Summertime Tips for Parents Who Work From Home
The summer of 2014 marks my first summer working full-time from home. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to work remotely—and they’re right. Yet as summer approached, one thing concerned me. You see, summer means that two people who were previously at school all day are now “working from home” as well: my boys, ages 13 and nine. I knew I needed to find a way for work and family to coexist all day, every day.
The e-learning industry is full of folks who do contract work or telecommute from home, so I thought many of you might be facing some of the same challenges. Here are some tips that have been working for me this summer. Please note that, given my children’s ages, these tips are probably most helpful to parents whose children are somewhat independent.
- Adjust your schedule. My kids relish the opportunity to sleep in during the summer, so I take advantage of that quiet time by starting work earlier than I do during the school year. If you’re a night owl, you might be able to shift some work to the evening as well. Flexible scheduling has definitely worked to my advantage this summer.
- Be clear about times when you are available. Sometimes kids just need to know what to expect. If they’re not sure when they’ll be able to talk to you, they’ll interrupt more often. I made a commitment to eat lunch with my children every day, and that’s helped a lot. They save some of the things that normally would have become interruptions and tell me at lunch instead. They see that it pays off—I’m more relaxed, I’m a better listener, and they appreciate that I’m focusing on them.
- Post your schedule. If there are times when you absolutely can’t be interrupted or when you don’t want your kids to do certain things (such as put on a Broadway-style performance in the family room), be sure to make that clear to them. I talk with the boys about my schedule the night before and post my meetings on the office door as a visual reminder. They know they can enter during meetings only in case of emergency. Just be aware, a nine-year-old might consider “Can I have a snack?” to be an emergency!
- Make sure the kids have their own schedule. When kids are busy, they’re less likely to feel the need to interrupt. Having a schedule of activities—and letting the kids participate in its creation—helps stave off boredom, encourages kids to be independent, and gives them a little something to look forward to everyday. For example, at my house we schedule chores first thing in the morning—this is particularly important for my 13-year-old, who would otherwise never get to them. I reward the boys with a little extra “screen time” if they finish their chores by a set time, and the rest of the schedule is planned by them. They’ve scheduled board game marathons, played a number of badminton matches, and learned quite a few new magic tricks this summer.
- Go mobile. Before summer started, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly run my kids around to all the places they need to go and still get everything done. Fortunately, I’ve found this to be much easier than expected. Courtesy of Wi-Fi, I can work almost anywhere my kids need to be, from the library to the swimming pool. If I know our destination doesn’t have Wi-Fi, I plan ahead and bring something that doesn’t require an Internet connection. In fact, I’m writing this blog post from the orthodontist’s waiting room.
- Enlist some aid. If I’m making this all sound a little too easy, don’t worry. There are still glitches and issues. Sometimes that important client meeting is scheduled for the same time as the piano lesson, and I haven’t yet perfected the super power of being in two places at once. If you have family and friends who can help you out occasionally, it makes life a little easier. I’ve had a couple of days when my father-in-law has stepped in as the chauffeur. Carpooling is another good option.
- Be flexible. Interruptions are still going to happen. While I’ve put all these tips in place this summer, kids will still be kids. They come bursting in now and then, excited or upset, while I’m working. And you know what? The same kinds of interruptions would happen if I didn’t work from home. My officemate would want to tell me about her exciting evening or vent about that difficult client. And honestly, I’d rather be interrupted by my kids—they’re a lot cuter!
I do what I can to manage the summer chaos. And when it doesn’t go as planned, I try to sit back and take a deep breath, knowing that someday I’ll be asking why the kids never call.
How do you handle working at home with kids?