For freelance parents, the thought of summer vacation doesn’t create the type of excitement we all remember as kids. In fact, it usually elicits another feeling altogether: dread.
Is there a way to keep your freelance business running smoothly while kids are home on summer break?
But freelancers should also accept that a summer routine will look different (than it does during the school year) for your family and your business.
As you plan your summer, use this post, 94 Ways to Keep Kids Busy for the Work at Home Parent, to find new ideas for keeping the little ones out of your hair while you’re working.
Keeping your sanity, the house running smoothly, and the kids happy all require some creative problem-solving, compromises from everyone, and flexibility.
1. Say goodbye to guilt.
We all talk about “balance” when it comes to work and family. I honestly don’t believe in “balance.” Getting things done—whether work projects or family projects—requires trade-offs of time and energy. And that’s OK.
Don’t feel guilty about devoting focused time to your business, and don’t feel guilty about devoting focused time to the kids. You can’t be in two places at once, and you can’t do everything simultaneously.
Often in the quest for balance, we try to cram too much on our plates. Forget multi-tasking, and everyone wins.
2. Lower your expectations and plan for interruptions.
The summer months are probably not the time to sign a multi-project client or tackle the biggest assignment of your career.
Summertime with the kids at home means you’ll have more interruptions, more fragmented days, and more open-ended time slots on the calendar. Identify a manageable workload and work it well. Watch that you don’t over-commit.
3. Plan to vacation at the end of summer.
Scheduling the big family vacation for late July or early August gives everyone something to work toward and eagerly anticipate. Hang a count-down sign in a central spot, so everyone knows just how many days are left before departure.
4. Pay for some help.
If a big deadline’s approaching, you may need to hire a sitter to watch the kids while you work. But you may also want to schedule more regular help throughout the summer just to stay on top of work tasks.
Most nine- or ten-year-olds can work as “Mommy or Daddy helpers.” While you are working in your home office, your tween helper is watching your little ones for a couple of bucks an hour. You’re on the premises—available for any question or emergency—but your helper keeps the little ones occupied, fetching snacks and playing Hide and Seek.
5. Hire your kids.
Pay your children to help you with age appropriate administrative tasks for your business. Doing so increases your productivity, cuts down on your outsourcing costs, and teaches your child work ethic and money management skills.
6. Create a Yes/No Jar.
Get a jar, box, or any type of container and label it, “Yes/No Jar.”
If your kids are constantly asking to do this or that and you must say “no” because of work demands, tell them to write their request on a slip of paper for the Yes/No Jar (i.e., “go to the zoo,” “go swimming,” “watch a movie with me”).
Designate two to three days each week as “yes” days. Kids get to pull a previously requested activity out of the jar and do a “no” activity on a “yes” day.
7. Send the kids to camp.
If you’ve looked into summer camps, you’ve probably come away with sticker shock! They can be terribly expensive.
But take some extra time to research the local county or city government parks in your area. I am able to send my kids to an awesome day camp operated through a local county park system that only costs me $17/day (7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) per child. That fee also includes field trips to a water park, the movie theater, and the bowling alley! The best part is that you only pay for the days you use, so it really functions as a drop-in day care. Oh, and my kids love it!
8. Use the tried-and-true strategies that work.
Sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Pop in a video, beg your neighbor to watch them for an hour, or stay up way past your own bedtime because the kids are asleep and the house is finally quiet.
I promise the kids’ IQs won’t suffer because they watched another Spongebob episode, you can certainly reciprocate babysitting for your neighbor, and a thirty-minute nap the day after a late work night will make you feel brand-new!
How do you manage work and kids during summer vacation?