Georgina Guedes

Handling the holidays

2013-04-11 12:10

Georgina Guedes

I am on holiday. In Cape Town. It's lovely here, especially since the wind isn't blowing and the sun is shining.

And yet, here I sit, indoors, working on my laptop. Which brings me to a point that I feel I must make about out-of-season holidays: They're extremely stressful.

In the two weeks running up to my holiday, I had to do twice the work, trying to get ahead of myself so that I could take a week off. When I get back, I'll be in a raging panic to tie up all the loose ends left hanging while I was gone. And of course, while I'm on holiday, I'll occasionally sit down in front of the computer and work on a piece of work that I couldn't quite manage to make go away.

As a freelancer, it's doubly stressful going away, because when I'm not working, I'm not earning, so it's not easy to turn down jobs that are offered. I can't turn snarkily on my boss and say, "I told you, I'm on leave next week..."

And my poor husband has to deal with the children on his own while I work, which means that his holiday is also far more stressful than it would be when we’re at home, with our toys, our help and our garden.

So, with all this griping while the sun is shining beautifully, I've tried to formulate a checklist for having the most stress-free holiday possible, especially if you work for yourself, especially if you have kids. Here are some of my ideas:

1. Plan far in advance, faaaaaaaar in advance. If you know when you're going away, you can work around your dates as much as possible.

2. Don't plan an out-of-season holiday for just after a long weekend or public holiday. Anything you think you might have been able to achieve in the week before you go will be undone by everyone else being on leave when you need them.

3. Be realistic about what you take on. Don't sweetly agree to do a bit of extra work or look something over for a colleague when you’re approaching the pre-holiday crunch.

4. The same applies for the social side of things. Don't plan a massive family gathering two nights before you’re leaving for your holiday. You need to pack, plan and finish your work - it takes more than one night to do this.

5. Plan your destination carefully. Think about what you want out of a holiday. Pre-kids, this might have meant sitting on a remote beach with a book, but now, what you're likely to need is endless and varied entertainment. Your holiday landscape needs to change.

6. Think of how you're going to fill your days. If you need to do work during your break (which is what invariably happens), plan those times ahead and slot them into your other holiday activities. For instance, know that on Thursday afternoon, you will take the kids to a restaurant with Wi-Fi and a play area, and you’ll do your work then, and then don’t worry about it until you’re there.

7. Set an out-of-office autoreply on your e-mail and then put away the cellphone and the laptop. It may feel imperative to be in contact at all times - it isn't. Rather engage fully with your holiday when you’re having it, and then focus on work completely when you need to.

8. Let everyone who is on holiday with you know what your working and relaxing needs are (remembering that it’s not all about you). So if they've all had a sleep while you're working, you might need a sleep later - but if they've been entertaining the kids without you while you've been calling your clients, you might need to give up the half an hour’s reward time with your Kindle you had planned.

9. Let it all go and enjoy your holiday. Between the stress of leaving and the stress of travelling and the stress of arriving, you might find yourself wondering why you went away in the first place. Try to enjoy the change of scene, the family time, the children’s reactions to new and exciting things - even if it’s not exactly the kind of holiday that you would like to have.

10. If all else fails, stay home. Something I’ve learnt since having kids is that it really is easier in your own space. Don't go on holiday because you feel obliged to or because you want it to be how it used to be or because you can't help continue your regular pattern. If it all feels like too much, stay home, enjoy your space, and know that the kids do grow up and life does get more manageable.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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