We’re officially halfway through the summer holidays here in the UK, and I think you’d agree, it’s very much felt like a test on endurance. This summer’s been one of the hottest on record (although not so much today) which has been particularly challenging for parents juggling work and childcare. The heat has been relentless and often insufferable; this can impact productivity levels, make us restless and more stressed. And that’s the adults and not the children!
Although there’s lots of advice on how to stay safe during the heat wave (thank you to The Met Office), who’s helping busy parents with tips on how to juggle childcare during the holidays when the hot weather limits what you can do with them?
I thought I’d share some of my own personal challenges this summer and offer my tips that might be useful for other working parents. My son, Lewis, is very active, energetic and needs lots of entertaining. He loves being outdoors, which is great, but as I work for myself, this can sometimes be tricky. Unlike most children, he can only watch TV for a short period of time until he’s out there on his bike!
There are plenty of great organised activities for kids. Some can be pricey and won’t appeal to all children, but there are lots of affordable options for those who love the great outdoors. Lewis loved the Martin White Football Factory here in Milton Keynes. This involved 3-hours of fun playing football, socialising with other children (again, it’s important that kids continue to interact over the holidays), and developing new skills. In turn, this gave me 3 hours to focus on my client work in the morning, allowing me to enjoy the afternoon with him, guilt-free. If you manage to book activities with enough notice, you can also be clever and schedule meetings around your availability. It’s amazing how productivity levels can increase when you have short bursts of focused work throughout the day.
If you’re looking for something more regular and consistent, there are lots of holiday play schemes throughout the summer. These are often organised by schools and a list can be found on NetMums and the MK Council’s childcare website. Lewis has also been in Kids Play holiday club and he’s gone for days out to Gulliver’s Land and Woburn Safari Park with his friends. Again, this is another great option if your children are old enough. Group activities allow kids an element of freedom (without the parents trailing along behind them!), which is important for independence and growth.
For those of you with very young children, a paddling pool with a sun umbrella is a worthy investment. It’ll keep kids cool and entertained for hours (you’d be surprised!), and as long as they’ve got plenty of SPF, sunglasses and a sunhat, they’re well-protected from direct sunlight, too.
In the past, I’ve struggled a bit with guilt, especially when it comes to dropping my son off for long days at summer camp. As much as I want to spend the holidays with him, it’s not possible – I’m self employed so any holiday I take is unpaid, which unfortunately means less earnings. Although this can sometimes be frustrating, my work set-up allows me flexibility 365-days a year, which I wouldn’t change for anything. Swings and roundabouts, I guess!
If you’re in a lull and stuck for activities to do with your children, then why not take some time to research local activities in your area. So far, Lewis and I have enjoyed swimming at Box End Waterpark and going to the BMX track at Pineham. We love trying new things together and I think there’s loads of great stuff available within Milton Keynes.
In terms of tips and tricks where work’s concerned, there are various social media tools that allow you to plan ahead. This has been a real lifesaver for me, as I can schedule posts and work quite flexibly. Fortunately, most people are on social media in the evenings, so I can publish posts when my client’s audience is online. Think of ways you can best utilise the time you have and look into any tools that will give you that extra support.
So, in a nutshell, my priority is making sure I establish a nice balance (if that even exists!) between managing my workload and having time off with my son. If you’re self-employed, it’s essential you take a break and properly switch off – you need it and so will your business! Enjoy the rest of the summer!