Surviving Summer as a Work-at-Home Parent
Summer is an exciting time. It's time to slow down, stop packing lunches, and rushing out the door each morning. Basically, it’s time to let go of the daily grind and just chillax for a couple of months, right?
Well, if you're a work-at-home parent, not exactly. While summer certainly brings warm-weather fun like cookouts and pools days, for you, it also means managing your typical workload with kids in the house.
Undoubtedly, it can feel a bit overwhelming. But if you don’t have the budget for childcare or camps all summer long, then what’s a WAHP to do? You don't want to let your kids fall into a Netflix fog all day, but you really don't want to lose your job, either.
Maintaining your kids and your focus at the same time isn’t always easy. But with a few creative approaches, you can make it work.
Host a Playdate
It might seem counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t having more kids over mean more work? In reality, having a playmate over for your kids usually means they stay better entertained.
Adding a new person into the mix helps keep things fun and interesting. The new dynamic can also help keep the dreaded sibling battles at bay, which can be a huge source of frustration, not to mention distraction while you’re trying to stay productive.
Let Them Free-Range
Parents of our generation often feel guilty if they don’t entertain their kids all day. It makes sense — there is simply so much pressure surrounding being the perfect parent.
But to put things in perspective, try and think back to when you were younger. Did your parents play with you 24/7? The likely answer is no.
It's okay to ask your kids for time and space to accomplish your work. It’s okay to let them run around outdoors (in a safe environment). And it’s okay to let them accomplish age-appropriate tasks without jumping in to help.
Find the Balance
Even though you’re trying to work from home, try not to allow it to bleed into your family time. Whenever your schedule allows, dedicate some time to shut off your work brain and just be present with your kids.
An hour lunch break together, an afternoon spent outdoors, or time spent reading together or playing games can really make your feel reconnected with your kids and vice versa during even the busiest of times.
Sometimes, when kids don’t feel that connection, their behavior flares up as a result. A little can go a long way, so remember to detach and just hang out with them for a while.
Allow for Some Screen-Time
While we're all a little afraid of our kids turning into zombie-bots, a little screen time never hurt anyone. Give your kids some time to watch cartoons, their favorite movie, or play games on the iPad and don’t feel badly about it.
While there is evidence to suggest kids these days spend too much time on screens, there is also tons of evidence to suggest they can learn a lot from doing so. Learning to use a computer teaches, watching YouTube videos (a favorite in my house), or learning STEM skills from certain games are valuable skills.
Plus, you're basically working two full-time jobs. Cut yourself some slack and give the kids an extra half hour of screentime.
Hire a Mother's Helper
If you can’t afford a full-time babysitter who charges 15 bucks or more an hour (and let’s face it, who can?), investing in a mother’s helper can be a huge sanity-saver.
If you’re going to be home anyway while you work, don’t pay full babysitter rates. Enthused 12-year-olds might be younger, but they are actually better playmates than hungover college kids.
Plus, you can pay them five bucks an hour and save a bundle while you work.
Invest in Some New Art Supplies
There is nothing that helps save an afternoon like a few new crafts.
While said supplies might only last one single afternoon (I mean, does anyone remember how to put a lid on a marker anymore?), the few hours of work time will surely be worth it.
Grab some new watercolors, coloring books, or Playdoh and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Go to a Play Cafe
Even if you have a home office, taking a break from your home can keep kids from getting bored in a big way.
Luckily, the new trend of play cafes — that is, cafes with built-in play areas for kids — is on the rise.
New toys, new playmates, and hot coffee all in one place? You might as well stay all day.
Water, Water Everywhere
There is nothing kids love more than water play. Investing in an outdoor water table (or better yet, a sand and water table), a sprinkler, water shooters, or bubble guns can keep them happy all day.
If you can’t afford a pool membership or don’t have time to go, your kids can still have plenty of fun with water games this summer while you stay dry and work.
Join a Gym With Childcare
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a play cafe in your ‘hood, it’s not unlikely that you have a gym with childcare.
While gym memberships can be pricey, if you’re routinely using the childcare to grab an hour or two of work time (or however long the childcare allows you to drop the kids), you can pretty much consider it money well spent.
If you’re lucky, you can probably squeeze in a workout while you’re at it.
Give Them Something to Do
If you’re tired of hearing “I’m bored” there’s no shame in giving your kids a few chores to pass the time. It might not work all day, but loading the dishwasher, walking the dog, cleaning their rooms, or helping out with laundry can keep things quiet for a while.
It can also help your kids learn how to be productive members of the household.
Obviously, you’ll want to keep the tasks age-appropriate. But even little kids can learn how to be helpful in small ways, like putting away folded clothes, helping clear the table, or picking up their toys.
Wake Up Early/Stay Up Late
When all else fails, sometimes you have to take to working after hours.
Opening up your laptop after the kids have gone to bed is not the more desirable option, nor is waking up early (especially if you already have early risers). But work-at-home parents have to find time whenever they can get it.
Trying out a new routine by getting up before the kids or spending an hour working later in the night can help give you the extra hour of quiet you need.
With so many parents working from home these days, it’s not unlikely that you have a friend or neighbor who needs care for their kids, too.
Try reaching out to someone you trust to see if they’d be up for a kid swap where you take the kids one day and they take them another.
Yes, you’ll be sacrificing work time on your day with the kids but you’ll also be opening up a free full day, which, in the summer, is a rare and beautiful thing.