When you have kids, a work from home summer is a huge challenge. Work from home parents often get their work done while the kids are in school. When summer hits, they face an interesting challenge: how to continue working without spending all their income on childcare?
I have four kids, so even part-time camps or regular childcare are not possible. Older kids may be able to entertain themselves by playing with friends or using TV and video games. However, since my kids are ages 3, 5, 7, and 9, I still try to limit screen time to about one hour per day, and typically that is when I am making dinner. So what do they do while I am working? I have found some ways to balance my work time with their summer fun. I should caveat this by explaining that I have a part-time flexible job. I am a writer, so I have deadlines every day, but can turn in the work on my schedule, and don’t have to make many phone calls or conferences. This may not work for every work from home job, but it’s a good place to start. Here’s how we are surviving this work from home summer.
How to manage a work from home summer with kids
1. Get up early. During the school year, I get up with the kids at 6:30, then start working after they are at school. In summer, I decided to keep my alarm set early. I established a rule that even if they wake up earlier, they play quietly in their rooms until 8 AM. This doesn’t quite work for the three year old, but it does allow some kids to sleep later, and gives me at least an hour of uninterrupted work time. This is when I do content creation (writing).Tips for a work from home summer with kids: get up early, schedule social media, use the YMCA. Click To Tweet
2. Schedule your social media. Before summer, I could do most of my social media manually. I didn’t want to pay for programs when my blog was starting up, so I did it myself until it no longer made sense to do it that way. Social media management became a huge time-suck, so it was a big thing I needed to change when the kids were with me all day. I now use the following programs, which are working well so far:
- Post Planner for Twitter and Facebook. This allows you to automatically recycle your own content to these platforms. It costs about $10 per month, and is definitely worth it. You can plan out photos, posts, memes, and questions for your audience, set it up for a month, then walk away and do nothing. You can opt for things to be shared only once, or to be recycled at the end of the queue. I still manually share posts from other websites on my blog Facebook page using Facebook’s scheduler, but I only need a few each week to fill in around my other scheduled content.
- Lists and Content Re-Sharer for Twitter. The problem with Twitter is all the time wasted looking for relevant content. I created a Twitter list of fellow milspouse bloggers, so I can scroll through that and easily find relevant articles to share. The Content Resharer plug-in on my site automatically selects four posts a day to share on Twitter, so the account will never be inactive. These services are both free.
- Board Booster for Pinterest. I used to spend at least an hour a week trying to schedule pins for different group boards. For $5 per month, Board Booster will not only recycle your pins on huge boards on your page, but will also automatically share your material to group boards without breaking daily limits. It is easy to set up, and I have seen an increase in traffic.
- Tailwind for Pinterest and Instagram. Tailwind makes it easy to share and schedule your own pins, or anyone else’s you find online. Their new Instagram extension is really handy. You can plan an Instagram post with the photo, caption, and hashtags. Since Instagram only allows you to post from your phone, Tailwind will send you a text at the right time. You click three buttons to share your post. I like to use this for my afternoon posts when I am out at the park with the kids. Tailwind plans start at $10 per month.
So yes, I now pay $25 per month for social media management. But it is saving me hours of time with my family, and I am fine with that.This is how you can schedule ALL your social media! #blogger Click To Tweet
3. Use affordable child care at the gym. One of the best places to get childcare is at the gym! Some private gyms include it with membership. Gyms on a military base may have a childcare option or family room, but it is inconsistent. The YMCA allows two hours of free childcare per day. I love this, since I can work from anywhere. I can get an hour of writing and an hour to work out while the kids play. Sometimes, we go to the YMCA pool afterwards to make a whole day of it. Now with COVID restrictions, I have to re-think this part, since many gyms and childcare locations are still closed. Instead we have sometimes been taking walks and going to local parks and playgrounds. If I don’t need wi-fi, I can still work on my laptop there.
4. Plan structured activities for the kids. I try to plan something specific in the morning, so that we can enjoy some time together. We start with about an hour of ‘school time,’ where they do their summer activity workbooks, draw a picture, and do some writing. Then, it’s time to get out of the house. Sometimes we meet friends at a park or the beach. We may go to the YMCA. Or they do swim lessons. A few times each summer, the kids get to choose a daycamp or class that interests them. We either pack lunch or eat at home, before transitioning to quiet time.
5. Do quiet time in the afternoon. We are almost done with naps here, which kills me. But we still do at least an hour of quiet time in the bedrooms each afternoon. The younger two kids generally fall asleep or read/play. The older two kids either read, draw, listen to music, or play a board game. Since my kids are surrounded by the siblings all day, this is a good opportunity for them to have their own space, be creative, and entertain themselves. That’s when I get another hour to either write or respond to emails/follow up with leads. (Today I chose to write this post!)
6. Don’t do work the kids can do. During the school year, I used to spend at least an hour a day cleaning, doing dishes, laundry, or general household chores. I liked having things picked up and presentable by the time they came home from school. But once summer hit, we changed the chores around. Now each afternoon after quiet time, they rush around unloading the dishwasher, starting laundry, setting the table, and sweeping the floor. It saves me time while I finish up a project, and teaches them a lot more responsibility. Win-win.
7. Outline your work the night before. In the evenings, I only get work done when my husband is gone. Since he is military, that is far too often. But when he’s home, we will hang out and talk or watch a movie together, so I don’t do much writing then. What I can do is look at my article topics for the next day and start to outline them. I see how much research they will require, and either write down main ideas or look up relevant websites. That way, I am ready to go full steam ahead and finish them the next morning. Dividing your work into smaller sections prevents writer’s block, and is a good management strategy for any work load.
What are your strategies for surviving a work from home summer?