As we hurtle into September and find our new back to school routines, I wanted to reflect on the challenge of childcare during the summer months and what worked well this time around. I know lots of mums and dads out there come up with all sorts of creative solutions so hopefully it may be useful to some to share what worked for me.
Firstly, I’ve reframed my initial belief that I work part time, to the more accurate fact that I work full time, just non-standard hours. Even as a coach, highly conscious of the impact of language, I seem to have missed that! My husband and I have very deliberately worked towards creating a life whereby we both work flexibly and both have substantial amounts of time with our children. I think it’s important to recognize that and to not use the awful expression “I only work part-time”.
With that in mind, as we approached our second summer of having school aged kids, 8 weeks stretched before us and the on-going question of childcare. I haven’t yet reached the point where I can’t wait for the kids to be back in school. I love a varied routine so summer time simply gives us new options. The grind of the school run (back to school traffic anyone?) is not that appealing and I like the way kids really develop over the summer break as they experience new things.
Despite all that, it’s still challenging to be self-employed and to find the right balance during the summer months. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe it takes a village to raise a career only that village extends in the summer holidays! We tried different types of camps this summer with more opening up to us as the youngest is now 4. It was interesting to watch my daughters handle being put in different environments, sometimes having pals with them but often going in solo. I won’t lie, my stomach clenched every time thinking they wouldn’t have anyone to play with, but they are brilliant kids and not only did they navigate it all, they did it with little to no drama. They have grown hugely in confidence over the summer and it’s a joy to watch.
Granny & Grandad played a blinder in helping us out. The girls got to go to Wexford a few times where it’s a simple diet of buckets, spades and ice-cream. I worked hard on not being the sugar-police but it’s definitely a challenge and one of those times where as a parent you just have to accept the compromise!
My sister is on maternity leave with her second baby and so we tag-teamed a bit. She’d mind mine and I’d mind hers to allow each other to work or simply to get some things done that are easier without smallies in tow. There is something very special about a cousin. Almost as close as a sibling and yet the small irritations a sibling can dole out don’t seem to apply as much to cousins. There was a lot of ‘mammying’ the ‘baby’ by little ones still babies themselves but seeing themselves as so much older. I think the summer break allows for these relationships to flourish and bed down the foundation of what will be lifelong friendship. Not to mention how easy it is to have your sister mind your children knowing she will treat them as her own. Worry-free childcare is priceless.
The Barter System aka bribery! My girls are 7 and 4 so still young but old enough to understand how to cut a deal. I worked out a while ago that begging them to be quiet if I needed 20 minutes of silence while on a client call simply doesn’t work. But they do respond to being set challenges. I’ll tell them that a certain amount of tasks need to be done quietly over the next 30 minutes (use of oven timer is my top tip!) and then there will be a reward. The 7 year old thrives on this approach, diligently writing down both her and her sister’s tasks and taking great satisfaction in ticking them off. Happy & Quiet kids = Productive Client Call!
Our lovely teenage neighbours also stepped in to babysit while I either worked in the house or popped out to meet a client. I do a lot of online coaching from home and so this childcare option is ideal for that. I remember looking up to older girls when I was a child and it has been fun to watch my daughters gaze in awe at their bright nail varnish and pierced ears wanting to be them when they grow up. Teenagers are brilliant with kids. Not so old as to be boring and still young enough to be good at playing.
And finally, being authentic with my clients is a big part of how I find my balance. It’s not so long ago people were terrified to mention their kids at work in case they’d be seen as ‘just a mom’ but these days I have no problem saying ‘I’ll drop my kids off at camp and meet you after” and there is huge comfort in being transparent. I’d love to see more parents feeling they could express their needs more honestly and not feel judged for being in some way less.