Most people get around 4 weeks annual leave a year. Kids school holidays add up to about 10 weeks or so a year. You don’t need to be a genius to realise that you need to juggle things differently during kids school holidays so that your kids are cared for.
I remember when both my kids were at child care and I had no idea about this problem. The kids’ childcare only shut down for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year. We were usually on holidays too then, so it wasn’t a problem when the kids were young.
When my son started school, the first school holidays were a nightmare for us. We were not prepared and hadn’t thought through who would mind him while we were working as our daughter was still at childcare. Those 2 weeks were a scramble of a last-minute requests. We asked my husband’s parents to cover a day for each of the 2 weeks. I took a few annual leave days. James also took a few different annual leave days. This got us through that time, but we realised that we had used up some precious holiday days and that couldn’t work each time.
So for the next holidays we got more organised. We insourced and worked out smarter ways for James and me to mind our kids during the holidays. We also outsourced and got others to help.
Here is how we manage our work schedules to get through kids school holidays
1. One does the “early shift” and the other does the “late shift”: A key way my husband and I have made it work is that one of us works super early and the other super late. What is looks like is:
- I will go into work super early (start about 6am) and James has the kids at home. I do about 8 hours work with a very short break for lunch and finish about 2pm
- To save time, James and the kids travel to my work and I meet them for handover time
- I then have the kids for the rest of the day and James gets into his office about 2.30pm and works through to about 10.30pm
- The type of work you do and whether you work near to each other are factors in whether this can work for you, but it’s been a winner for us over the years
2. Work from home: as the kids get older, I do work from home a bit more since I can still get work done and they entertain themselves a lot more. I realise this option may not work for all of you based on the age of your kids and the type of work you do, but worth thinking through if it can work for you
3. Unpaid leave: some companies allow you to take extra unpaid leave so you can cover holidays that way if your budget allows. Friends of mine that do this negotiated this into their work contract up front when they took the job. I guess it’s easier then, but nothing would stop you having that chat with your boss at any time
4. Store up extra hours worked: Other friends have stored up extra days / hours worked to then take them as days in lieu during holidays. Once again, this one depends on the flexibility of your employer as to whether it can work for you