Nobody mention the school holidays
Ok, to be clear – we should definitely be mentioning the summer holidays!
Let’s be honest, for lots of us they’re a pain point. We’re often tag teaming holiday allowances, never quite a full compliment until mid September and parents will be uttering the phrase ‘holiday club’ more than they care to admit. We’ve got a broken childcare system and holiday allowances don’t tend to stack up to cover the days where the little darlings need to be looked after. And even if you find yourself in an organisation with unlimited holiday, it’s not really a viable option to completely disconnect for seven weeks for most of us.
We can be sure that parents countrywide are currently attempting to figure out their options. Family, friend and favours will be called in, and the money for some childcare set ups is being put to one side.
I wrote these prompts for employers because let’s face it, some of them need a nudge. There’s no time like a chunky school holiday to really demonstrate the art of the possible and be clear how much of a ‘family friendly employer’ they really are. I’ve changed the wording to make it parent focused and give you some ideas on conversation starters if you need to broach this with your employer…
1. Reset expectations
This can work beautifully in some teams.
Could you explore with your line manager / broader team what needs to be delivered between July and September and agree for individuals to decide how they get it done. Essentially managing output, not input.
This will feel scary to lots of people and I understand why – but if we always do what we’ve always done…
You’d need clear goals and a relaxed view on when people are working – so if you’re already on this route, this approach could be low hanging fruit.
2. Temporary working pattern changes
This would be more at an individual level. In a world where flexible working requests aren’t actually that flexible in their administration, this could be a great opportunity to positively challenge attitudes towards agility and understanding.
Rather than a permanent change, could you ask for something shorter term to cover you over the sticky months of July and August? You’d then be re-grouping in September (unless any of you have had lightbulb moments of better ways of working of course).
3. Financial help
We don’t all have deep pockets, but for those organisations with some flex on your budget (we know they’re out there), is there anything you could get access to, to help in paying for some of this childcare?
Yes, it can be tremendously expensive, but from a value perspective it’s something that adds a huge amount of worth for parents, businesses and the economy.
You could also find out if there are any childcare providers of holiday clubs who accept childcare vouchers – so if you have an employer run scheme there can be huge advantages there too.
But what if there’s nothing we can do?
Let’s be realistic. For some employers, there are no amount of tips and fresh perspectives that will break cycles here.
In those instances, it’s your wellbeing we need to protect at all costs. Here are some tips if you’re feeling like there’s nothing you can influence with your employer:
1. What’s important to you?
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I talk about the importance of defining your own version success. This doesn’t mean big grand trips, expensive days out etc. Think about how you want to feel, how it’s going to be working well at home and any boundaries you need to bring in.
You’re giving yourself the foundations here – it doesn’t have to spit out a big list of actions though. Simply starting with your values, your non-negotiables and those all important boundaries is where it’s at.
2. Moving through comparison
Not all comparison is made equal. There’s a heap of it that is a load crap, stemming from societal pressures.
I also believe though, that some comparison can be serving a purpose. It can signal something we want to go after. A nudge towards a change we want to make.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy task to take in hand, but there’s no time like the present to start. It could be that you need to mute / unfollow someone on social media because you find their posts triggering. Perhaps you want to put some plans in place with your family over summer. Maybe you know you need to find a way to plan in some alone time. You’ll have your own examples.
3. Moving through guilt
Similarly to comparison, some guilt can serve a purpose.
If it’s spewing with toxicity, shaped by other people’s opinions – it deserves the elbow and the badge of being dysfunctional. For example, if you’re uttering the words ‘I feel guilty I’m not taking more time off work over summer’ but you’ve maxed out allowances, done everything you can to make sure the kids are looked after safely and actually you do want/need to work over the holidays – I’m pretty confident we can confidently stick this in the dysfunctional guilt bin.
You’ve done everything you can. You might not shift it straight away, but you can get yourself on the right track for you.
If it’s functional then it’s telling you something. A change you might want to make or a conversation you need to have perhaps. There’s a short video over on the Parent Support Hub to take you through this as an activity.