Winter break is heading your way fast, and if you’re a work-at-home mom, it’s going to throw a wrench into your routine.
Most moms working from home are freelancers or independent contractors, which means paid days off are nothing more than a dream. And childcare options for older kids are hard to come by, especially when potential caregivers are likely to be taking their own break.
So, what’s a mom to do? With a little planning and creativity, it’s possible to survive school breaks while working from home.
1. Set a break-specific schedule.
No matter what you do, your routine will change while the kids are home, so you might as well embrace it and create a schedule that works for you and the young ones.
Think about starting earlier, finishing up once they’re in bed, and scheduling small blocks of work throughout the day.
Make sure everything you need is on the calendar; this includes lunches and snacks. Then do everything in your power to stick to the schedule.
2. Have the kids plan self-entertainment.
You aren’t the only one who should make a schedule; get the kids to make their own too. This schedule should include all their self-entertainment planning—playtime, screen time, reading, chatting, and so on.
This is helpful in two ways.
First, when someone comes to you complaining that they have nothing to do, you can point to their schedule.
Second, it prevents sharing conflicts; when two kids come complaining that they both want time on the video game console, you just have to see whose time it is.
And yes, despite the guilt and the potential judgment from other parents, you should embrace technology to survive the break.
3. Get everyone on board.
You alone can’t make this go smoothly; everyone involved needs to be on board too. Before break, sit down with the whole family and discuss what your expectations are.
Think about things like noise level, appropriate activities, inviting people over, etc. Establish in which situations it’s okay to interrupt you. And if you have a partner, communicate your expectations to them too.
Do they need to take over tasks that are typically yours so you can get in some extra work hours? Let them know.
4. Look beyond traditional childcare solutions.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a local daycare with temporary spots open for the break—and if you’re that lucky, you should probably start playing the lottery.
But if you’re like most of the work-at-home crowd, you’ll need to get creative if you need help wrangling the kids.
Daycare and professional nannies aren’t the only options you have.
Some other childcare solutions include:
- Childcare Swaps: For this, you need to find other moms who also work from home and could use a little help. Then, you set up a schedule to take turns watching all the kiddos. This can be done for a full day, or you might want to see about a morning/afternoon split.
- Mother’s Helper: These are usually teenagers who can be a big help but might not be ready to watch children on their own all day for an entire school break. Since they’re also off school, these teens should be available, and many will be happy to play with the kids and earn a little money.
- Teachers: Not every teacher will jump at the chance to spend their break watching the kids, but the fact is that many of them need the extra income. A teacher without kids of their own could be a great fit, especially if any of your children have special needs that other parents or teens may not be equipped to handle.
- Family: You may not have family nearby, but if you do, or they’re wanting to visit for the holiday, let them help out. Grandmas and grandpas might spoil the kids a bit, but if it lets you work with less stress, the trade-off is likely worth it.
5. Signal the need for silence.
You should discuss your noise-level expectations from the start, but sometimes, you might need silence rather than relative quiet.
Set up a signal with the kids that lets them know they need to be extra quiet. This could be something like turning on a specific light outside your office space, dimming the lights in the area where the kids are, or putting up a sign on the door.
What the signal is isn’t as important as making sure it works for you and your family.
Remember: Working from home is still working.
Intrinsically, you know this. However, society tends to see working from home as just hanging around the house. Don’t let that get into your head.
Be strict with the kids, and when other people ask you to be their full-time school break childcare because, hey, you’re home, say no.