How to survive the school holidays as a freelancer
Aaah, the million-dollar freelance parent question:
How do you survive having your kids at home over the school holidays when you’ve got a shit-tonne of client work to do?
Well, fear not! So many of us in the DIFTK Community have been-there done-that.
Here are our tips for getting through the school holidays:
Make a plan
One of the best things you can do is to make a plan.
And then be prepared for that plan to potentially not go to plan…! Obvs.
Inevitably, there’ll be days where your kids just don’t want to go to the pencil museum, again. Whether it’s outright refusal, unexpected sickness or even sunny days when you just can’t resist getting out of the office — it’s OK if you need to go off-piste. But you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary stress if you have a vague idea of how things might go.
The best place to start with said plan? Work out what it is you really *need* to get done over the holiday period.
What deadlines do you have? What are the essential marketing tasks you need to keep up with? What stuff can you put on the back burner for a bit, and what stuff would cause you a headache if you let it slide?
Get clear on it all and then try to keep the ‘must do’ list as short as possible so you can lower the pressure during an already hectic time.
Talk to your partner / family / clients
There are likely other people in your life who will be impacted by or who are critical to your plan.
If you have a partner, what expectations do they have about how the holidays will work? Are they able to pick up the childcare slack? Can other family pitch-in with childcare? Are there other ways they can support you?
Setting clear expectations and asking for help is a sensible way to reduce the guilt and overwhelm that often comes from trying to do it all on your own.
And make sure you talk to your clients too. What can they expect from you over the holidays? Is there anything they need to know in advance? Any boundaries you need to put in place?
Be clear about your availability well ahead of time and how/when they can contact you over the next few weeks. And don’t forget to pop an out-of-office message on your emails too!
Don’t forget your kids!
Where possible, try to keep your kids in the loop too.
If they’re old enough to understand, explain when you’ll be working, for how long and what you can/can’t do for them during this time. They might not like it. They might still break their way in to wherever you’re working, clawing under the door, but if you don’t even try to tell them what’s hapenning then you’ve already shot yourself in the foot.
If having the kids around while you’re working is just an inevitability, then you could try to set your kids up with a project that they can ‘work’ on while you work. Depending on their age, personality, interests… you could get them to sit with you and draw a cartoon, make a video, or write a story — something that will keep them engaged and relatively quiet while you sit down for a bit to do stuff.
If they’re literally sat next to you, you’ll avoid that under-the-door-clawing and they’ll feel like they’re involved too. If it works — it can even be a really nice way to spend some productive time together.
Also, when you’re not working, try to really give yourself over to your kids. Turn off your emails, leave your phone in another room — make an effort to really listen, play and spend quality time with them when you’ve stopped for the day.
Consider your childcare options
If you’re used to school hours being an essential way to get stuff done, the school holidays can be a real struggle.
Think about what other childcare options you have available to you. Are there any holiday clubs your kids might be interested in? Could you arrange a few afternoons with the grandparents if they are around? Playdate swaps with other local freelance parents? Maybe even work the odd Saturday or Sunday while your partner has the kids?
What’s available to you will depend on your unique situation, but try to be creative and think about your options well ahead of time. It’s easy to stick your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening but it’ll pay off to be proactive. Holiday clubs for instance often book up fast — make sure your kids are on the list if you want them to be!
Drop the guilt
Whether it’s worries about screen-time, or just feeling like you’re always preoccupied — try to shake off the guilt.
Remember, if you had an office job and you had to go in over the school holidays and your kids didn’t you see all day — you’d feel guilty about that too in a different way.
Freelance, employed, ‘stay at home’ parents… the extended school holidays are a struggle for all of us, and we all feel that guilt.
Try and cut yourself some slack. You’re doing an amazing job.
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