My Family Care asks Alison: The Holidays take an extra toll on our time and energy as we have more visitors, the kids are off school, less people are in the office... But life still goes on. What added pressures are there around the holiday season and how do you manage your work life balance during this period? What suggestions would you give to other working parents?
The Christmas season is upon us again and for many of us what should be a joyous time spent with family and friends becomes an endless toil of juggling work, meeting deadlines, childcare, school events, parties, visiting Santa, shopping, cooking and much much more!
Throw in some extra bad weather and the nursery closes, the nanny is unable to get to work, the children are feeling unwell and family life can resort to chaos!!!
We all say it every year 'I'm going to be more organised this year and start early' but the arrival of that first Christmas card makes you panic and realise some of your friends are just way ahead.
So how do we get through this wonderful time without feeling the stress and pressure?
Well it's never too early to start planning - and making those lists, although we don't want life to become a rigid routine, it does help to plan ahead! If there is a quiet time in the run up to Christmas at work then use it.
Try and allow for a few days working from home just in case the weather does turn bad. Stick to the children's regular routine where possible, younger children do like predictability, rules and boundaries and it does work and avoids those awkward tired times.
Be kind to yourself also and try and stick to a routine, don't over commit to too many parties or school/nursery events in one day.
We are all guilty of trying to do too much ourselves, trying to be super mum or super dad. Share the jobs; let your partner gift shop for his/her family and vice versa. Divide jobs around the house. For years I put myself under pressure thinking decorating the tree should be a family affair when it was quite obvious that my husband and daughter enjoyed it and were much better at it than the rest of us. So now it's become something they love doing together every year and we all just say how wonderful it looks and clean up after them!!
Plan your childcare well in advance especially for those families where work is part of the festive season/public sector workers etc. Nannies and child minders need holidays too so try and work together to achieve the best arrangement. Start your research early for holiday clubs/shopping crèches which can be great fun at this time of year and could give you valuable time to finish that last minute shopping.
Contact your local Family Information Service for advice on what's available. Try and share childcare with friends and ask family if they can help at this busy time. Always have a backup plan in case of emergencies; you can also register with an emergency childcare service which will help find nursery places, childminders and nannies at short notice in your local area.
From my experience this can be just as hard as trying to juggle work commitments. Try and keep it fair and divide time equally between family and friends. We would do the obvious and alternate between families each year but as the children got older you had to factor in their friends too. Try and involve the whole family in decision making, have the dreaded conversation with teenagers about talking to grandma, limiting TV and staying off the games machine.
Finally once it's all over, and the children have gone back to school, distant family have returned home, the office is back to a normal pace and the shopping has eased because we're all now eating leftovers, take some time for yourselves. Take a moment to reflect on anything that went well or badly and note anything you would do differently next year in your diary, just to be super organised!
My husband and I always saved buying our own Christmas presents till January when we could shop together and it was always more pleasing for him as it was the January sales!!!
Alison, Childcare Consultant and Mother of Two