You always book the week off work for March Break with delusional hopes for some much-needed R&R, but it often ends up being the vacation that isn't. Make this year different. Here's our guide to enjoying vacation time when your kids are also off for the week.
1. Hire a babysitter
If you want an afternoon - or three - to yourself, hire a neighbourhood teenager to give you a quick (and cheap) escape. Kathy Buckworth, the Mississauga-based author of several parenting books, including The BlackBerry Diaries: Adventures in Modern Motherhood, points out that your kids will probably prefer high-school sitters over a trip to their grandparents' place.
"They're like camp counsellors - they're very fun," she says. "Even if they give you three hours so you and your husband can go out for lunch or you and your girlfriend can go out, it's worth it."
If you have teenagers of your own, selling them on the idea of babysitting their younger siblings could be a way to keep everybody out of trouble. You risk being on the receiving end of an adolescent eye roll, but if you frame it as a great way to make cash, they just might agree.
Parenting author Kathy Buckworth will take your questions on how to keep your kids entertained - and keep your sanity - during the break, Monday at noon ET:
2. Make easy meals
Like many other parents, Jen Maier, founder of online community urbanmoms.ca, feels pressure to prepare home-cooked meals three times a day during March Break. For a mom who hates cooking, this can be hellish, the Toronto blogger says. Instead of labouring over gourmet lunches, Ms. Maier instead makes family meals more about the experience.
"One of the days last year we had a picnic in our living room, which was really fun," she says. All they ate was sandwiches, which the kids prepared themselves, but it was still a novelty, she says.
Another trick she recommends for parents who don't want meal prep to eat up their days? "You can't really go wrong with breakfast for dinner."
3. Send them far, far away
March Break this year will be a breeze for Vancouver mom Audrey Silver, who created the more than 229,000-member-strong Facebook group Moms-who-sometimes-need-to-go-out-with-girlfriends-&-drink Secret Society.
Her 18-year-old daughter is both old enough and responsible enough to take care of herself, and her 11-year-old daughter will be away at a friend's grandparent's place for the week.
Her younger one is always enthusiastic about her annual getaway since she can go fishing, ride horses and enjoy other experiences not found in her Vancouver suburb.
"It's a guilt-free way for me to have time for myself," Ms. Silver says. If you have friends or relatives who are willing to give your kids a mini-vacation, take them up on it, she says.
4. Team up with other parents
If you can't find someone else to look after your kids, co-ordinate day outings with other parents and their children, Ms. Silver says. Take a group trip to the museum, for example. You may be in a kid-infested environment, but you'll at least have other adults around for company (and sanity preservation).
Ms. Buckworth also recommends co-ordinating a swap schedule with other parents: Drop your kid off at his friend's place for a day so you can grab some "me" time, then return the favour by playing host later in the week. If you crave a night alone with your partner, arrange a midweek sleepover, she says.
True, eventually it will be your turn to look after the group of kids, but it's not so bad.
"It can be easier to have more kids in the house than less - they entertain each other," Ms. Buckworth says.
*And don't do this
Think you can just "take it easy" without planning anything. Your kids will be bored and whiny before noon hits on Monday.