Oh My Goodness … I just realised there are only two and a bit weeks until the school holidays start. Do I feel ready? Do I ever?
Who am I kidding. If you are a mum running your own business, then no doubt, like me, you half dread the school holidays. Yes it is fantastic to have more time with your children, no more homework, less stress first thing in the morning, breakfast, getting people in and out the bathroom in the right order, not having to cut a call short at the magic hour of 3pm for the brisk march to the school gates …
And yet, when you run your own business, you can’t just stop working because it’s the school holidays. Or can you?
I book two to three weeks away with the family and during that time, I have no wifi, no internet access, I go offline. My assistant has my contact details in case there is a crisis that she’s not able to deal with, but so far, she’s never needed to call me. I have to confess at this point that my husband is a college teacher in adult education. His holidays run in line with the school holidays. (The downside is that he is on a variable hours contract so if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid). However the school holidays are less of a challenge for us now, than when we both worked in the City.
Some of my business mum clients tell me that their stress levels rise as we get closer to the school holidays because they feel that they can’t switch off and they are starting to feel overwhelmed. I start by sharing these 7 easy ideas to balance work and life so that you get more done. Logically we all know that taking a proper break is good for you. However we’re not all so good at putting that into practice.
These are my essential tips to help you cope with the summer holidays without getting stressed out.
1 – Plan ahead
As much as possible plan ahead. To nurture a healthy mind, you need downtime, you need to relax, and you need fun. You will better manage your stress levels if you have a plan for each week and for each day. Some business mums like to get up early and work while the house is quiet; others prefer to work when the children are in bed. Identify what works well for you.
Plan when you will fit in your work, and depending on the age of your children, you can explain “mummy needs to work for an hour right now and then afterwards we can do something together”.
Identify the work that is absolutely essential and focus on that. When you plan your client work during the summer months, be realistic about what you can commit to. Far better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way round. When you plan events and launches, steer well clear of school holidays.
Let your clients know when you will be contactable – set their expectations. Many of them will be parents too.
Plan ahead includes your work but it also helps to plan ahead with ideas on how to have fun with your children too.
2 – What can you systemise?
Now – i.e. right now before the holidays start – is when you should take time to review what work can be automated, scheduled in advance or outsourced. For example your social media posts and your blog posts can be written and scheduled in advance.
Ask your virtual assistant to manage your email enquiries for you and provide her with the most common answers.
If you use an autoresponder system, consider setting up a response that answers the most common responses by return email. If you don’t have an assistant, find one! I can recommend a few. They can make a huge impact on how you work.
3 – Be fully present with your children
A lot of the women I talk to tell me that the worst thing is the guilt. The overwhelming guilt. Feeling guilty when you’re working. Feeling guilty when you’re with clients. Feeling guilty when you’re with the children.
I’ve talked about guilt before as simply being a catalyst telling you that something needs to change. For now just ditch the guilt. Put it to one side.
When you are with your children, pay full attention and be fully present. Don’t waste time on feeling guilty or worrying about how little time you are spending with them. Enjoy the time you do have. Don’t try and check on your email or catch up with your social media if you promised to take the children to the park.
Children appreciate the simple things. It is your presence and attention that they crave. Give your children time – time to talk to you, play silly games with you, go to the park with you, have a waterfight in the garden … be reassured that it is ok for your children to be bored at times.
4 – Identify the stress triggers
Notice what you notice when you experience the stress levels rising. What are the triggers? Who else is involved? What is happening (or not happening)? Is it a specific time of day or day in the week?
When you identify your stress triggers, ask yourself “what can I do differently?” or “how can I anticipate those situations?“.
Brainstorm some ideas so that you can make changes to anticipate those situations and handle them differently, or avoid them altogether.
5 – Self-love
There may be times during the school holidays when the children are bickering, you have clients calling, the fridge is empty and your stress levels are rising! Self-love is what you need. Show yourself compassion in your thoughts, feelings and actions. It is OK to take “me” time; in fact it is essential. Don’t let your stress levels drain your energy. Learn to love yourself. You don’t need to feel guilty for taking time for yourself: a walk in the woods, a relaxing bath, a cup of tea, reading a good book or just hiding in the bathroom for five minutes!
And importantly forgive yourself if (or when) you do lose your temper or get irritated.
Motivating mum covered this whole topic brilliantly a while ago and put together a collection of top tips and strategies.
The school holidays do not need to be dreaded and filled with overwhelm and stress. Plan ahead and systemise as much as you can to create a good starting point. Be fully present in the time you do spend with your children. Identify your stress triggers so you can address those. Finally always always remember to show yourself compassion and self-love. We all do the best we can with the time we have.
If this article resonates for you, you’ll love my free download on 7 Ways To Balance Work and Life and Get More Done!