Being Realistic About Working in School Holidays

school Closed Sign

As any freelancer knows, working in school holidays is HARD.

It’s hard to concentrate with a battle raging outside your office door between Darth Vader and Jedi Knight wannabees. Hard to avoid interruption when your daughter just HAS to wear that particular Disney princess costume for today’s adventures with her dolls (you know, the costume hiding in the hardest-to-get-at top back corner of her closet which only you can reach). And hard to convince your ballooning tribe–for some reason, the kids next door prefer living here–that spending time at home is every bit as exciting as a trip to the movies/beach/pool/park/etc.

After school holiday stints which left me exhausted (and needing a break of my own), I decided a change in expectations was needed. By me.  So this is my Do and Don’t list of things to remember when school holidays loom:

  • Don’t take on too many projects which require substantial amounts of work during holiday periods. I have never found the accompanying stress worth it, not just to me but also my family.
  • Do plan to complete as much work as possible before the holidays start. This may mean requesting information in advance and putting in some really late nights, so as much work as possible is completed before the school bell rings for holiday break.
  • Do realize–and accept–that output may be reduced during the holidays, and don’t beat myself up about it. It does not make me unprofessional, just as working in the holidays does not make me any less a parent.
  • Do remember that my time with my children is important. Their time with me is finite. One day, they will grow into teenagers (who will not want to spend much time with me), so I must take the opportunity to enjoy it while I can.
  • Do let others support me and entertain my children without my feeling guilty, whether that be a spouse, other family members, friends, a vacation care organisation or paid babysitter. In some cases, this support is dependent upon finances. Reciprocal arrangements with another parent are a way to minimise or eliminate cost.
  • Do explain my reasons for working during the holidays to my children. They are old enough to understand that a completed project means money to pay for that trip to the theme park they really wanted to visit during the holiday break. (Okay, I know that sounds like blackmail but I’ve gotta do what works for me.)
  • Do come to scheduling arrangements with my children. For example, I might suggest we have an outing together in the morning but they must entertain themselves while I work in the afternoon. Although mornings are usually my most productive time to write, when kids are around I find it easier to do activities with them first. They release pent up energy (meaning afternoon activities are usually quieter when I am working), and nagging about when we are going to do X, Y and Z is eliminated. A note to remember: if I expect them to stick to a deal, then so must I. Reneging does not bode well without an extremely good (in their eyes) reason.
  • Related to the previous point, don’t feel bad if they play Playstation for a couple of hours during such afternoons. After all, they are on holiday. Holiday-themed movies, such as “Home Alone”, are also a great way to entertain kids for a couple of hours while I get work done. But I must not assume I need to organize their whole time. Kids need the chance to put their imagination to use to come up with their own means of entertaining themselves. Often, that’s when they have the most fun…
  • And do keep a professional tone and attitude with all business dealings during holiday periods. While many clients may have children of their own, so may understand the added pressures of working with kids at home, some will not care that Junior has his heart set on seeing that new movie the same day an article is due, or that my mob believe they’ll be the last kids on the planet to visit that new adventure park with the super-duper water slide if I don’t take them today instead of working on my client’s project.

Making the choice to work freelance means making the choice to set my own hours.

Which brings me to my final point.

If absolutely necessary, I must change my hours during holiday periods, even if that means working late into the night or getting up before the birds. And not getting as much sleep as I would like.

It’s never easy striking the right balance, and can be even harder during school holidays. I must be realistic.

Wishing you happy writing (if you can get any done) during the holiday season.

Rebecca

What steps do you take to get work done during the “silly” season?