I’ve been feeling pretty good over the last few months about being a work-at-home-mum, the number of things I’m writing every day is increasing, and things are just getting easier.
Okay, I’ve slacked on the fitness side of things, but I’ve got a nice little routine going and I’m feeling organised and on top of things, which is very important to me. I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of this working/writing malarkey and how to fit it in with the kids.
Then the school holidays hit.
Everything – everything – I’ve learned so far, every single routine I’ve worked out, every problem I’ve ironed out, everything goes out of the window.
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Take the mornings, for example.
I know that I have a little bit of time to get my head together and sort out my day and maybe tidy the kitchen before the girls get up. Then we have an hour of madness where all the animals get fed (including the girls) and we do the whole school run thing. After that, I get on with my work, I do all my stuff, until it’s time to pick them up in the afternoons.
But that doesn’t happen in the school holidays. What happens in the holidays is I still get up at 6am, I do my headspace stuff (mainly because the girls aren’t out of bed yet) and then…
It all goes to pot.
Instead of the girls getting up and there being an energy around the house and life in general, the whole getting up and getting things done thing is spread over about 3 hours, maybe more while my teenage daughters drag their exhausted bodies out of their comatose state and into life.
Unless I feed all the various animals and do all the usual morning chores, they may not get fed/done till about 10.30. Instead of being able to settle into my routine of work by about 8am, I’m constantly interrupted by someone else getting out of bed or someone wanting something or the pair of them bickering or someone needs to go somewhere.
Take today, for example. This morning, I have to take one son to meet another son then onto the train station, then take one daughter to a friends’ for a sleepover (hallelujah! But I pity my poor friends’ house with three teenagers home alone all day!), do the shopping, go and get other daughter, go to the gym (that’s a must do or I’ll end up in jail for infanticide), pick daughter’s friend up and bring them home for a sleepover.
At some point, I have to get three articles written plus a LONG list of other things that need doing today. When I looked a few minutes ago – and I have to say, I didn’t look too hard because it’s a bit scary – the list had grown to 16 things that MUST be done today.
That’s yesterday’s list PLUS today’s list.
Yesterday’s list just didn’t happen. Seriously? What happens to time when the kids are on school holidays? Is there some weird wormhole like in Star Trek that causes time to be warped and condensed during school holidays? What goes on? I had plans yesterday. Those plans were 14 items long.
I got one thing done.
The problem is: I work from home. If I went out to work, I’d leave and come back at certain times and that would be it, but because I work from home I seem to think that I ought to be available to run the kids around like I always have. And the kids think that because I’m sitting here on my laptop, I’m fair game.
So what’s needed here is a School Holiday Survival Checklist for Work At Home Parents.
- Work out what you need to do to complete your work tasks and look after yourself, i.e. exercise, meeting with friends, taking care of yourself so you’re still sane at the end of the holidays.
- Work out what the kids need to do and when. Make a second list of want-to-do’s that aren’t quite as important.
- Schedule in what’s important for you first – if you must spend 4 or 5 hours a day writing, then schedule it in as non-negotiable. You’re earning the money here, so schedule in time to earn the damned money. You might also include your daily household tasks here, but you could schedule in those alongside one of the kids’ activities if you can.
- Schedule in your ‘survival’ times as non-negotiable. We all know how easy it is to spend the school holidays just running round like a headless chook, getting more and more stressed because everything we need to do gets put on the backburner.
- After you’ve scheduled you, schedule in the things the kids (or you want the kids to do) want to do – holiday programs, sleepovers, etc, things that require minimal input from you.
- Importantly – sit down with the kids and go through the schedule and ask for feedback. Explain why you need the working time and why you’ve chosen to put in what you have. Then ask them what else they’d like to do in the rest of the available time, in other words the want to’s. This is really important and it’s where a lot of people fall down. This is telling your child what they can and can’t expect these holidays and explaining to them that although you’re at home, you still have work to do and they need to understand that.
- Explain the rules about your working times and be clear about what the consequences will be if they don’t let you work. For me, something they want to do gets knocked off the schedule because I have to finish my work.
- Stick to the schedule.
- Enforce the consequences that you set in place when you discussed the schedule. There is no point in going to all this effort if you’re going to cave in at the first tantrum or teenager guilt trip. You can do it, stick to your guns.
- Reward the kids when they’ve let you work by acknowledging the fact that they’re sticking to the agreement. Reward the kids by being present with them and enjoying their company when it’s time to do their things.
- Reward yourself for doing this. If you do it and stick by it, you’ll feel a whole lot different to how you normally feel at the end of the holidays!
How do you get through the school holidays as a work-at-home parent? Share with us in the comments!