This is my first summer trying to balance working from home while maintaining the illusion of being a stay-at-home mom. It’s what I call being a working-stay-at-home mom.
During this past school year, when I started working from home, it was an adjustment figuring out how to maintain all my regular stay-at-home mom duties plus add in building a career. I had a full schedule as a stay-at-home mom. You don’t just plop a career on top of that without some adjustments being needed. But my child’s school schedule helped provide the guide for work hours versus home hours.
Summertime, though, is when my child and I spend tons of time together. I relish these moments because it won’t be long before hanging out with mom is no longer the thing to do. I know that change is coming any summer now, so I don’t want to miss this one. I want that stay-at-home do everything with mom kind of summer.
However, I’m not going to lie—it’s a challenge so far trying to balance this working-stay-at-home mom approach.
A part of me automatically goes into summertime stay-at-home-mom mode planning all the fun activities we can do together without the school schedule interfering—day trips to the zoo, the science museum, the local pool, finding local places we didn’t know existed.
Then, I realize I haven’t yet grabbed the list of summer activities at the local library. Wait, I haven’t even begun figuring out how to set aside time for our summer creative goals—start learning a new language, work together to code video games, read lots of books. Plus, this is the summer I’m really hoping to hook my child into learning to cook!
Our summer is already underway, and I’m just now planning. Usually, I’ve finished this part well before school ends. But this year was filled with work and the normal end of school year tasks and volunteering. That squeezed out time to plan for summer.
Then the reality of my schedule sets in. If I’m off doing all the things we usually do, when am I going to work?
I’m getting older. Staying up all hours is not happening. Plus, my child is an early riser—a very early riser. There is no “getting up before your child” situation happening here. I might as well pull an all-nighter at that point.
How do I do this? How do I recreate the same laid-back, fun-filled, mom and child togetherness of the past nine work-free summers while working from home?
What I need is an action plan to create a new kind of summer that balances fun times with my child while still getting work done.
Here are my strategies for getting it all done.
1. Establish Priorities
Take some time to think about what you want this summer to look like. Ask yourself: what do you love most about summer? What experiences do you treasure having with your child and your family? Your answers are uniquely yours. It can be having a picnic in the middle of the day or enjoying a late night staring at the stars with your family. Maybe it’s not summer unless you go to the pool every afternoon or make homemade ice cream while trying to come up with the wackiest flavor combinations.
Make a list of all the must-do summer activities. If your children are old enough, get them involved too! If your list is long, make sure to organize it from most important to least, so the main ones get done.
Post this list in a visible area of your house where everyone can see it. As you set your weekly schedule, be sure to plan these activities throughout the summer.
2. Be Realistic with Your Schedule
When I want to do it all, I have a tendency to overestimate what I can get done. I’m not talking about stretch goals. I’m meaning I set a to-do list that a whole group of superheroes couldn’t accomplish. The downside to setting up an unrealistic to-do list is that I spend my days thinking about how much I didn’t get done, instead of seeing what I did accomplish. This impacts my mood and makes it harder for me to be carefree with my child. Instead of enjoying the moment, I keep thinking about all I still have to do and worrying about how I’m going to get caught up.
So set your schedule smartly.
If possible, chunk your day, so you have blocks of time to devote to work and to your family. Be flexible and keep in mind that each day may look a little different depending on the needs of your work and your family. Your schedule and how you plan your time is uniquely yours. There is no right or wrong.
3. Get Others Involved
I’m fortunate that my child is old enough to understand that I need to balance more tasks this summer than in the past. I spoke with my child honestly about my schedule and that I’ll need to work while he’s at home, unlike during the school year. I also made it clear that I was setting aside time for us to do things together too. If you have work-from-home friends, you can see about alternating get-togethers where they have the kids on one day, and then you watch the kids on another day.
If you are able, you can hire a college student on summer break to help out with your children while you work at home.
Take a close look at your household’s daily routine and talk with your partner. Maybe there is an hour or two that you can work at the end of the day when your partner is home and can watch the children.
Be creative, be flexible, and don’t be afraid to talk to others about finding ways to help you fit in some extra time to work.
I’ve had to realize that this summer will be different from past summers when I wasn’t working.
I might not fit in everything we usually would do. There will be times where my child will have to do things without me.
This will still be a fun, carefree summer spent together with my child, doing what he loves. This is what summer means to me.