Summer is here, the sun is up (sometimes!) and school is out.
When we were kids August was one of the best months of the year, time to relax and have fun. But as parents, we may now find ourselves feeling slightly differently as we seek to balance time with our own children, and keep our businesses going.
Running your own business isn’t easy at any time of year, but when you've got children at home 24/7 for weeks on end, the summer holidays can be the most difficult. So we’d like to share some of the things we’ve learned about juggling work with kids at home in the hopes they help you out too!
Tip #1 - Know your children and plan accordingly.
This sounds a little obvious but it really isn’t; take a little time to deliberately take stock of what they’re responsible enough to handle right now, what they still need help with, what they tend to complain about, even their sleep patterns. Every child and every family is different so once you’ve truly grasped your position right now, you can start to make plans to give you the time you need to get work done.
You can probably trust the teen to be asleep until noon, maybe the younger ones can have some morning cartoons on the telly... and bam!! – straight away, two or so glorious hours without interruption. Is your 5 year old always hungry and 10 year old always bored? One shelf of pre-made snacks and a list of things to do later and that’s a few more interruptions out of the picture. Every family is unique so we won’t make suggestions for every single scenario – you'll figure out what works pretty quickly, you know your children best!
Tip #2 - Enlist help from friends and/or family.
This can look like a lot of different things depending on who you’ve got around able to help. Maybe it’s grandparents taking the kids for a few days, maybe it’s an aunt taking them to the zoo for an afternoon, maybe it’s the oldest child watching over the youngest for a few hours.
If you have a friend or relative with kids who works from home, perhaps they could take in yours for a day so you can crack on. In exchange, you take theirs on another day so they can do the same. You might have to work around other people’s restrictions to make this happen – if they work Monday-to-Friday and can only help you on weekends, then you’re probably going to have to work weekends – but the peace of mind knowing you’re getting things done and your kids are hopefully having a great time is worth the extra organisational effort.
Tip #3 - Create your workspace and set a boundary around it.
We’ve lived through several lockdowns at this point, so chances are you’ve already figured this one out. Whatever your workspace is – a home office, the kitchen table, your bedroom – lay out very clearly what that means to your kids, and the rules about them entering those areas during the day. If you’ve got a door, close it; if you don’t, put a sign up by the entrance declaring it to be a Work Zone.
You might consider trying out a traffic light system, as simple as a coloured dot on a sticky note, to help your kids make informed decisions about interrupting you: green meaning ‘you may enter and ask me something’, amber as ‘I would prefer you wait until later but if you really must’ and red as ‘only enter if someone is about to die’.
Tip #4 - Reward good behaviour
Recall for a moment how it feels when a client or customer leaves you a good review or goes out of their way to give gratitude for your time or service. It’s a good feeling, right? So if your kids are actually doing what you asked - keeping quiet or at least getting on with things on their own - can you spare a few seconds to stick your head out of the door to do the same? To say ‘thank you’? Or discuss at dinner how much you managed to get done today thanks to them sticking to the rules? This shows them why the rules are there and why they’re worth following.
Tip #5 - Have fun together!
Ideally, let your children know at the beginning of the day/week what your plans are, so they can mentally prepare themselves for what’s ahead and have things to look forward to! Whatever you like to do and have the opportunity for, it’s worthwhile fitting in.
This can factor in to the previous point, e.g. ‘because I got enough work done this morning as you kept yourselves busy, I have time now to do this with you - isn't this great?!’. Sit down to watch their favourite movies with them, go out for a picnic one lunchtime, bake a cake for no reason in particular. Having a little time one-on-one with each child, if you have several, can reinforce that no matter how busy you are otherwise you still love them and respect their thoughts and opinions. Ideally you’ll be enjoying and getting satisfaction from whatever activity you choose too! As we all know, mental health is important to thrive both personally and in business.
So there you go: our five top tips for surviving the school summer holidays and managing your business whilst also enjoying your role as "mum".
If you’d like consistent support and ideas...
...from other business-owning mums, not just for the summer but throughout the year, you’re very welcome to join our Facebook group! And if you'd like a more confidential environment jam-packed with support, networking and learning opportunities, investing just £25 a month for membership to The Inspire Network gives you access to tutorials, masterminding, networking events and more. You can find more about that here!