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School Bloody Holidays: Confessions of a Guilty Working Mother

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School Bloody Holidays: Confessions of a Guilty Working Mother

My anxiety levels have peaked. It’s January and for the past 6 weeks I’ve been juggling work and managing my 2 kids, aged 12 and 14, during what I find the hardest time of the year – the 2 month Christmas/New Year school holidays.

What is a parent to do? Especially a parent who happens to also be a Small Business owner where taking holidays doesn’t just mean the exhausting (and expensive) task of keeping kids entertained but it also means no work, no pay.  If only I could afford that luxury.

I’m an accountant and a sole practitioner so for me I need to keep working because tax deadlines still need to be met and arguably more importantly if I’m not working it means I’m not earning money…yet unfortunately I still have rent to pay – at work and at home – plus my kids seem to think I have a bottomless wallet and just want, want, want.  Have I mentioned they are bored as well?

It was a little easier when the kids were in primary school because they were happy to go to vacation care with their friends but nowadays I have no chance of getting them to vacation care because it’s boring and uncool.

I tried shipping them off to my parents who live a couple of hours away but the kids refuse to go now because you guessed it – there’s no internet.  That’s not been a complete disaster for me though because when I did send them up there then I had my parents complaining that the kids spend too much time on their electronic devices (even minus internet) so then I had four people complaining not just two.

That leaves me in a bit of a dilemma because at 12 and 14 they really aren’t old enough to look after themselves for 2 months.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford to take 2 weeks off let alone 8 weeks but worst of all I feel guilty and it’s the guilt that is killing me.

I feel so guilty that I can’t take time off even to just hang out with them, make lunch, take them to the beach or even facilitate play dates and sleepovers. Even when I try and organise things to do it never goes to plan – we leave hours later than planned because I’ve just got to do a bit of work before we go or I spend half the time out on my phone and not really ‘with them’ enjoying the moments.

As a parent I just want my kids to enjoy their school holidays. I remember as a kid loving school holidays but back then (showing my age now) the majority of mothers didn’t work. Small Business wasn’t the norm where I came from – or at least I didn’t know anyone who had their own business. So, for me school holidays were holidays whether we went away or stayed home and I had a ball and I dearly want my kids to have that too.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with some ideas but every holidays I end up so busy working that I’ve organised nothing and I spend the holidays feeling guilting and doing a combination of working from home with them driving me crazy because they’re bored, me sneaking out for a few hours in the office rushing through work with a cloud of guilt hanging over my head, and heart the whole time – probably because I’m enjoying some ‘me’ time with no nagging about being bored, hungry or the big one this year has been complaining about our pathetically slow internet.

An idea I have had is getting other working parents to share the load.  Easier said than done. It’s hard to meet and form relationships with other working parents because we’re all busy working…go figure! Then typically when I do find a parent I like and trust and consider this could be an option our kids don’t get on or they have a fall out just before the holidays.  Or even worse, I find a suitable parent to job/holiday-share with for one child and not the other and the only thing worse than leaving 2 children home alone for 8 weeks is leaving 1 child home alone. It feels like it’s never-ending and quite frankly it’s overwhelming and both physically and emotionally exhausting.

Now intellectually I know that whether I work for myself or I work for someone else I would still have the same issues but would I really? If I worked for someone else I would still need to work out taking time off work, what to do with kids, trying to negotiate with other parents to take holidays or even trying for reduced hours. But I would get holiday pay and I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the business turning over, keeping clients happy, managing not only my personal cashflow but also the businesses cash flow.

I wouldn’t have to worry about not just earning money but also the stuff that comes with it – like administration, paperwork, deadlines, BAS, staff wages and my all-time biggie – covering the workload of my staff who are taking school holidays off.

Those who think Small Business is the easy option aren’t Small Business people and clearly aren’t Small Business people who have kids.

I don’t have a solution…but I’d love it if you could share any tips that you’ve found help and maybe between us we can come up with a list of potential solutions.

Merry Christmas….bah humbug!

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