Lazy, hazy days of summer? Not for working parents. In July and August, kids may be sleeping in, jumping into pools and hanging out with friends. But many parents must continue to get to the office each day for financial and overall career reasons.
Thoughts of how to occupy their kids may distract them from their work and make them feel guilty if their children aren’t being constantly entertained. So, that may end up in their being less productive than employers would like.
There are ways around these feelings. First off, kids don’t really need constant entertainment during the summer. Sometimes they get bored and are looking for something to do. However, for the most part, summer is fun, a terrific break from school and the usual regimen.
What can turn into a downside for children – and employers – is a lack of planning by the parent/employee. It’s important to explain to children that holidays have come for them, but not for you. They need to know that they’ll have to help out a bit by entertaining themselves, being willing to attend some day camps and have a sitter, if that’s what is needed. You might need to get them to help you out by doing household chores so you can enjoy the break a bit, too.
Employers need to know what is coming at the end of June. Employees with families will be juggling work with parenting responsibilities, in a way they don’t have to when school is in session. Workers may be a bit more distracted by what’s happening on the home front, and productivity may be reduced if parents need to attend to their childrearing responsibilities.
Many businesses find summer to be a slower time, but not all, which means smart companies factor summer realities into their planning.
Here are five summer survival tips to help get you through the
1. Get Support From The Kids
Have an open conversation with your children. Explore what they want to do with the time remaining in the summer. Ensure they understand the connection between your work, the money it makes and how they can help the family when you are working. This can include not complaining if summer camp is a necessity or a sitter is on hand to keep an eye on things while parents work. Let them know supporting your work life is a family matter.
2. Plan Ahead
Look at the whole summer and block off weeks for various activities. Schedule a holiday for two of the weeks, enrol the children in summer camps or other activities and intersperse it all with home time. During home time weeks, get a teen to sit, or work from home, if you can. If you can work from home, schedule the day so that you get 8 hours of work time in a 13 hour day.
Approach “ at-home weeks” like summer camp and program the day. Include work time in two hour chunks, play time with the kids for one hour, breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you do your two-hour work tasks, set the kids up with an educational video, a craft and ask them to plan a play for you for playtime. So, between 7 am and 9 pm, parents who have done this during home weeks can get 8 hours of work done in two-hour chunks.
One family organized four weeks of home time, interspersed with three weeks of summer camp and two weeks of vacation time. A trusted teen came for half days during the home time weeks, while they worked at the office or went to meetings.
3. Discuss Summer Plans with Your Employer
You can use the occasion of discussing the vacation time schedule to ask about work from home options, flex-time, job sharing or staggering your start-and-end time to the work day. Many employers are open to helping workers manage their family and work obligations. Some will help with scheduling and may have resources on hand like names of good summer camps and sitters.
4. Discuss Summer Plans with Colleagues
Find out how other families are managing summer holidays. Other parents can often be great resources for each other. A family with a five and eight- year-old was delighted to find a colleague whose 14-year-old was looking for a babysitting job. A colleague recommended a great camp that her children attended—it was comforting to have a recommendation from children who enjoyed the experience.
5. Dealing with Guilt
Examine the possibility of unrealistic expectations for yourself as a parent. If you feel guilty about the quality of summer you are providing for your children, the level of care they are receiving or the amount of intellectual stimulation they are experiencing ensconced in front of the TV, ask yourself, “What’s the best thing about summer from a kids’ perspective?” Answer: They get to do whatever they like, which might be nothing. Also ask yourself: “Is my role to entertain, teach and provide the best of everything, all the time?” The answer is no.
Get back the lazy, hazy days of summer with some planning and the permission to take a break from being super parent. There’s a lot said for doing nothing, with adequate supervision of course.
Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. Dr. Newman can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org