How to take the strain out of long school summer holidays

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How to take the strain out of long school summer holidays

by Alice Jonsen
Earlier in the week I came across a quote from Hillary Clinton: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” It seems appropriate to flag up as we kick off the long school holidays.
As someone else said to me recently, the long school holidays over the summer – wonderful as they can be – are one of the reasons women can earn less than men.
Because, the chances are, in most families where there are two parents or guardians on site, one male, one female, the latter will be doing the lion’s share of juggling work around the children. The balance is shifting, particularly for people who are able to work from home, but it is still far off an equal divide.
For some families that works. That’s how they want it done. At the end of the day, what works for your family is what matters, not a government- or research-led statistic telling what is right or wrong.
But for many women who run their own businesses or are employed full- or part-time, while raising school-aged children, the next six weeks are challenging to say the least.
Olivia Bath runs an organisation supporting working mums – it’s called The Women’s Vault. One of the most startling points she raises is that working mums today spend more time with their children than non-working mums in 1975. Family life, structure, demands – they have all changed over the years. The need and ability to earn and do more, the increase in single-parent families – this all affects how parents operate and how they envisage their relationship with their children. I’m certainly not saying one decade was better than the other. But – always a but – the shifts in family structure have put more pressure predominantly on working mothers.
So, if you are feeling the strain over the next few weeks, remember you are not a superhero. Take a look at what you are trying to do. Can anything wait a few weeks? Can you just focus on the essential, immediate tasks? Is there anyone you can ask to share the load with? And if you are able to take a break, make sure you do just that. Take social media apps off your phone for a few days. Don’t have long discussions about work. Allow that space to recharge you and bring new ideas to the table. You might be surprised how effective doing nothing for a short time can be.
Alice Johnsen is a life coach based near Sherborne (07961 080513; alicejohnsen.co.uk)

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