Summer vacation is just about here, and if you’re a work-at-home parent, that fact might have you panicking a little. Will a more relaxed routine and no school hours lead to more chaos than creativity?
I understand your anxiety. I’ve been feeling it myself for the last couple of weeks, as the day is quickly coming when all five of my kids will be home with me…all day, every day.
But then I remembered that I’ve been a work-at-home parent for going on nine years now, and I’ve made it through just as many summers without losing my sanity – or my career.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize there are some pretty great things about being a work-at-home parent during the summer:
1. Later bedtimes for kids = quiet mornings for the working parent.
By sending my brood to sleep about an hour later than I do during the school year and keeping their shades drawn in the morning, I’m usually able to eke out a nice, quiet two-hour block of time to work from a little before 7 until a little before 9 AM each morning.
Your miles may vary on this one – some kids just won’t sleep in no matter what you do, but you may not dread getting up super-early when you’re greeted by sunshine and singing birds instead of dark and bitter cold.
Or if you’re really not an early bird, why not try burning the evening oil instead? Working in the backyard as dusk settles feels a little like vacation.
2. It’s easier to escape.
Raise your hand if you’re tired of always having to hide inside a locked office with small fingers sliding under the door or trying to work at a noisy coffee shop. Warm weather and longer hours of light give you more options.
If your spouse is watching the kids while you work, he or she can go in the backyard or to the park to give you some quiet time in the house. Or you can always head out to the deck, get comfy with a glass of iced tea, and work while they stay in the house.
3. Summer is simple.
Dinner? Toss some asparagus and chicken legs on the grill and you’re good. Getting dressed? A pair of shorts, t-shirt and sandals, done. Less time spent cooking and cleaning up the kitchen and less laundry to do equals more time for you to work – and play!
4. Unplugged time can be the best thinking time.
As a mom who writes for a living, I sometimes get panicky when I’m dragged away from my laptop screen too much during the day. But in reality, I get way more inspiration and ideas when I take my toddler for a walk or bird-watch in the park. If you’re a writer, artist, entrepreneur, or if you have to be creative in your work life for any reason, it’s important to remember that time spent away from your “office” can also count as work.
So feel free to work lots of away-from-the-computer time into your daily routine. Take a notebook and pen with you or record your thoughts on your smartphone with a memo app: you might be amazed at how much a change of scenery can get your creative juices flowing…and how some fresh air and sunshine can actually make you more efficient when you do get a chance to sit down at your computer.
5. There are teenagers everywhere.
During the school year, middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students are busy, busy, busy. But during the summer, the streets are crawling with ‘em…and they’re in need of cash, too. Take advantage of the bounty by hiring a mother’s helper or sitter to give you some uninterrupted work time.
To find good sitters, ask around your circle of friends for suggestions. If you know any middle-school or high-school teachers, they are great people to ask for referrals.
While you’re at it, teenagers can also be great people to take over other tasks that are taking up your time, like pet sitting and lawn mowing, and even some work-related tasks like graphic design.
If you’ve been running a business without help, you might be amazed at how much difference even a few hours of help each week can make.
6. Warm days = easy sleeping-baby transport.
Q: what’s one of the most frustrating things possible for a work-at-home parent?
No such problem on warm summer days – transporting is much easier, and if it’s cool enough out, you can just bust out your laptop and work in the driveway. Or drive someplace breezy with a great, inspiring view!
7. More to do outside means more quiet time for parents to work.
As I’ve shared here before, I’m a big proponent of kids playing outdoors…even when adults are inside. But even if you aren’t comfortable with that or your kids are too little to play unsupervised, you can still take advantage of the warm weather to buy you more uninterrupted work time.
Set up your backyard with a sandbox, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc, and create a temporary “office” for yourself with your laptop under an umbrella. I’ll bet you $10 that your toddler gives you way more uninterrupted time to work outside than she does inside.
The only trick is that you might have to be willing to let her get dirty – really, really dirty – to buy yourself that concentration time. But it’s totally worth it…and hey, that’s what sprinklers are for.
If you’re a work-at-home parent, how do you handle summer break?
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