Friday was the kids’ last day before winter vacation, so naturally our family of 5 spent Thursday evening frantically procuring all of the trappings needed to bring the first semester to a close: Secret Santa gifts, teacher gifts, and making 30 treat bags for classmates. We divided to conquer, and while my husband took the oldest Secret Santa shopping, I made a quick run to the dollar store and set up a treat-bag-assembly-line in the kitchen for the little ones. We all stayed up a bit later than usual, but on Friday morning everyone went off to school excited to kick off the holiday season with one last half-day before being on vacation for THREE WEEKS.
I love the holiday season, and in our family we have double the fun celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s a month of family dinners, potato latkes, decorating, baking, holiday movies, and my #1 favorite activity…dragging my family through our city’s botanical garden Christmas light display in the cold. (This is one of the activities where my husband, a great wingman, pleads with the kids, “Guys, we’re doing this because it’s important to your mother…”).
There is so much to do in December…and then there’s work. How do working parents juggle holiday break, family plans, and work? There’s nothing like a three-week school break to drive home the importance of flexibility for working parents. Standing around with fellow parents at a recent birthday party, discussions of holiday plans were always followed by the question: what are you doing about childcare for three weeks?
As an entrepreneur, I have more flexibility to set my schedule to accommodate my family’s needs. That’s why I support working moms in taking control of their lives through entrepreneurship. There’s nothing like being in the driver’s seat of your career and life. But being a business owner carries different responsibilities. In my mission to make the legal field accessible for working moms, I can’t check out while my firm operates without me. I want my team to have a healthy balance, too. On the other hand, I can’t shut my firm down for a month. We have clients who rely on us, prospective new clients who need our help, and we need to keep revenue up to remain profitable. You can’t put a business on pause. So how do I balance the holiday calendar and keep the firm afloat?
I plan out my kids’ winter break in advance. While we do spend a lot of extra time together as a family during winter break, I don’t take a straight three weeks off. Look for ‘winter break camps’ or scheduled activities during school breaks. I strategically plan grandparent visits during vacation, and my husband and I compare calendars and each plan some special activities with the kids while the other works. If he has a meeting on one day, I’ll plan a playdate with the kids. I’ll block off another day to be at the office, while he takes them to a museum. As two working parents, we share responsibility (and fun time) when school is out.
I make sure my team gets a holiday break too. We close the physical office for an entire week between Christmas and New Years, as an extra paid week that doesn’t count toward PTO. I want my team to relax and be with family over the holidays, too - and having a built-in week off at the end of the month keeps everyone motivated to have a productive December. After a full week off, everyone will be back in on January 2 and ready to rock the new year.
I leverage virtual tools to keep the firm “open” even while our in-office staff are at home celebrating. When you’re running a firm, don’t announce you’re ‘closed for the holidays’ - just use creative solutions to offer client support while your team is off.
We have 24/7/365 live phone support, so clients or prospective clients can call in and talk to a human being any time, day or night. The off-hours support staff are trained to answer basic questions, do intake, and book appointments. Several companies offer this service to law firms, and the cost is usually tied to call volume - and it’s surprisingly affordable. Having after hours support ensures that callers get some needed reassurance, and gets appointments on our calendar for January so we return from the holidays with new business.
All of our payment plans are automatic - clients who choose payment plans must sign an autopay agreement, and the funds are processed monthly. There’s nothing like watching money come into your business while your entire team is home enjoying the holidays!
We batch and schedule social media posts and ads to roll out while the office is closed, so there is no interruption to our digital presence. This keeps us on peoples’ feeds throughout the holidays, and reinforces the message that we are open for business.
In early December, we determine which cases must be filed before the holidays, and which ones will be filed in January. We set clear deadlines, and everyone is motivated to meet them before the break. We clearly communicate to clients when something will be filed, to manage expectations and eliminate any confusion before we wind down for vacation.
These are some of the strategies I use to balance business and family during the holidays. The key to entrepreneurship is that you are in control. With some advance planning, it is possible to enjoy a fun holiday season with your family while keeping your business running smoothly.