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Making the summer work for everyone as a working mum to children who have a high need for structure

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

As mum to two lively children (10 and 11) and a business owner to boot, I do find that the 6-week summer holiday can be a challenging time for all of us for a number of reasons. My husband works full-time and can take a little time off which is of course very welcome (!), but ultimately as the one with the ‘flexible’ working situation (i.e. my own business), it’s up to me to manage most of the holiday day-to-day. I’m well aware that your family and work situation may look completely different, perhaps it's even more squeezed than mine, or maybe your family dynamic allows for a bit more flexibility in managing this balance, but I’m sharing this in case it is helpful in some shape or form as food for thought...

If I don’t strike the right balance to enable time for nurturing relationships, undertaking self-care, and time for my business (client hours, networking, and business planning and development), things can veer off course very quickly!

While the summer break of course presents a great opportunity for some quality family time together, my children have a particularly strong need for structure and to know what they are doing from day to day - they can really struggle and become overwhelmed quickly without some sort of guide, so perhaps that intensifies the need for me to plan out as much as I can, or at least have something to say when they ask first thing each morning ‘what are we doing today?’ and expect Mum to be firmly in the driving seat. They can also cope with a little independent down time, but start climbing the walls if they don’t get regular check-ins, feedback from or time in with an attuned adult.

The Master Visual

I find that mapping out the break in its entirety (starting around a month before to ensure time for booking childcare and holiday clubs) is a helpful exercise, and I do this via a simple plan that goes up on the wall for the children (business planning & my own self-care plans stay within my own online calendar so as not to interfere with the simplicity of the plan for the kids - this is their 'need to know' document essentially).

I start with pencilling ideas in and assessing the balance of activities at a glance as I go, then as bookings and dates are confirmed I make it a colourful timetable and pin it up as school finishes. It’s not a detailed plan so there’s some scope for flexibility within certain days, and I add to it as we move through the days and weeks; but as an overview, it allows me to try to get some sort of balance for all of us so all our needs are met to a point.

Here are some of the criteria I keep in mind as I’m working on our summer plan:

Relationships & connection

· Is there enough quality family time for all of us? (kids with myself and/or my husband) or extended family time (with grandparents, uncle etc.)

· Are there some opportunities for the kids to mix with peers in manageable doses for them? Playdates, days out with family friends, clubs.

· Are there opportunities for the children to spend time independently of one another? (their intense relationship is wonderful in many ways, but they definitely benefit from some time apart from time to time)

· Are there enough touch points with school at holiday club? (helps with continuity throughout the holidays during that limbo time between old and new classes, as transitions can be particularly challenging for my children – structured, and familiar environment/staff/classmates)

· Are there opportunities for my husband and I to grab a date night or two?

Structure & routine

· Does the plan allow us to stick with the basic routines that the kids need in terms of 3 meals a day at around the same time and the same regular bed time? (with occasional late one, inevitably)

· Are there enough structured and familiar activities in place to help the kids manage the ups and downs of the holidays?

· How affordable are the club-based activities? Keep an eye on costs as they can mount up quickly.

Thinking about regulation & looking after ourselves (for all of us)

· Are there days earmarked for some self-care for myself and/or my husband? e.g. getting along to vocal coaching, exercising, drinks with friends.

· Is there enough flexibility for us all to have some down time at home, for the children to choose what they'd like to do for a day, or just to take the dog out for a nice, long walk?

· Are there some enrichment activities thrown in for the kids that they are comfortable enough with? (Looking to gently extend my childrens’ windows of tolerance means introducing new, manageable and well-supported activities carefully when opportunities present themselves…)


· Are there enough days covered by childcare and spaced out appropriately each week for me to manage my client workload and any meetings?

· Are there enough hours covered by childcare for me to do some real business development work each week?

· Are there any networking events I really need to try to get to?

Some days this very structured approach can feel restrictive, and it’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time, but I’d say the thought that has gone into it up front has been key to getting us all through a long summer in previous years, and is tried and tested as something that works within the dynamics of our little unit due to the high need for structure for our children..

Do you find yourself considering any other criteria when planning the summer break to keep the kids happy, and manage other relationships, self-care and work, or are you able to go with the flow a bit more? Would love to hear your views and approaches...

I work with professionals and parent/carers to support children who have experienced early trauma. For further information, see What I Do.


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