a chance to kick back, step away from routine and really enjoy spending quality time with the kids.
Not so much if you’re a working mum.
THE REALITY OF SCHOOL HOLIDAYS FOR WORKING MUMS
For mothers juggling working and parenting, the school holidays can often be the fly in the ointment of a well-balanced work/parenting routine.
The reality for working mums is that the early starts and working day routine don’t change.
What does change is the need to make sure the kids are being looked after, entertained and cared for.
This could be a mix of grandparents helping out, paid-for childcare, holiday clubs, reciprocal playdates, the occasional wing, and a prayer!
So how best to deal with the annual joy of the long summer holidays?
HOW DO YOU SURVIVE THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS?
Well, the answer is simple…
Of course, the reality is that a working mum’s brain bandwidth is often at max capacity, so I thought I’d list some simple survival hacks to help frazzled working mums get ahead for the summer holidays.
Not least because my Survival Tips for Working Mothers is one of the most popular posts on Mums Make Lists, so I know this stuff helps.
Of course, it isn’t just the long school summer holiday. It’s all the other school holidays.
Which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to take time off in the summer.
For us, M has a grand total of 17 weeks of school holiday every year. That’s around 1/3 of the year spent away from school.
So, here’s a quick list of 11 school holiday survival tips for working mums to help you manage your children’s school holidays without giving yourself an aneurysm.
14 SCHOOL HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIPS FOR WORKING MUMS
1. SET UP A SHARED ONLINE CALENDAR
I can’t tell you how much easier life is to manage with a shared online calendar.
So, if you don’t have one already, set up a shared online calendar which all adults – and older kids – can access.
You can do this on Apple and Google, so you don’t need to download any extra apps.
- Here is the Apple guide to setting up a shared calendar.
- Here is the Google guide to setting up a shared calendar.
Make sure every event goes into it at the time of booking. Plus addresses, phone numbers, email addresses etc.
It makes life so much easier, particularly its colour-coding for each family member.
2. DIVIDE UP RESPONSIBILITY
If you have a partner, sit down and work out who will take time off and when.
If you’re planning a family holiday, make sure you coordinate dates with everyone involved as early as possible.
Use my holiday planning checklist to make sure you’re on top of absolutely everything that needs to be done to organise your holiday, from booking to departure.
3. BOOK ANNUAL LEAVE EARLY
Get your holiday request in early.
Literally, at the earliest point that it is possible to do so each year.
You will likely be up against other working parents in the office who will also want time off during the summer.
Get in first, and you will be more likely to get the days you want.
It’s dreadful we have to pit ourselves against each other, but it’s reality, so get ahead.
Get your leave dates in your work calendar or diary and plan your workload and meetings around your days off so there are as few surprises as possible for demands on your time.
4. SET UP A SUMMER SCHEDULE FOR KIDS
Whilst the school holidays are a chance to step back from the routine of school runs and making packed lunches, it is a good idea not to kiss goodbye to routine altogether, especially if you are a working parent negotiating work around the school summer break.
One way to tackle the challenge head-on is to create a summer schedule for kids.
Read my guide to setting up a foolproof summer schedule for kids that will make sure the kids get to have a brilliant summer break filled with fun and memory-making moments, coupled with quieter downtime days. Most importantly, it will ensure that parents get through the summer with their sanity intact.
5. PLAN THE BIG FUN STUFF IN ADVANCE
One of the other benefits of booking time off early and having it confirmed is that you can then plan in the big things you want to do with the kids – and your other half if you have one – during the summer holidays.
Things like going on a family holiday, visiting family, and big fun days out like LegoLand (ok, fun for the kids 😉 )
This also gives you the opportunity to book early, look for discount codes and make some savings – which can go towards childcare costs.
6. PLAN CHILDCARE IN ADVANCE
If you’re going to need supplementary childcare, make sure to organise it early.
Firstly, it will give you peace of mind.
Secondly, get in with first dibs, and you’re more likely to get the childcare you want rather than having to take what’s available.
Gather a list of holiday clubs and make a note in your calendar or diary to book them at the first opportunity.
If you have shy children, find out which other kids might be around to do the club as well. It’s so much easier to drop off kids who are happy and excited about a holiday club than kids who are reticent. Free yourself of Mum’s Guilt!
Putting in early requests with family, with as much notice as possible, will put you in the good books and could also help them with planning their holidays around your childcare needs!!
Work out which of your friends and your kids’ friends’ parents could be up for doing reciprocal playdates.
7. GET A HANDLE ON LOGISTICS
Much as the school run is a pain in the butt, at least you know where you’re going each day.
One of the added pressures of juggling school holidays with work is the logistics of getting the kids from A to B and then getting yourself from B to work.
Plan in advance, and look at if there’s a different route you could take to work that would save you time from wherever you’ve dropped the kids off for the day.
8. PLAN ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE
Aside from going away for a family holiday, you may well also have a week or so at home with your children.
You will no doubt be exhausted.
Your kids will be super excited to have you around.
So make it easy on yourself by having some planned activities up your sleeve.
I’m not talking about big days out.
I’m talking about fun things to keep the kids occupied and amused.
So you stand a little chance of using your annual leave to recharge your batteries.
And so that you can relax and enjoy hanging out with your kids without having to rack your brains for ideas for things to do.
Buy in craft supplies.
Use my big list of 50 free outdoor activities for kids to plan some low-key but fun activities that won’t burn through your budget.
Make sure there’s a stack of books – or plan a trip to the local library for day one.
Use my post on how to help kids avoid summer brain drain for more ideas.
If you’re in the UK, you will likely have to deal with at least one rainy day!
So make sure to have some rainy-day activities up your sleeve.
One easy way to do this is to visit the brilliant Rainy Day Mum blog.
9. SIGN UP TO LOCAL PARENT GROUPS
Get a handle on lots of stuff going on locally by signing up for local Facebook events and parenting groups.
10. SCHEDULE IN PLAYDATES
Now, you might be thinking, “duh!”
But when I say schedule in playdates, I mean SCHEDULE in playdates.
Don’t just leave them to chance and hope that you’ll get some extra time when you can crack on with work without it costing you a fortune in holiday club fees.
So, get an idea of your friends and fellow parents’ diaries over the summer. Everyone is likely to be away at different times, so it could be worth setting up a WhatsApp group to get stuff scheduled.
11. FOOD PLANNING
I’m calling this ‘food planning’ rather than ‘meal planning‘ for a reason.
Because kids can eat their own body weight in food during the school holidays.
Long summer days mean snacks galore.
Plus, packed lunches for holiday clubs and days out.
USE A SUPERMARKET DELIVERY SERVICE
Have a look at your current grocery shopping routine and see if you can improve on it.
Could you be better served by having a supermarket delivery through the summer holidays?
I’ve been using Ocado for getting on for 14 years, and I couldn’t live without it.
I usually have one delivery per week during term times, but during the school holidays, I find it better to have a couple of smaller deliveries per week.
RECIPE BOX DELIVERY SERVICE
Could you stretch to using a recipe box delivery service like HelloFresh for the summer holidays?
So you get to side-step having to grocery shop, panic raid the fridge, or use the last vestiges of your energy to come up with a supper idea.
12. SNACK PLANNING
I’d also suggest you plan ahead for snacks.
It’s amazing how locust-like kids are to the food cupboards and fridge when they’re on holiday from school.
13. SCHEDULE BACK-TO-SCHOOL STUFF EARLY
But it’s a fact of life for mothers with kids at school.
It. Has. To. Be. Done.
So best do it in a timely, well-managed way than in a last-minute, stressed-out panic.
The last thing any of us needs is a panic session of school uniforms and school supply buying.
Get a date into the diary now to do the back-to-school stuff.
Draw up a checklist.
Then you have one less thing to feel overwhelmed about during the school holiday juggle.
14. GO INTO HOUSEWORK SURVIVAL MODE
Sometimes you just gotta go into survival mode when it comes to housework.
The school holidays – and the long summer break in particular – certainly call for survival mode tactics.
I’ve got a post on a Survival cleaning routine that will see you through.
You can thank me later 😉
I really do hope you find these tips useful. I’d love for us all to have our shoulders an inch or so lower during the school summer holidays.
Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.