Winter break is a wonderful time. If you're a younger grad student, it's a welcome respite from classes. If you're an older grad student or a postdoc, it's a welcome respite from hordes of undergrads. If you're pre-tenure faculty like myself, it's time to get back into all that work that you put off while teaching during the semester: doing research, writing papers, preparing for next semester's class, etc. My to-do list is a mile long. And above all, if you're an astronomer heading to the AAS Meeting next week, you're frantically doing last-minute calculations and polishing up your talk or poster.
The trouble is, my kids also have time off from school themselves. Now, if I had been on the ball, I might have been able to sign them up for winter break camp someplace, but my organizationals skills were all used up on other things during the semester. It almost would be easier if my kids were younger, because whatever day care set up I would have would probably be able to accommodate them.
And, of course, there's the question of why child care duties should always have to fall to me, the mom? Well, in my particular case, there's any number of factors that play into it, but one major point is that my husband has a "real" job where he can't work from home and has to use up valuable vacation time if he doesn't go in to work. On the other hand, my job is much more flexible: I can work where ever I like and no one keeps track of my vacation time. Hence, it's my problem if the kids aren't usefully occupied.
So, here's what we have been doing to keep the kids out of my hair while I try to get work done. There's been a lot of TV and video games, but I've been limiting their screen time to 2 hours a day. I insist that we go for a walk each day, no matter the weather. This keeps us all from going completely stir-crazy. We made each kid write a list of activities to do while I work to keep them out of my hair. Use of these lists has only been partially successful so far. There has been a lot of reading of books and playing with LEGOs. Not so much practicing of instruments or working on long-term school projects.
What do you do for childcare during school breaks? How do you keep your kids and yourself sane? Please share your ideas in the comments!
p.s. Best wishes to all WiA readers for a Happy New Year!