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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.
The reality of school holidays for working mums
Not so much if you’re a working mum.
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 doesn’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 and the occasional wing and a prayer!
So how best to deal with the annual joy of the long summer holidays?
How to 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 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 school holiday every year. That’s around 1/3 of the year spend away from school.
So, here’s a quick checklist of simple survival tips to help you manage your children’s school holidays without giving yourself an aneurism.
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.
Make sure every event goes into it at time of booking. Plus addresses, phone numbers, email addresses etc.
We use the free Cozi app which is ace.
It makes life so much easier, particularly its colour-coding for each family member.
2. Divide up the responsibility
If you have a partner, sit down and work out who will take time off when.
If you’re planning a family holiday, make sure as early as possible that you can coordinate dates.
3. Book annual leave EARLY
Get your holiday request in early.
Literally at the earliest point 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. Plan the big fun things 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, 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.
5. 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-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.
6. 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, 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.
7. 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 big days out.
I’m talking 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.
Make sure there’s a stack of books – or plan in a trip to the local library for day one.
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.
8. Sign up to local parent groups
Get a handle on lots of stuff going on locally by signing up to local Facebook events and parenting groups.
9. Schedule in play dates
And I mean schedule.
Get an idea of your friends’ diaries over the summer.
One brilliant way to keep parents and kids happy is to have a brilliant play date with great friends.
The only thing is, everyone is away at different times.
So maybe start a WhatsApp group for you and your friends so you can schedule in play dates that combine kids playing with adults having a great gossip over coffee or wine!
9. Food planning
Now, I’m calling this ‘food planning’ rather than ‘meal planning‘ for a reason.
Because kids can eat their own bodyweight 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 9 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?
We’re big fans of HelloFresh, I love how much it frees up both my time and my brain bandwidth.
Just what is needed at the end of a long day of juggling.
You sign up, choose how many family meals you want to cook each week and then HelloFresh sends all the ingredients with a step-by-step recipe card.
All of the meals are well balanced and all of them are tasty and interesting.
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.
Fancy trying HelloFresh?
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.
10. Schedule the 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 uniform 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.
11. 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.
Just a quick reminder that our Survival Tips for Working Mothers is one of the most popular posts on Mums Make Lists, so check it out if you have yet to do so, there’s plenty of information and ideas in it to help you streamline your day to day work / parent juggle.