As far as summer days go, today has been as close to perfect as I think we’re going to get. I got up early & had a productive work session (I completely built a new site for Urban Bliss Media. There’s still a LOT to do, but see how productive early mornings can be?). The kids got up, we had breakfast, hung out, read books, played with the dog, then the kids eagerly got out their summer workbooks and spent a good amount of time blazing through reading, spelling, and some math. We had lunch, then I took all three kids (2 human, one dog) to a nearby elementary school to run off some energy. We came back for snacks, then my son had quiet reading time while my daughter and the dog took naps while I got more work done. Now they’re playing the Wii for 30 minutes while I write this post. Seriously, it’s been a rad day. I should just close up summer now and call it good before testing my luck, but unfortunately we have only just begun…there are 77 more days left of summer. I’m pretty sure not every day will go as smoothly as today has.
For those who work from home and especially for solopreneurs, summertime can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to balancing work and family time.
If you are a work at home parent, other than hiring a nanny or regular babysitter, here are some creative, cost-effective childcare solutions that might work for you:
Hire a Mother’s Helper. Not quite a babysitter and far from a nanny, a Mother’s Helper is a young adult who is generally between the ages of 11 and 15. They are too young to drive, but also still learning how to become the best babysitter on the block, so they generally cost less than a babysitter. I hire Mother’s Helpers to play with the kids while I get some work done in my home office; I usually don’t leave the house if I have a Mother’s Helper watching the kids. Where do you find a Mother’s Helper? If you look at your network of friends, family, neighbors, and professional colleagues, you will probably find someone who can fit this role.
Swap babysitting days with another neighborhood parent who works from home. This is a GREAT option because it gives you solid work time with the kids out of the house while your kids get solid playdate time. The key to this arrangement is to make sure that when it’s your day to watch all of the kids, you are solely focused on the kids — no work. That can be tricky for most entrepreneurs, but it also forces you to prioritize better when you get your day to work. (PS: if any locals are reading this, I am totally looking for parents to partner up with for this arrangement this year! I’m a bit behind in planning… ;)
Find a local playspace that has free WiFi. We are lucky enough in Portland to have the PLAY Boutique (Lake Oswego and Beaverton locations), which offers Stay & Play times. For two hours in the morning six days a week and three hours in the afternoon four days a week, parents can bring their kids to the large open playspace (I think it’s best for ages 2-10) while they enjoy a cup of coffee (or wine during the afternoon happy hour!) and work. While mom’s working on contracts and proposals, the kids are engaged in active play with child educators.
Other work structure ideas to help work-at-home parents during the summer:
Either get up early to work or stay up late. Take it from me: you shouldn’t do both. I admittedly do both a lot, but I’m really trying this summer to go to bed early (early for me is before midnight) and get up early (for me, that’s around 5 or 5:30am). I got up around 5:30am today and got a lot done before the kids came boisterously bounding down the stairs at 7am.
If your kid still naps, take advantage of it! My youngest can still nap and will put herself down to nap mid-afternoon if we ask her to. While she does that, my son has quiet reading time. I get work done. It may only be 30 minutes, but it makes a huge difference!
If you have a partner or spouse who works outside of the home, do not feel guilty asking them to pitch in more when they are home so that you can get some work done. Yes, they have worked hard and they do deserve some down time. However, so do you. Remember that while your spouse was working all day, you have been doing double duty fitting in work AND quality parenting time (and probably also a decent amount of housework if you are like most work-from-home parents I know). Give yourself a break and talk to your partner/spouse about that time you need to work uninterrupted.
These are just a few cost-effective solutions that have worked for me over the years. If you work from home, I’d love to know how you balance summertime work and family time! Please leave a comment and let me know what works for you!