Time Management

When school holidays attack!

Managing working from home when your kids are off of school.

This school holiday hit my work-at- home self almost by surprise.  I’m usually on top of the calendars and keenly aware of the school breaks for a couple of reasons.  First, I book a lot of family travel through my travel agency so many of my reservations are during school breaks.  Secondly, our local schools began a program of flexible time off and the days off for each school do not necessarily match up with the other schools.  Parents have got to be Johnny-on-it with juggling the school calendars in my town.

We have barely scratched the surface of 2019 and I already feel like I’m losing my grip on time.  January seemed to move at the pace of a sloth but February took the relay baton like a cheetah.  I would like February to slow down a bit, thank you very much!   It was Wednesday of this week when I realized that the next seven days included the long President’s Day weekend.

All four of my kids are on a holiday these next four days but I am still working.  I often marvel at the parents who work in an office, or place of business, because that is true juggling.   I know that I would be much more organized with the days off of school if I worked outside of my home because I’d be forced to prioritize that as an issue.  At least that’s the story I tell myself.  I am very grateful for the flexibility that my work situation provides but working from home with a bunch of kids running around can be challenging.  Here are some of the ideas that I’ve used to get some work done when my kids are home.

Pump up the volume

Kids make noise and I’m okay with that.  Schedule your noisy work tasks while the kids are home.  I attend travel supplier webinars all the time and “listen only mode” is my best friend.  If you can schedule training sessions, or other noisy tasks, during these days it’s a win win.   These days are great opportunities to enjoy those TED talks and podcasts that you’ve been putting off.

Be strategic when making important calls while the kids are home.  Photo Istock

I try to avoid making important calls, when a level of professionalism is expected, on school days off but sometimes that’s not possible.   If I have to make one of these calls, I try and schedule it right after a meal when the kids are satisfied and happy.  You might want to have a bottle ready, or nap time scheduled, for a little one during a call like this.

Take your kids to work day

My commute is only 10 feet but I can still take my kids to work by including them in my work day.   I’ve had them place address stickers on brochures.  My one daughter helped me reorganize my office supplies.  I’ve tried to resist the urge to separate my work from them so that they can see what I’m doing.

My daughter helped me get my marketing ready for a vendor event.  photo Sheryl Van Aken

Communicate

Let your kids know what the schedule is for the day.  Giving kids a heads up helps with transitions and gives them some buy in.  They might be better behaved in the morning if they know that they are doing something fun in the afternoon.  When my son was much younger, I used to have him check off the schedule on a mini whiteboard as the day progressed. He felt involved in our day and seemed to love the act of checking stuff off.  Honestly, he might have felt like the boss of the day which really worked for him.

Co-op babysitting

It might be as common as spotting a Yeti but you are truly blessed if you have another work-at-home friend that can share childcare with you.   Maybe one parent can have the kids at their house in the morning and then you can swap after lunch?  This way each of you get some uninterrupted work time and the kids get to socialize.  Personally, I have never been able to use a babysitting co-op but I think it would be amazing if this scenario was available to a working parent so I am including it as food for thought.

Little chefs

Meals are bigger when there’s multiple people home all day and breakfast and lunch take on a whole new meaning when the kids are home from school.   If your kids are old enough to help with the cooking (or of sandwich making age) include them in the meal and snack prep.

Let the kids make healthy snacks or the entire meal.  Photo: Sheryl Van Aken

This gives them something to do as well as a sense of pride.  Another benefit that I have found is that kids are less picky eaters the more invested they are in their meal.

Toy rotation

Keep a few toys hidden away so that you can surprise your little ones and keep them occupied.   Old toys and games become new again when they haven’t seen them in a while and you might just gain 15 minutes of focused work time.

Break out the games, toys or movies that they haven’t seen in a while.  Photo: Sheryl Van Aken

If you don’t mind them watching movies bring out some of the oldies but goodies that they haven’t seen in a while.

Get out of the house

Nothing promotes cries of boredom more than feeling trapped in the house.  Schedule lunch out to break up the day.  You can brown bag it to a park or even have a picnic style lunch in the backyard.  Meet up with friends for lunch at a local, family friendly venue.  A simple change of scenery might be enough to ward off complaints of boredom.

Manage expectations

Prioritize your to-do list.   I try and manage my expectations of what I actually can get accomplished at work when my kids are home.  I list the 5 most important tasks for the day and I’ve learned to give myself some applause for getting them done.  I used to fixate on all the items that I did not cross off my to-do list but not anymore.   Try and find the balance in your day.  Go for a walk or play with the kids for a bit and then work for a while.

Top view of smart phone, coffee, pen and notepad
Manage your To Do List expectations.  (photo credit – Istock)

Try and shrug it off if things don’t go as planned.  In fact, anticipate that not everything during the day will go as scheduled.

Set up childcare options

Set-up per diem childcare options before you need them.  A part-time babysitter or a per diem drop off childcare option might be exactly what you require on a given day.  Kids Steam Academy in Alpharetta has drop off childcare, and a school break program, for their members.   College, Nannies & Tutors offers the ability to schedule a sitter via their app.  You’ll need to schedule a free in-home family meeting with them to discuss your needs prior to using their services.  Our local Y.M.C.A. offers school break camps for their members as well.  A Y.M.C.A. membership is very affordable and provides options!

It’s not easy working from home while the kids are off of school.  The above ideas are just some of things that I’ve considered over the years to manage working from home when the kiddos are off.  Please leave a comment on how you juggle your work day, and the kids, when you’re faced with a school holiday.

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