This week is my first taste of how (I am afraid) my kids' summer vacation is going to play out. Lots of whining about being bored; lots of eating me out of house and home; and a lot of money being shelled out for summer camp. There is nothing at all relaxing about this "vacation."
So my first priority right now is trying to get this summer planned out in a way that will be fun for the children, will allow me to actually get some work done, and won't break the bank. While enrolling them in a day camp for the entire summer would be awesome, financially it's just not an option. So I have to really think outside the box. I am lucky to work from home, and have a lot of flexibility with my work schedule, so with a little brainstorming our summer plans are coming together. Here are a list of the alternatives I have come up with:
1. Trading kids.
I am setting up a schedule with another mother, where we trade off – half of the day with her, half of the day with me. This allows me to have a few consecutive hours EVERY DAY to assist clients. I chose to have "kid duties" in the morning, so that I can quickly answer emails early, and let everyone know I am out of the office for the morning, but will be touching base with them in the afternoon. My clients appreciate my undivided attention and a specific callback time, and it gives me the morning to review the issues that have come up, and start working on a solution.
2. Mother's helper.
Paying a babysitter $8-$10 an hour is not a viable option every day, and since I work from home I am here for emergencies, so my concern is really just having someone else to entertain the kids and keep them busy and fed. And this is where a mother's helper comes in. I have several friends who's kids are in the 12-14 year old range. Old enough to pour juice and supervise the kiddie pool and hand out sidewalk chalk. For them, $5 an hour is a windfall. For me it's a bargain. For my friends, I am also getting THEIR KID out of their hair, so they are incredibly grateful – and happily deliver their junior high schoolers to my door. Everyone is happy.
3. The closet.
No, I am not suggesting that you lock your kids in the closet. Of course not. That would be ridiculous (mmmm). I am talking about what my kids call "the closet game." This is where I load up a closet shelf with art supplies, board games I bought at yard sales or the thrift store, costumes, and anything else I can find that is cheap and has entertainment value. My kids take turns choosing items out of the closet. It's new to them and can buy me a lot of quiet time.
4. Food preparation.
When my kids are bored, the first thing they ask for is food. So I have been cutting articles out of family magazines with ideas for fun snacks they can make themselves, like "Ants on a Log" where they spread peanut butter inside celery sticks, then sprinkle with raisins. I do the food prep the night before, and have several options. Then, when they say they are hungry, I hand them a home-made "menu" and let them choose what they want. Then I pull out the things they need to follow the recipe, and leave them to it. The mess is minimal, and TOTALLY WORTH IT.
5. Traveling office.
Part of my home office is a large plastic file box with a handle – I store all of my active files and frequently used office supplies in there, so that they are easy to locate, and easy to keep out of sight when I am not working. And on days when my kids just HAVE to get out of the house, I grab my filebox and we hit the road. Whether we go to McDonalds and play at the indoor playground, or the library, or a park ... they can get their yayas out, while I can get some work done. Yeah, it's not ideal – but unless you have a live-in nanny, compromise is the name of the game when your kids are out of school on a work day.
(c) 2010, Hybrid Mom, http://www.hybridmom.com/.
Five summer sanity savers for work-at-home moms
Work-at-home Moms (Tim Ludwig/The Wichita Eagle/MCT)