On Monday, I wrote about my process for getting organized for the summer activities I'll be doing with my daughter. Today, I want to talk about surviving summer as a work-at-home mom.
As any work-at-home mom knows, finding balance between your work and your family is always a challenge and summer is the biggest challenge of all! If you are like me, you work when the children are in school. So what do you do when school's out? Over the past seven years, I've come up with some solutions and thoughts about the matter and I thought I would share them with you today.
1. Set a schedule. No matter what time of year it is, if you work from home, set a schedule. During the school year, I stick to strict schedule of working from 8am to 2pm, Monday through Friday. Once school is out, the computer goes off and I don't turn it back on. For the summer, I have to be more creative. I start by asking my husband to sit down with me so we can work together to find the time and support I need to get my work done and still give my family an awesome summer. This year, my husband has promised to give me every other Saturday to work. I'll also work in the evening from 6pm until 8pm. That may seem like a long day, but I try to look at my time spent with my daughter as "weekend" time-we do fun stuff together, so I don't mind losing a few evenings and a Saturday here and there. I think we tend to get exhausted when we try to multi-task during the day. By concentrating on one thing at a time, I have more energy and can give my work or my child my full attention.
2. Sneak in time. Sometimes you can't get time alone to work. It may not be feasible for your family. Or you might HAVE to take a conference call outside your normal working hours. In this case, you might have to sneak in a little time when the kids are around. It's okay to teach your children to respect your work. Be honest with them. Explain that you have to work for an hour, but when you are done you will spend time with them. (Also explain that interruptions will make that hour stretch out longer, so it's in their best interest to give you the time!) My daughter is great about playing by herself, but I'm not above putting on a kid's movie if I need to. Two hours of TV, once a week, isn't going to destroy her chances for college. (I hope!) Get a list of my favorite family movies here. (And become a fan and add to the list while you are at!) Of course, there also books. An hour reading a day, quietly, won't kill anyone. (Why won't anyone send ME to my room to read for an hour?)
3. Use technology. My biggest pet peeve about the world today is that we use technology to suck our time rather than give us more time. When computers were just being introduced, everyone dreamt of the day when the computers would do their work and they would have more leisure time. Take that attitude and use technology in your favor as a work-from-home mom. During your work hours, write and schedule a week's worth of blog posts and tweets. Then use the time you save for leisure. We have the technology. Use it!
4. Keep perspective. Another issue I take with technology (I'm on a roll, what can I say?) is that we now use it to set ourselves up for immediate gratification. We expect our emails to be answered immediately and we feel pressured to give answers immediately. Honestly, the world isn't going to end if you don't answer right away. Answer work texts and emails during work hours. Don't even check them outside of work hours. There are few times when anyone has died as a result. (Okay-no one has ever died from me not answering them right away. But I'm not a doctor.) If this tip makes you feel really, really upset, go ahead a put an auto-responder on your emails and tell people what your work hours are and when they expect to hear back from you. If you must, give them a way to reach you in an "emergency". Then stick to your promise to yourself and your family and don't even check your messages unless it's work time.
5. Keep your goals in mind. Many of us took on the daunting task of working from home in order to spend more time with our children. For children, summer vacation is a magical time. A time they will look back on fondly. And we only have a few summers with them before they want to go to the beach with their friends instead of being with us. I know that, in 20 years from now, I'll never remember answering a random email for my work, but I will remember a day at the beach with my daughter, watching her giggle at the water's edge.