Juggling Work and Family During School Holidays

I love spending time with Nick, but school holidays sometimes leave me scrambling
I love spending time with Nick, but school holidays sometimes leave me scrambling

This September has had lots of school holidays for my son- Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur- leaving our carefully prepared family schedule in shambles. Here are some ideas how we can adjust when school’s out.

Like most working parents, my wife and I have come to rely upon our son’s school as an important cog in the machinery that keeps our work-family juggle humming along.

Like most working parents, this September has been really tough for us. Summer camp ended the week before Nick’s school year began, which would be ok if school started that Monday. It didn’t. It started on Wednesday, leaving us to scramble for Monday and Tuesday.

The next week contained Labor Day– school’s out, but both Amy and I had to work (and she’s even a union member!) leaving us scrambling.

The next week contained Rosh Hoshanah, leaving us non-Jews to scramble for Monday and Tuesday.

This week has Yom Kippur, leaving us scrambling for Wednesday. Oy!

We are usually pretty good at arranging for things like school holidays ahead of time (and by that, I mean Amy is great at planning for these things ahead of time), but the relentless nature of these days off, coupled with Amy’s demanding but awesome short-term gig, and my balancing the new semester with some book-related speaking engagements* have made this month really hard.

We muddled through, but really had to rely on friends, family and my work flexibility.

What’s a working parent to do?

The best way to handle school holidays (or the snow days that are just around the corner) is to prepare for them ahead of time. Here’s a few ideas we can use to prepare for these routine emergency situations before they happen.

  • Have a talk with neighbors/friends, especially those who don’t work outside the home or those with alternative-style careers (in my circle, we know many actors with odd schedules or lull periods between gigs) well in advance to discuss how they may be able to help you on a school holiday or snow day.
  • In exchange, volunteer to help them out by taking their kid for the afternoon  or a Saturday to give them a break.  Make sure to build networks for parenthood (and maybe invite friends for a beer fire!)
  • If your family lives nearby, be nice to them and see if they can commit to helping out.
  • If you have a reasonably supportive supervisor/coworkers/workplace, talk to them well in advance about school holidays or possible future snow days, and how you could best handle them by working from home (benefit to both you and them- you don’t have to take a day off). This can also be a good way to prove that occasional work from home is a win-win.

What has worked for you? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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* This week, I’m giving a talk ,”Navigating work and family as employers and parents,” at the O.Berk Company Family Business Forum at my business school, giving the opening keynote at the National At-Home Dad Network Convention in Raleigh, NC. Next week, I am participating in a work-dad balance event with the NYC Dads Group.

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