Woohoo it’s Summer, the kids are out of school, ice-lollies, sun cream and screeches of excitable kids running through sprinkles, what’s not to love?
Except if you are a working parent the Summer holidays are like Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve – in theory it’s magical but in reality it’s a hell that has to be survived somehow and hopefully with as little physical and mental damage as possible.
A client only last week said to me that their chances of achieving what we laid out for August were going to be near zero if we didn’t get some serious strategies in place, so here I share some of the ideas we put together, look at some of the crap we tell ourselves and how if you get this right, it won’t just make the Summer holidays fun for you (and your little ones) but could also have a positive impact on your personal and professional life too.
- Get your head in order
Before we even start to look at practical ideas to entertain the kids this Summer and you not damage your success in the process. Get your head in order. Listen carefully to what that voice in your head says and what assumptions you make. For instance I often hear things like;
- I’m such a bad mum because I won’t let them do this.
- I feel so guilty that I’m not spending all day with them.
- It’s wrong to leave them to their own devices like that.
- I can’t believe I’ve let them sit on electronics all afternoon.
- I can’t believe I begrudge them the Summer.
Shall I go on?
The point is that the negative conversation that you allow to run havoc in your head is not helping in the slightest. Not only do you have the real issue of how to entertain and look after your children you are adding a bucket of negative crap that will damage how you view the next 6 weeks too! And if you tackle any task with a negative attitude, guess what that can do to your results?
There is a way to ensure you and your children have a great summer, but start by looking at your attitude to it first.
- Get their heads in order
Listening to some parents speak you’d think that kids come out of the womb with a shopping list or wants, a demands list that any hostage taker would die for and an attitude to give and take like European MP’s over Brexit. They don’t. If your children are demanding and expecting the moon on a stick, guess where they got that from? And no, not just their peers.
The fact is (and it’s not always easy to swallow this one) our children are the product of what we say and do to a massive degree. Interestingly latest research says that boys and girls brains are identical and yet the terminology they use can vary widely.
For instance my son was allowed an ironing board when he was 3, and a member of my family was devastated retorting “You can’t give a boy an ironing board!” to which I replied “why, do men like to look like scruffs?” (Within 6 months the legs were off that ironing board and it was his surf board!) the point is that our children are influenced by you. Enabling them to have a great mindset for the Summer impacts on the top tips below.
- Know what you want
Its not illegal to tell your children what you need or want over the next 6 weeks (or even for your future success). After all you are not a robot that can just stuff itself in a cupboard at 3am ready and raring to go for the next day. And please do ask yourself if you are aiming for SuperMum status, what message does that say to your kids?
“Hey kids when you grow up you aren’t important any more and your needs go to the bottom of the pile!” Not ideal right?
From a young age my children have known what I’m working on and why. We’ve always had an open relationship and I treat them like the age they are (kids are far more resilient and tough than we sometimes we are happy to accept). In this way my kids have learnt that;
“If Mum has time to do X now, then we will have time to do X later.”
I don’t personally feel it is a bad idea to enable children to understand that finances look healthy because Mum is in front of her laptop. Research tells us that now more than ever children don’t always understand money because they rarely see it. And while pocket money is on the rise, children more and more push a button to spend it. Do you remember the joy of getting coins as a kid and when you had a note in your birthday card? I can still remember my youngest choosing a 2p over a 5p because it was bigger! Don’t fear saying “Kids this week I need to get this, this and this done.” It’s not moaning at them, it’s sharing that you have needs too. Just think how this could impact on your longterm success if your kids appreciated this? (Please whatever you do read top tip 7 because I bet you are going to need it!)
- Know what they want
This is not about bartering or bribery, this is about understanding what your children would like to get out of the summer holidays.
Make it into a game. Every year I sit down with my two and over a long leisurely meal where they’ve had their favourite food and even the poison to Mums around the world, fizzy pop and I ask them “What do you want to do this summer?”
Don’t dismiss what they say they want. If they want to spend 2 days in their room on their phone, you’ve no right to tell them they are wrong. This is their chance to tell you what they’d love to see happen this summer. Don’t let money or time be an obstacle to this list. It’s about exploring what they enjoy, love and feel is important in their world.
Watching my son and his 17 year old friends bounce around to create a tidal current in the pool, I was hit by the notion that it was so cool (apparently cool people don’t say that any more, hence by usage I’m un-cool!) that they were free to play. Don’t take that away from them. One of the things I help many clients do is bring the joy back into their lives (so it would be great to see it not disappear from our growing children’s lives right? So just write it all down.
You can use post it notes and fill up a bowl in the middle of the table, or a big piece of paper that everyone writes on in different colours. It’s a starting point to coming up with ideas that tick their boxes without breaking your bank account. The great thing about this tool, is that it works well in teams and at work. We so often create ideas with logic, whereas it’s in our creative responses we feel and find the real answers.
- Drop the structure
I know that for the majority of you that read this article you are self employed, zero hours contract or similar and as such you have to be good at creating your own structure. The issue when it comes to the holidays is that you want to hang on to your structure and your children didn’t get that memo. Mix it up. If you usually like to clean the house and work from 10 to 3 and then 7 to 9, tough!
A bit harsh I hear you say?
But the point is there are more of you in the house and ditching the structure not only makes your youngsters feel loved it can also be good for your brain functionality and creative processes. I know that for those that love routine it can freak with your mind. Appreciate that it has this effect on you and work out how you work in a way that ticks everyone’s boxes.
Think Mediterranean. Especially in this heat. You may usually drive from this client, to that first thing in the morning, however if your car has air conditioning then maybe consider getting the travelling done at the hottest time of the day, when the children are either happy on their phones, happy looking out the window or playing games like Sweet or Sour (wave at passers-by and see if they are sweet – and they wave back or sour and ignore you).
Or my kids STILL love soft top yellow mini (maybe I shouldn’t tell you about this, it’s addictive!) You have to spot the yellow cars, the mini’s and the soft tops and you get triple points if you spot a (you guessed it) soft, top yellow mini. (I do feel daft playing that on my own though!) On holiday lots of people love an afternoon nap, I know (as my client said last week!) “I could never let them have an afternoon nap, they’d be up all night!”
Sleep is a habit. We create habits. And it’s not tough to gently remove the afternoon kip. So much research points to the benefits of an afternoon nap and you can either have a story and kip too or get on with some work. The thing about flexibility is it is critically important for business too. So what you learn here about yourself can be migrated into your business to help you achieve more too. And remember to think Mediterranean and get flexible!
- Keep the structure
Remember that awesome moment when you arrive on your 2 week package holiday and you jump in the pool and think “Awesome, 2 weeks doing what we like when we like!” And you hit the all you can eat buffet and think “I will never get bored of this food!” Only to find yourself in approximately 12 days time thinking, I’d give anything for a roast dinner, an early night and a quiet one.
Okay maybe not completely true, however as someone that sees 2 week’s holiday as a short breaks and likes 21 days minimum, I also get to that stage where I’m looking forward to a bit of structure, because humans benefit from structure. It is good for our productivity and our success.
Therefore make sure you communicate what structure is going to be critical to Mum (or Dad) not losing their cool and looking like a crazed monster. For the record, on my structure list was “We are all on holiday, don’t think that the chores you do the rest of the year are being taken over by fairies for August.” Businesses that can’t handle change don’t have a good forecast for the future. The need for structure will vary according to the kind of person you are and the kind of people your children are, take the time to appreciate their natural style (and yours.)
- Ditch the guilt
We have a habit of looking at everyone else and believing the #digitalnomad #perfectlife #bossmum posts we see. The stuff that makes out that they’ve gained a 6 figure contract, been on national TV, cooked the evening meal from scratch, taught their children to surf, been for a run and still had time to learn 25 key sentences in Spanish before their mid morning latte. Don’t buy into the hype. If you find yourself looking at other people’s posts and thinking “sigh, why can’t I do that!” then either snooze that profile for 30 days, do something about it or ditch the guilt.
Guilt is a negative and impacts on so many of my clients before we get to work on them. When we can see it’s impact we can work on eradicating it. Not only that you then become a real role model for your friends and children too who can stop trying to achieve impossible perceptions of reality too. Look for the guilt in your life, here’s some great examples;
- Look at the state of the floors. I’ve not hoovered in days
- Oh no, my kids have watched 2 films today and it’s so beautiful outside, what a failure!
- I promised I take them to Xworld, I can’t believe I let them down again.
- I can’t believe I’m only going camping and not taking them on a tour of the world, sigh look at their life!
As their parent it is your responsibility to enable them to grow up into physically and emotionally happy people, capable of navigating this world on their own to get what they want, and that means enabling them to feel confident. Guilt loves to undermine your self esteem. And remember if you really struggle to dump the guilt unless you post about every second of you life then no one actually knows how you are spending your days do they?
And in my experience those that criticise your way of living aren’t worth worrying about because they don’t respect or love you and those that care about you don’t care how you live your life because they respect and love you. Another good lesson for your children, right?
- Automate, invest, outsource, employ and swap
Automate – get your marketing automated, and create the right level of structure (if you love structure diary what time you will go on online to engage and interact with your followers and if you hate structure how will you ensure you engage and don’t lose the engagement and momentum on your business? Use your natural style. Some clients like to put by a morning to get their online world in order, others know they will naturally get it done. What’s your style?
Invest – I invested in a super sleek laptop so I can work anywhere and a pool that can easily fit 10 rowdy, overexcited by summer teens. When you work out the amount of time I’ve saved and the happiness and space I’ve created to work, the return on my investment is massive. Be honest what do you need to invest in to get on?
Outsource – again consider your time management and you can start to see that sometimes it’s better to get someone else to write your content, deal with your admin or even chase up payments. As you can imagine this can have a massive impact on your long term success too. So worth considering.
Employ – having helped lots of organisations grow and upscale I can appreciate that employing some is not an easy decision. Consider what benefits you gain from handing a task to someone else and what damage you create to your sanity by not?
Swap – kids….no not permanently. If you have business friends that don’t want to spend August’s profit on childcare too, can you partner up? You be their contact on their holiday message for a week (to free up some time) synergise your marketing to promote each other (half the work load and potentially double the results and look after each other’s kids. Children love meeting new children (up to a certain age, and even then they get on after that awkward “I’m not supposed to engage with people” moment, so leave them to it). When children are getting to meet new people and show off their favourite toy and find out what each other’s favourite meme is you can get on with some work.
- Say No
If you’ve read my internationally acclaimed book Fight the fear – how to beat your negative mindset and win in life, you will know that of all the fears I see impacting on success the one that gets us the most is the fear of what other people think.
And if you look at the reasons why we don’t say No, there is usually a worry around how you will be perceived or judged. Saying No doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care about you too. No, you can’t do that extra hour you do free of charge this month(good for business in the long run too). Don’t fear saying No to yourself either “No it’s not important to hoover, get out there and enjoy the pool with the kids!” Looking back in 20 years time will you remember your immaculate house of the squealing laughter as your child squirted you right in the face with the water pistol? Saying no enables you to appreciate the priorities in life that matter most to you. And lastly don’t be afraid to say no to your children either. The next top tip will help you with this one.
- I’m bored!
Being bored is good for them. The issue is that we look at what everyone else is doing and if you don’t ditch the guilt you are still assuming your children need to be laughing, learning, expanding their talents or having revolutionary once in a lifetime moments, they don’t.
Boredom has been proved to create more prolific creative use of the brain – guess how good that is for business and success? It is not your job to fill their every waking moment with joy, happiness and fun. If they don’t learn to become responsible for their own fun how are you teaching them to become self reliant, resilient and capable?
As a child I made up stories and invented secret clubs with logos and membership list, and now 35 years later I’m an author and I’m founder of The Business Womans Network, if that is not scientific research in action I don’t know what is!
Create the boundaries that say “I will not be your 24/7 entertainer, I will enable your entertainment.” (Hence the importance of top tip 4 so that they can express what they want. A trip to a cheap shop to pick up glitter, glue, pads, colouring in, balls, bats, tents and inflatables may cost you £30 but could sustain a lot of creative play if you give them the space to be bored. Check out the “what can you do with a paperclip” experiments. Children (and adults) that were left to it, came up with creative solutions including necklaces, a mini super spy weapons, those that struggled to think creatively could rarely get past “it holds paper together” or “you can scratch an itch with it.”
So don’t fear what others think. Letting them watch TV, or read for hours or even hang out on their phone is not going to break their brains or make you a bad parent.
And lastly remember that it is not that many years away that they will be overloading a small car “borrowing” your toaster and driving to another part of the country to study or start their career. I’m always intrigued by parents that carry school bags for their children. I find myself asking “what message are you sending to them?” and “How does that help them?” As I write my daughter is hoovering the house (that’s 17 rooms and it’s already 30 degrees and she is 14) Evil Mum? Maybe.
However my daughter is growing up to know that within 30 minutes this afternoon (and her Mum) are all hers. I don’t want her reaching university or her first job and struggling to get her clothes ironed or cook a healthy meal on top of learning how to navigate the world of work. I’m giving her longterm skills that set her up for life. Interestingly she was horrified when she went on the school holiday a few months ago and she had to make all of her friends beds, because none of them knew how.
Time with our children is precious, but don’t be afraid to have your rules and to expect respect. The Summer holidays are a 2-way street, you just need to let them know what that street looks like.