Working when you have a family is a skill that it takes time to learn. Throw in all the excitement of Christmas, sprinkle with a scattering of school and nursery events, present buying and catering for extending family and you could have a recipe for chaos. Antonia Chitty is a mum to three children aged 11, 8 and 4, and has been running her own businesses for more than 10 years. Here are her tips for juggling work and family over Christmas
In some ways it is easier to combine work and family when the children are small. Whether you use a nursery or childminder, you’ll probably have childcare until right up to Christmas. If you have a gift business of any sort, though, you can find yourself getting busier and business, and often you’ll be taking main responsibility for buying food and gifts too. So, the run up to Christmas is time to get super organised.
Make lists – one for what you need to do for work, another for Christmas tasks. Then, book slots of time in your diary for both sorts of jobs, so you can avoid doing gift wrapping at midnight! If you have older children life can get more complex: my three all have different Christmas shows, parties and other celebrations to attend, so I make sure all the events go in the diary too. I try to share as much as I can with other mums: this week my neighbour is picking the 10 year old up from a class while I attend parent’s evening, and I’ll do pick up next week. I’ve arranged with another mum to share lifts to school in the morning which gives me an extra half hour two or three mornings each week.
One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you control your own time, so take advantage of this. It can be a better use of your time to do the supermarket shopping straight after nursery drop off, when the shops are quiet, and work on a Saturday when the shops will be busier. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have, and don’t be afraid to call in favours. A play date on a Sunday afternoon can give you time to catch up.
It can come as a shock when you see that school term is due to end in just a few days, and you still have work to do. Fill up the time that your children are off with a mix of activities and free time: children want to wind down too! I’ve ordered a few Christmassy DVDs, booked the older two into a Christmas crafts workshop and also booked a weekend break for the whole family. Making sure you have some plans means that the children are happy to amuse themselves some of the rest of the time.
Watch out for your work-life balance. Business can easily take over. Have a finish time each day, put your work away, and make some time to relax. Your time is precious, so spend it on the things you are good at or enjoy doing. If you know December is your busy month, call in reinforcements, whether you need a temporary VA, a teenager to help pack and take parcels to the post office, or a couple of extra sessions from the baby sitter. Do this, and you won’t be so exhausted by the 24th.