I’ve been posting tips to keep kids busy over the summer, but let’s face it. The big thing is whether or not you can get your work done at home with the kids there. Your work-life balance may change quite a bit over the summer when the kids are out of school and you work at home. How can you make sure you’ve got it about right?
Let the Kids Help
Whether it’s having younger kids play at filing papers or “working” on their own computers, or asking the older kids to really help you with some appropriate part of your work, getting the kids involved can be a great idea. This won’t work for every work at home parent – when I did medical transcription, I obviously could not have allowed any of my kids to do any real work of mine for privacy reasons (not to mention it’s too complex). But if your kids can do something alongside you, they may enjoy getting that bit of extra time with you and learning about what it is exactly that you do.
Encourage the Kids to Run Their Own Businesses
My kids are always wanting to do a lemonade stand or some other traditional kid business. If they’re working on their own business, you may be able to focus more on your work… depending on their ages and how much supervision is required while they do it. At the very least, they may learn that running a business takes effort, even if it’s fun sometimes.
Take Appropriate Breaks and Make Them Fun
Appropriate breaks from your work are good for you, and a great time to make sure you’re enjoying having your kids around for the summer. Stop working to eat lunch; don’t just keep going. You can make it into a picnic lunch or a short trip to the park to make things a little more fun.
Make Time For Summer Fun
Don’t just work all day every day all summer. Take some time off to do things as a family. Go swimming. Find a way to take a family vacation, even if it’s nothing more than a weekend away. Short camping trips are pretty inexpensive if you’re looking at a tight budget, and most places have campgrounds close by.
Give the Kids Time With Friends
This is going to be one of my keeping kids busy tips too, but it’s also good for you as a work at home parent. If your kids are playing with friends (at your house or the friend’s), they’re having a good summer and you’re probably getting some good, guilt free work time. If you’re hosting, try for friends where there usually isn’t much drama for you to deal with so you can work rather than supervise.
Claim the Work Time You Need
If you’re working at home and need the income, you can’t just let your family eat up all the time you could use for work. Claim it.
The best work times are when you’re most focused and your family needs you the least. Take a look at your schedule and your family’s routine and figure out when that is. Not all of us can just work early mornings or late evenings, after all.
Close your office door if you can, and make a rule that when it’s closed, the kids are not to bother you short of an emergency. It takes time to train kids to this when they’re younger (my 4 year old still resists), but it’s worth it for the quiet work time.
Hire a Mother’s Helper
If your kids aren’t old enough that you can leave them unsupervised while you work, think about hiring a mother’s helper. There are plenty of bored older kids out of school too, who would love to earn a little money supervising your kids for you.
The great part is that a mother’s helper doesn’t necessarily have to be of an age to babysit, just old enough to deal with your kids with you at home and available for emergencies. When my oldest was a baby, my helper was about 8 years old, if I recall correctly, chosen because she came to my door asking for the job. I wouldn’t have hired her as a sitter at that age, but as someone to keep my baby happy, she was ideal.
These days, my oldest will be taking on that role. This summer, we have clearly talked about how it’s time for her to start learning more how to be in charge of other kids so that she can babysit for other families when she’s old enough (hopefully next year).
Have Healthy Snacks Prepared
My kids are always asking for snacks. It’s what kids do, particularly when they’re bored. I try to keep a good range of healthy snacks available that they can have without asking. It’s just frustrating to be interrupted for something they could do on their own.
It’s pretty simple. Vegetable and fruits are always allowed, except when it’s way too close to dinnertime, and I can make exceptions if they want a vegetable too close to dinner, because that can just be called an early part of the meal if they need it that badly. I just can’t call eating a carrot before dinner “spoiling their dinner” when it’s such a healthy selection.
Certain other snacks are allowed to be had once a day at most. This keeps the kids from overdoing it on the stuff that isn’t quite so healthy, but they don’t have to ask for it every time either. They know that going over the limit may mean that the snack won’t be bought again for a while.
I love having homemade popsicles ready for the kids. Anything from frozen smoothies to pudding popsicles may be in the freezer for them, subject to that one a day rule. They’re healthier than most of the popsicles I might buy at the store, but still much wanted by the kids.