No School, No Problem...When You Have a Support Network
I don’t know about you (warning, I’m about to sound like an old lady) but when I was a kid, I don’t remember having as many days off school as kids do now.
Between holidays, professional development days, testing, and breaks it feels like my son never has a full week of school.
Am I exaggerating...maybe a little. But still...the fact of the matter is...the number of days my son has off does not correlate with the number of personal days I have at work.
With that said, I’m fortunate to have a flexible work arrangement, so while my position is full-time, I can arrange my schedule so that these scheduling curve balls are a little bit more manageable.
However, the work still needs to get done. And while my son, at five years old, is pretty independent, I make sure I have a back-up plan for the days he has off.
I look at these days off in two ways. Some are planned. Some are not.
For the planned days off, I know in advance that coverage for that day will be needed. We’re lucky to have a lot of family that lives around us, so usually the occasional day off becomes a fun day with a grandparent. If they are not available, my husband might use one of his personal days as a half day and we’ll split the difference. Either way, I can explore all options and lean on my support network.
For those unplanned days off, when my son is sick or a freak snowstorm occurs overnight, leaning on a support network is a little bit more difficult. In these situations, I look at my day ahead and plan more structured activities that I know will keep my son occupied during the time I know meetings will occur. I do this so because the probability of him keeping himself occupied during the needed timeframe is higher if his attention span starts at about the same time as my call. If the unplanned day off is due to inclement weather, my husband may or may not work from home depending on his work obligations. If he can telecommute that day, we make sure we communicate clearly the times where we need to give 100% attention to the task at hand and need a quiet, uninterrupted time for a phone call.
Everyone’s situation is different and I realize that what may work for me, may not work for everyone. Here are some best practices that I think can apply to everyone.
- Plan in advance for those days you know you need coverage. Realizing the day before should not become someone else’s problem. Lack of planning does not constitute an emergency and it’s not fair to your support network to treat it as such.
- Make sure you communicate your needs to those you have to depend on. People want to be able to help you out. However, you need to help them help you by clearly articulating your needs.
- Always have a plan B and a plan C. Especially for unplanned days off. They’re stressful enough to begin with...if you have a contingency plan in place, you won’t add to the stress.
- Don’t forget to reciprocate the support you’re receiving from family or friends. Returning the favor doesn’t necessarily have to be watching their kids. You could help them with their gardening on the weekend, housesit when they go on vacation, or treat them to a dinner out. Just make sure you show your appreciation in a thoughtful way that is meaningful to them.