A Rule of 3’s To Make School Break Less Stressful

It’s taken me years to understand how to work and parent during a two-week school break. I’ve made mistakes that have lead to unnecessary frustration. This year I got it as close to right as I think I can. Perhaps there’s something in what I worked out for other working parents in this season of school breaks.

The work-to-vacation winddown started like this.

On the plane down, I did a lot of work. I finished up anything I needed to in order to get ahead while I was away. Then I answered emails but didn’t send new ones I’d have to respond too. (Those are scheduled for the plane ride back.)

The first couple of days I worked in the morning before the kids woke up and in the evenings after everyone went to bed. During the day we rode bikes, went to the beach, played golf, ate and drank. It was great.

The second set of days – say four through seven – I worked less in the morning because of how our youngest daughter’s sleep schedule shifted. When she was up, we were up and far better to get out of the condo and do something fun.

At night, we were watching family movies and after that everyone was ready to sleep. My normal six or seven hours of sleep became eight, nine, ten or more. That’s when I knew I was relaxing and into the third stage of vacation – with the pull of doing something with my kids or sitting on the beach with my wife being stronger than anything else.

What did I do to prepare ahead of time?

1)    I worked extra hours in the two weeks before vacation so I could stockpile stories and podcasts.

2)    I let partners know I would be away and did my best to get ahead with planning for different obligations.

3)    I used weekly meetings before break to set up work on longer projects.

What did I still do while I was away?

1)    Our monthly meetups are a fixture of The Company of Dads community. We had one, at 8:30pm, one night to keep the regular cadence going. I missed movie night that evening, but the community aspect of what we’re doing fills my bucket.

2)    I canceled one weekly meeting but had the other to set things up for the week I’m back. They’re early in the morning before most of my kids are awake.

3)    I took one night during week two and stayed up late sending out emails and catching up. This was actually relaxing and it reduced my stress around what I would have to get done at some point.

What were my biggest takeaways?

1)    Plan as much as you can and then realize that work is a long game – just as parenting is.

2)    Everything is better when you focus – working, parenting and relaxing. Splitting your focus never results in anything good.

3)    The first day back will still be tough – so my first meeting is a walk-and-talk with a cup of coffee. This system of threes has given me a lot of enjoyment with minimal stress. What do you do to sway between work and relaxation on vacation?