As a work from home mom, summer often feels like a mixed bag. On the one hand, I look forward to a more relaxed schedule and less running around. I certainly don’t miss getting up at the crack of dawn to pack backpacks and lunches. And while the lazy days of summer mean a little more freedom for my family, it also means a lot of noise at home. Because my kids are older, they are home with me during the summer while I work. I love having them around, eating lunch with them, and talking to them throughout the day, but summer requires that I get creative with when and how to get my work done.
Like anything, I think I am getting better at juggling work and summer as my kids get older (I even have teenagers now!). In many ways, they are less needy and less likely to interrupt, but they still need me and I want to be there for them. I’d also like to keep my job. So I’m sharing a few strategies that have helped me balance working from home in the summer.
Wear a Different Hat –
When my kids were young, I started wearing a hat during my writing time. It was a visual clue to them that mommy was working/trying to keep a coherent thought in her head. Depending on the kind of work you do, little and frequent interruptions can be productivity killers. Try something to signal to your kids that you are deep in thought and then let them know that if they leave you a note or stand by quietly, you’ll finish what you’re working on quickly and address their need or question. If a hat doesn’t work for you, perhaps a sign on the door would.
Utilize Child Care at the Gym –
The gym is a great place to get your workout in with kids. It’s also a good place to catch a few extra minutes of productive work time. Many gyms offer 2 hours of childcare a day. This means you could get an hour of workout time in and still have an hour to catch up on any deadlines. Our current gym has a café with a quiet sitting area that is perfect for busting out my laptop and making the most of my quiet time.
Trade Childcare with a Friend –
When I first started working from home many years ago, I didn’t have any friends who worked from home, so I never wanted to inconvenience anyone by asking for help. Thanks to increasing advances in technology and more flexibility for working mothers, many of my friends now work from home. If I have a big day of phone calls or several meetings, I’m willing to ask a friend if she would watch my kids for a few hours and let her know I’m happy to return the favor. Chances are the kids will be more entertained and happier playing with friends anyway. It’s a win-win. If you don’t know any other moms who work from home, try joining an online networking group in your local area to connect with other moms. Working from home can be isolating, so it’s nice to have connections with other moms who get it.
Plan Your Escape –
Some days working at home when the kids are home goes better than others. Now that I have teenagers (aka built-in babysitters) in the house, I have a lot more freedom on the days when I’m just not feeling it. I’ll often grab my laptop and head around the corner to my favorite coffee shop to increase my concentration and change scenery. Many cities now offer co-working spaces as well where work-from-home professionals can rent a desk or office by the day, week, or month. Find what works for you and go for it. Get a babysitter a few days a week or work in another location if it increases productivity and reduces stress levels while your kids are young.
Plan Your Adventure –
This is my favorite strategy and probably gets me the most brownie points with my kids. Give the kids something to look forward to by planning something fun for after you get done working. I also tell my kids in the morning exactly what time we will be having lunch and if I have any important calls so they know what to expect. Outings don’t have to be a big deal, maybe just a trip to the pool or park—something they can feel excited about. I tell my kids the exact time I will be done working and then do everything in my power to make sure I keep my promise.
Working from home during the summer can be a challenge. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but I feel lucky that my commute is just a walk up the stairs and my coffee breaks are filled with Popsicles and smiles on the deck. I can’t imagine a better group of “co-workers” and I wouldn’t trade our talks around the lunch table for the world.