How to Be a Work-From-Home Mom in the Summer
The summer break has a way of revealing the complicated trade-offs involved with being a work-from-home parent. On the one hand, having the flexibility to spend time with your kids at home during the summer is invaluable. In fact, it’s probably one of the primary reasons you chose to be self-employed instead of working a traditional job.
On the other hand, the “flexibility” of being a work-from-home parent in the summer can feel more like a curse than a blessing at times. As Scott Belsky wisely puts it, “total flexibility means total responsibility.” In my case, my summertime “flexibility” means I am fully responsible for getting my work done, caring for my kids, and maintaining my own sanity, three things that often feel like they can’t coexist.
I’ve been a working mom for seven years now, and this is my third summer break to work from home with my kids (now six and eight). Here are some things that help me enjoy the benefits of a flexible work schedule without compromising my work quality or my sanity.
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Denial isn’t a helpful approach to working at home with kids during the summer (believe me, I’ve tried it). Here are some things you can do at the beginning of the summer season to plan well for working at home with kids.
Look at the big picture. Zoom out and consider what you will need to accomplish over the summer. What major projects will you need to complete? Do you have meetings or off-site events that require childcare? How many hours per week of focused work will you realistically need to put in keep your business running? These big-picture questions can help you set the stage for making decisions about how much support you will need.
Ramp down your workload. If you can swing it financially, it is a great idea to ramp down your workload during the summer months to compensate for having less focused work time. A 12-month financial plan is a great tool to make sure that you can afford a few slower months without compromising your business’s profitability. Personally, I’ve decided to not take on any new clients in the months of July or August.
Arrange childcare. Sometimes the best thing you can do is arrange for help, even if you aren’t sure you are going to need it, and even if it is going to cost money. Last year my girls did a week-long art camp. It was affordable, they enjoyed it, and it gave me a stretch of focused time in the middle of a long summer. You can also find a college or high-school student who is looking to make extra money through part-time babysitting.
Make a list of people who can help at the last minute. Talk to your friends, family members, and neighbors in advance about your summer work schedule, and ask if they would be willing to occasionally take the kids at the last minute if you get into a jam. Asking for help in a moment of crisis is much easier if the person has already agreed to help.
Outsource tasks. If you’ve never experimented with having an assistant or outsourcing tasks, summer would be a great time to try it. You can get a student to join you as a summer intern. You can hire a virtual assistant for a three month trial. Alternatively, you can hire professionals through freelancer sites (like Upwork or Task Rabbit) to tackle specialized projects that you would normally take on yourself.
Work from a Flexible Schedule
The magic of summer is in the slow pace and lack of structure. However, I find it extremely helpful to work from a structured schedule when I’m working from home with kids. Not only does it help me feel more in control of the day, but it also helps my kids to know what to expect.
Here’s an example of a typical summer day for our family. We don’t abide by this to the minute, but this basic framework helps me structure the day to work for them as well as for me.
6:00 am – 7:00 am Morning routine
I wake up and spend time in bible reading and prayer. Waking up before my kids is the most important thing I do for myself.
7:00 am – 9:00 am Work
My kids will wake up somewhere in this window and I’ll get them some breakfast, which doesn’t slow me down too much.
9:00 am – 10:00 am Prepare for the day
Clean up breakfast, get dressed, get ready to go out for a morning activity
10:00 am – 1:00 pm Morning activity + lunch
If we do something basic, like going to the park or library (or let’s be honest, the grocery store), we will come home for lunch. If we do something more involved, we will take lunch with us.
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Work
After a morning activity and lunch, my kids are normally content to play by themselves for a little while. I may get distracted or interrupted during this time, so it’s important for me to be emotionally prepared to handle that.
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm Flex Time
Sometimes (a LOT of days) we will go to the pool during this window. Other days I’ll need to work on chores, run errands, or even keep on working.
I explain how to create a structured schedule in my free masterclass, 3 Simple Structures to Balance a Full Life + Growing Business.
Summer days are long, but the weeks and months are relatively short. Creative solutions that wouldn’t be sustainable in the long-term are a great way to make things work for a short season. Here are some examples from my life and community.
A self-employed friend of mine leaves the house a few days per week when her husband gets home at 5:00 pm. She goes work for 3-4 hours while he holds down the fort for bedtime.
I’m talking to my neighbor, a work-from-home mom, about trading playdates this summer so that we can each have some focused work time.
A friend of mine takes her computer to the gym so she can work for a little while after her workout while the kids are still in the gym childcare.
There are a variety of free activities and classes at our local library. When my kids participate in those, I can get some work done.
Since we don’t have a yard, I take my kids to the local park very regularly. While they play, I can catch up on reading, listen to podcasts, record Instagram stories (obnoxious, but efficient), prepare for client meetings (with printed out materials) or write content in my notebook.
What creative solutions have worked for you?
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