How to survive the summer holidays as a working mum

Are you already dreading the imminent summer holidays? Wondering how you’ll juggle your work with childcare? Find out how one mum makes it work for her. 

I have a lot to contend with, and I know I am not alone. As a working mum with my own business, I am constantly trying to balance the needs of my children with the needs of my job, and the summer holidays present a particular challenge.

Some people look forward to the holidays, with no school runs and a break from all the homework pressures. I admit I like a break from those things too, but then other pressures take their place. And this is when my multi-tasking capacities are pushed to the limit. Thank goodness for coffee, wine and chocolate (not necessarily in that order)!

Perhaps some mums actually get to relax in the holidays. I am not one of them, much as I would like to be. I want to look forward to spending more time with the kids, and I do love their company. It’s just that the other important things in my life don’t take a break just because school’s out.

If only I could clone myself, then one of me would be doing arts and crafts with the children, whilst the other me would be handling important telephone calls from clients and going to meetings. But until cloning me becomes an actual thing, I have to work out other some solutions because I don’t want to become a frazzled wreck and I don’t want my kids to grow up with a no-fun-mum.

How to survive the summer holidays as a working mum

I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I have developed over the last few years when I realised that I just couldn’t quite do it all.

Once I accepted that there is no such thing as being a ‘perfect parent’ and that compromise isn’t a dirty word, my life became a bit easier. I decided to set myself some ground rules and I have to admit that they have helped to keep me calm and my kids happy.

And as the summer holidays edge nearer, I am trying not to panic about how to entertain two bouncy children for six (very long) weeks while also keeping my business afloat. Instead I am thinking positive and setting my survival strategies in place with these ten tips.

1) Set your alarm to get up before your children

If you have teenagers, lucky you, because they probably won’t wake up before noon anyway. If you have a baby, then this plan may not work since they are notoriously early risers.

Try to get useful things done before the kids are up, dressed and needing attention. Obviously, you can’t necessarily make important phone calls at 7am but you can do work on your computer, get some housework out of the way and plan your day before the chaos ensues. This strategy works for me, although it does mean that sleeping in is a thing of the past.

2) Lean on your friends and share the load

Have days when you swap kids with each other. This is a win-win situation. The children get to hang out with their friends, whilst you get on with work. Yes, lunch times can be a bit full-on but that’s what pizza is for…

3) Ask family members for help

Now is when willing family can be their most useful. If you are lucky enough to have parents, siblings, cousins, any nice relative living nearby, then make the most of them.

Grandparents love seeing more of their grandchildren on their own; it’s their chance to spoil them. And if they don’t live nearby, perhaps your kids can go and stay for a night or two? Then you can really get some work out of the way. My children love seeing their grandparents without me as it means they are allowed a lot more sweets!

4) Wear your children out

Children and dogs are quite similar. I find that it helps to exhaust them in the mornings so that they are more chilled and sleepy in the afternoons.

So carve out a few hours to take them swimming, cycling, climbing or hiking, and then watch them crash on the sofa after lunch whilst you get on with the important business of earning some money.

5) Take them to soft play, climbing or trampoline parks

Bring your laptop with you and settle down to work in the cafe while they have fun. This idea doesn’t always work – interruptions can be plentiful and these places are often very noisy – but anything’s worth a try, particularly if it’s raining outside.

6) Check out summer camps

I don’t mean send your beloved offspring away for a month American-style, but instead see what local day camps are running.

Not all kids want to do this, but some love them and it’s a great way to help them socialise and learn new skills. It really works if a friend does it too, and it’s also important to follow their interests. I have come across weekly day clubs for tennis, sailing, drama, climbing, music – all sorts of things.

If they have been outside learning how to kayak all day, you really won’t mind if they come home and flop in front of the TV for an hour or two.

7) Delegate

It’s easy to do everything for our kids as delegating can often take longer than the actual task, so we take on the chores for ourselves. But really, it’s not necessary. We shouldn’t be breaking our backs with the housework when, in fact, our children are perfectly capable of helping out around the house.

I don’t mean preparing a three-course gourmet meal (although I can dream…), but they can make their own beds and keep their rooms tidy, they can help in the garden and they can put laundry away. It’s good for them to take responsibility for some of the chores. And you will have one less thing to worry about.

You can read how best to delegate household tasks to children, and what tasks you can delegate to each age group here.

8) Make the most of sleep-time

If your children still go to bed before you (and stay there!), then use those precious few hours before you head up too.

This time can be a godsend for getting work finished, perhaps with a G&T in hand to sweeten the deal. I would hold off sending any work emails or texts until morning, though, just in case you write something you’ll regret the next day.

Daytime naps are another opportunity to get work done, unless you end up falling asleep alongside your sleeping child (which is oh so tempting).

9) The electronic babysitter

Let’s face it, we’ve all done it. Like I said earlier, no one is perfect, and there are times when technology has been a life-saver.

I don’t like it and I’d rather my kids didn’t have too much screen time, but it’s not the end of the world if they watch a movie or play on their DS, if it means I get an important bit of work finished. Plus, it can be a good reward for kids after they have helped around the house.

10) Remember the other parent

Usually there is a dad lurking somewhere and he needs to be on board. He may work full time and not be around so much, but hopefully he is home in the evenings and at weekends, and that can be his moment to shine.

Encourage him to take the kids out so that you can get on with your work for a few hours, or perhaps he can work from home sometimes to help shoulder the load. If he has spare holiday time, he could use a few days to take the children on some bonding, fun day trips.

And wouldn’t it be lovely if he also helped out with the chores, made dinner sometimes and generally was an all-round super dad?

How will you stay sane over the summer holidays?

So there you have it, my ways of staying sane over the impending summer holidays. But just remember all work and no play makes mum a dull girl.

Children grow up fast so it’s important to carve out time to be with them now. Enjoy some special outings together, play badminton in the garden on those long summer evenings, read them a bedtime story and savour the good times. And try to be in the moment – so when you are working, think about work, and when you are playing with them at the local park try to enjoy it, leaving aside your work concerns for a few hours.

And if you are starting to feel like it’s all too much and it’s not even August yet, just take comfort in all the Back to School posters popping up in the shops!

Read more school holiday survival tips

You can read ore practical advice to balance your business or work and children during the summer holidays in these articles:

Beyond the Kitchen Table are a small business community based in Kent. They help startups and very small businesses to grow ‘beyond the kitchen table’ by creating websites, writing copy and graphic design.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez