One of my challenges as a work at home mom is in making sure my son is happy and not neglected while fulfilling all my business obligations. From the beginning of September to late June I have eight to ten hours in which to get all my work done each day. In the summer, I have the same amount of work, but now a child is home and there are places to go and people to meet. Though my son is old enough to play on his own and enjoy the company of friends without my hovering, it’s not like I can work a full undisturbed day. As any parent knows, finding blocks of time to work is truly a challenge.
Even more challenging than finding time to work is ensuring my son is having a good time. I don’t want his summer to suck because Mom or Dad has work to do. He should be out swimming in our pool, playing with his friends and enjoying all that the warm weather brings.
Fortunately there are a few ways to ensure both. I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you today:
1. Day Camp
Day camp is a popular options for working moms. They keep kids busy and entertained with summer fun so we don’t have to worry that they’re not enjoying themselves. My biggest problem is that many of the day camps around here are so expensive. The specialized camps are several thousand dollars per summer. However, the YMCA, Catholic Charities and local Parks and Rec all offer affordable summer camp programs, usually for under $600 – $800 for the summer. The more expensive programs usually have a designated camp building complete with buildings, meeting halls and swimming pools. The town and city run programs are generally held at the school and include games, sports, trips to beaches, movies and the local college for the swimming pool.
2. Babysitter or Parent’s Helper
Work at home parents can also hire someone to come to the house and help keep the kids happy while you’re working. The benefit to this is that you don’t have to commit to a whole day. They’re only necessary for the hours you work, plus you’re sort of home to “supervise” if the helper is a teen.
3. Switch Off With Other Parents
One of my favorite ways to get things done during summer is to switch off with other parents. My son has several close friends all living within a couple of blocks. One day, one of the parents will drop off the kids and I’ll sit on the deck and work or join them as they play in the pool or run around in the backyard. The next day I will drop off my son, complete with lunch, at the other parent’s house. When several parents switch off this way it means we all get stuff done over the summer.
4. Temporarily Change Your Business Hours
I’m a firm believer in having regular business hours but I guess it goes without saying that many of us have to change things up a bit in the summer to make it all work. In the summer I’ll get up earlier while my son sleeps later. I’ll also work evenings if I want to spend the day at the beach or maybe I’ll find more time to work on weekends. This is where freelancers rock the flexibility.
5. Get a Smart Phone, Netbook, iPad or Laptop
Having both a laptop and smartphone has tremendously increased my productivity. it enables me to work at the library and the parks that offer free WiFi and stay on top of emails and small tasks that can be handled at any time. The only thing better than being flexible is to be portable.
6. Take Advantage of Free WiFi Hotspots
As mentioned above, portability is necessary for freelancing parents. It enables us to take a vacation, spend the day at the beach (though I’m not a fan of sand in the laptop) and work out on the back deck. National Parks, hotels, restaurants, and even some beaches offer free WiFi. When on a deadline, plan your outings around places you can work while kids play, especially if there’s another adult available to help out.
7. Cut Down On Your Workload
OK, so the kids are keeping you from working and you have no extra time, we’ve all been there. Probably the solution is to temporarily decrease your workload. This isn’t easy, especially in today’s economy where every penny counts. However, sometimes it’s better for the entire family’s sanity to take a little break.
So that’s how I balance my summers. I rearrange my time, take the smart phone to handle emails and other small tasks and switch off with other parents. How do you balance summer, family and work?