Ditch the guilt! Surviving the summer school holidays as a working parent
By Natalie Gray, head of business development at Voxgig
The school summer vacation season is upon us—long, lazy days stretching off into the distance, time to stop and spend quality time with the family, nothing to think about except fun, sun and splash parks...right? Well, if you are a working parent, not exactly.
The anxiety of balancing work commitments and spending quality time with children can increase ten-fold as the long summer holidays approach. Rather than looking forward to it, many parents dread it as they worry about how they are going to fill and finance weeks upon weeks of days when the kids are at home and Mum (or Dad) has to work.
As a working Mum, I have spent the past 13 years juggling work and children. It’s a regular dilemma: if I spend more time with my children and therefore less time focused on work, will my career prospects suffer? If I spend more time at work progressing my career, will my children suffer from not having their Mum around?
Luckily, here at Voxgig we are trying to do things differently. We have decided to ditch the guilt and instead work in a different way that supports both diversity and flexible working whilst still focusing on building a global tech company. So far, this culture works great and in fact has proven to be a positive factor in attracting a talented team that shares our work-life ambitions.
So, back to the summer. How can you get through those six to eight weeks with your sanity intact and your anxiety levels reduced, whilst still delivering to your boss, clients and the like? Here are some top tips.
Tip 1 - plan ahead
I still need to work on this but planning ahead is key. Find out when the school holiday dates are going to be and start letting colleagues, managers, clients and partners know that you might be a little less available than usual.
Talk to your boss. If you are giving lots of advance notice (ideally months, not weeks) there is more likelihood that you could work out a plan where you could work from home, job share or amend your working hours. Of course, not all jobs allow for this but it's always worth exploring.
If you are a reliable asset, you employer is likely to want to help make it work for you as well as them. Remember that most countries have laws that allow employees to request flexibility to support their life situation.
Tip 2 - Amend your working hours
If it's possible, consider changing your standard work hours for a few weeks. For example, working in the morning and then doing some more hours in the evening would allow you to spend the afternoon with the kids.
Tip 3 - Make a timetable
Spreadsheets are the friend of the working parent. Create your own childcare planner with a column for each child so you can add in the details of what they are doing each day and who is taking care of the kids. Seeing this in black and white helps to visualise the weeks ahead and allows you to feel more in control as you fill in each day.
Tip 4 - Share the load with your partner
If you have a partner, remember to share the load with them. I can sometimes be guilty of trying to be superwoman and organise everything myself. It is important to get your partner involved and make a plan that works for the whole family.
Tip 5 - Lean on friends and family
It’s a common feeling to worry that you have to rely too heavily on friends and family for childcare and that you struggle to reciprocate equally. In reality, most friends are usually more than happy to arrange playdates, for their own kids’ sake as much as yours. Remember to give them a big thank you, reciprocate wherever possible and if appropriate, a small token of appreciation is always welcome.
Tip 6 - Make use of summer camps
Most communities offer summer camps that offer a range of activities to suit the interests of children. Book as early as possible to get the dates you want but use sparingly, as they can be expensive and kids can get bored if they feel they are being packed off to camp again.
Tip 7 - Make use of technology
Working from home is now as productive (if not more so) than working in an office. This is helped by the plethora of apps available to support work. At Voxgig, we use Google apps including Hangouts for calls, Zoom for meetings, Slack for team messaging, Asana for task and project management and, of course, our own platform for managing our events.
I also have various WhatsApp groups to arrange activities and clubs with friends, both on a planned and ad hoc basis. Make use of apps, social media and get connected with others in a similar situation to share ideas and childcare.
Tip 8 - Take your family vacation towards the end of the summer
I always try to take my family holiday as late in the summer holidays as possible. This is because it gives us all something to look forward to plus flights and accommodation are often cheaper towards late August/early September.
I hope these tips help to make your next summer vacation a little less stressful. Don’t worry, as a working parent you are acting as a great positive role model to your children. Plus by working you will hopefully have more income for a nicer family holiday!
I would love to hear your ideas so do tweet me with your suggestions for surviving the summer holidays guilt-free!
Natalie Gray is head of business development at Voxgig, an event tech startup. She is also co-organizer of Eventprofs London meetup and the new Eventprofs Connect Conference. She is a diversity in tech advocate and regularly writes about technology events and diversity and inclusion in tech. She is a mum to two children and lives and works from home in Hitchin, UK.