School’s out for summer and as of today my children are footloose and fancy-free for the next six weeks.
I don’t know about you but I don’t jump up and down with unbridled joy at the prospect of the little cherubs being under my feet for the foreseeable future. And I am already taking bets on how long it will be before one of them whines: “Muuuuuuuuuum, I’m bored.”
The truth is for working parents everywhere the summer holidays can bring about feelings of dread just as much as feelings of fun and excitement. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with my children. Believe me, I really really do because I love them to bits even if they do drive me to distraction on occasion. But it’s also one of the busiest times of the year for my cake business and trying to balance family time with work is tricky at best, at worst it’s like Theresa May trying to negotiate a good Brexit deal – damn near impossible.
Whichever way you cut it, there’s a constant feeling of guilt gnawing at your insides – spend too much time at work and you risk neglecting your kids, spend too much time at home and your business can suffer. So how do you get the balance right?
Delegate, delegate, delegate
As a one-man band this can be tough but if you have staff, handing stuff over to them can be a godsend. I was at the heart of my cake business for a really long time so if I took time off the business effectively stopped. At some point that had to change and I now have several people who work with me who are talented and hard-working.
It has been a bit of a revelation and an exercise in trust on my part letting them take on cakes etc but it has been a good one – I can’t begin to describe my joy at finally having people on board who are committed, who know what they’re doing and who do it well.
Reach a compromise with your kids
When they’re off I tend to try and do half days so I work my nuts off in the morning and come home around lunchtime to do something fun with my children.
One of the positives about no school is no school run which normally takes up a good hour and a half of my morning. As a result I tend to start work a lot earlier and get a lot more done before they’ve even had their Cornflakes. Of course, you’ve got to not mind early starts but if you’re a parent, I daresay you’ve probably been used to them for years!
Have a big trip out
Giving them something to look forward to is a good way of dialling down the whining a notch. They might not like the fact you’re working when they’re off but if you can offer up a cracking trip somewhere it can sweeten the pill somewhat. My two will suck up a few days of me working full bore if they know they’re going to get to go camping for a weekend or fleece me for lots of cash on a day out in London.
Get them involved
Granted this might not be practical with all businesses but where possible, getting them doing something work-related can reap all sorts of benefits. My youngest likes nothing more than coming to our kitchens and decorating cupcakes or making gingerbread. She’s actually rather good for a nine-year-old and I might even hire her when she’s a bit older!
But on a serious note, it can help them to understand what you do, give them something to focus on and aid in developing their own work ethic and creativity.
Find a good holiday club and book early
There are loads of activities on offer during the holidays and it’s something I intend to launch soon with children enjoying baking and decorating days. But as with anything organised like this, they get booked up so make sure you get in early. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask other parents at nursery and school for recommendations – far more reliable at giving you the inside track on what’s good and what’s not than a simple Google search.
You may sometimes have to drag your children reluctantly but they’ll have a great time, meet some new people and even learn new skills whether it’s paddle boarding or outdoor survival games.
It’s not forever
The summer holidays aren’t forever and they’ll be back at school in the blink of an eye – it only feels interminable while it’s happening. But in a wider context, your children aren’t young forever and before you know it they’ll stop wanting to spend time with you, preferring the company of their friends. When that time comes it’s easy to crave those summer days again that once seemed so dreadfully long.
Make the most of it while you can, enjoy their little faces and excitement while they still want you. If you miss an email or earn a little less, then so be it. There’ll be plenty of time to put your nose to the grindstone when they’re back in the classroom.
And if you’re still dreading the school holidays, I can recommend a very good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to take the edge off…