It’s not easy to balance it all – but it’s not impossible, experts say. And, crucially, moms must learn to cut themselves some slack.
“It’s important for working moms not to feel guilty about not being able to spend all their time with their children,” Johannesburg educational psychologist Melanie Hartgill says.
“Children need to learn to deal with their own boredom. They can spend time reading, making art, building things and working on projects.”
Here experts offer more advice on how working moms can cope.
Who should I leave my children with?
This depends on their age. “The older they are, the more independent they are,” says Claire Minnaar, who heads up Momtrepreneur, a blog for working moms. Claire (36) has two boys, Ethan (6) and Jake (3) and runs multiple blogs and websites.
“For older kids, make sure play dates or social dates are set with other children,” she says. “This is your best and safest option when you are working full time and they are on holiday.
“For younger kids, reach out to people you know you can trust. If you can afford it, hire a nanny or a qualified caregiver for piece of mind.”
Trust recommendations from friends and family, Claire says. “Generally, the ones who have been referred are the people you can trust.”
“For the young ones I would recommend playdates if there’s a nanny,” blogger Tanya Kovarsky (38) says. Tanya has a five-year-old son and runs a mommy blog called Rattle and Mum.
“This way kids get to play with one another while childminders or nannies take turns watching them,” she says. “Many play schools and nursery schools offer holiday programmes for their pupils so it’s worthwhile looking out for those too.”
Should I leave my kids with a family member?
“When leaving kids with a relative, make sure they are capable,” Claire says. “There’s no point in leaving a hyperactive child, for example, with a granny who can barely walk.”
It’s important your children like the person. “This will ensure everyone is happy,” she adds. “Make sure to schedule regular calls so you can check in for your own piece of mind. Have all contact numbers for whoever is looking after your children and ensure they’re able to call you in an emergency.”
Discuss your expectations with the family member, says Brett Adam of Beyond Potential, a service that helps parents to enrich their children’s education. “Remember teenagers can be responsible and tend to live up – or down – to your expectations so be clear about things like who’s allowed to visit your home, what games are safe, how much time can be spent on watching TV and so on.”
If you’re considering a holiday programme offered by schools or other institutions, tackle it as you would choosing a normal school, Tanya advises.
- The ratio of caretakers to kids
- First-aid facilities
- The approach to discipline and care
- Whether snacks and meals will be provided
- Activities on offer
Leave the person in charge with a list of rules or guidelines. “For example, if your child sleeps in the day make sure to have typical sleep times, when they should eat, what they should eat, what to worry about/not worry about,” Claire says.
What are the alternatives?
“Just because you aren’t around during the day doesn’t mean they won’t have fun with you either!” Claire says. “There’s time on weekends and a lot of time when you get home so use it well.”
Meanwhile, make use of other resources:
- Check with schools in your area.
- Look for camps or art classes in your area – go online and see what’s available.
- Speak to friends or colleagues with similarly aged children. “Many of them will be in the same boat and may know something useful happening that you don’t,” Claire says.
Stock up on fun activities. “My boys love to play outdoors but also love painting, drawing, playing a game on the Xbox, etc,” Claire says. “Make a list of fun things they can do that are both indoor and outdoor options and stock up. It doesn’t have to be an expensive thing at all but have a plan – planning takes the stress out of things.” They can do all these things with a nanny or babysitter supervising.
“Try to get ahead in November by shopping for Christmas and the holidays, getting travel documentation in order and even buying teachers’ gifts,” Tanya says.
Ask your employer if you could work from home during that period, Claire suggests. “If you are able to work from home, put in a proposal to your employer that covers all the questions they may ask that shows you are organised and know what you’re doing. Working remotely takes discipline but can work extremely well.”
“Buy arts and crafts sets in November so that kids can spend time working on projects in December,” Tanya says.