Ahh, summer’s here. The cold cocktails on the back porch, the morning pool time, the gardening. All of these temptations that you can’t wait to get to. If only your kids would leave you alone to get some work done for your clients first.
Lisa Rollins is a virtual assistant and a mom who has found a way to still stay productive when her kids are home on their summer break. Here are Lisa’s tips!
Ah, summer … I have been waiting all spring for the long days and warm sunshine. I ease my way out of bed, happy to see the sun streaming through my windows. It should be a great day to work and really get some things checked off my list, complete my virtual meeting with my new client, and get my billing done for the month … and maybe even eat lunch outside.
Then I remember: today is the first day of my kids’ summer break.
They will be home with me ALL. DAY. LONG.
I love my children, but how am I possibly going to get any work done with them around?
How am I going to manage without spending thousands on childcare?
How am I going to manage to work and be a good parent at the same time?
Can you relate? Here are five solutions that I have used to get work done and not neglect my kids or have them vegged out on technology all day long.
1. Take advantage of the library.
This is my favorite choice and not just because I also love books. Your local public library has so many options and ideas for you and your kids. Check the library for any events they might have for kids and plan to head there then so they can have even more fun.
You can take your laptop and take advantage of the time to work while your kids are engaged.
The library likely has small rooms that you can check out to keep a quiet space. The great thing about the library is that it is already quiet and peaceful, even with kids around! The librarians get to shhh everyone and we don’t have to!
Libraries also have access to printers and high speed internet. You can use their computers if your laptop battery runs out or you need something specific.
Check around the kids’ section in your library to see what they offer to keep your kids engaged. Our library has a coloring area, comfortable book reading nooks, computers with access to instructional programs, books, books, and more books, puzzles, and games!
My kids can easily keep themselves entertained for two hours in this area. I grab my laptop and sit on the floor near them and get to work for my clients. Or I give them ten minutes to grab a bunch of books and puzzles and then we check out one of the small work rooms. They can read and color and I can work. The change of scenery is good for all of us.
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2. Hire a mother’s helper.
This is an inexpensive way to get some work done while you are at home.
A mother’s helper is a younger person, not old enough to babysit on their own, who comes by your house for a few hours to play with your kids or take them outside while you work. So, you are home during this time, but someone else is playing with your kids.
I had a neighbor come over for a two hour block in the morning from 9 AM to 11 AM. I got so much done and the kids absolutely loved her. They had fun playing with someone else for a change. I was in the house, but separate from them, and I was able to work. If they needed me, I was there.
Because she was younger and I was still home, I didn’t pay her a full babysitting fee. We did $5 an hour, so for $10, I got dedicated work time and my kids got dedicated play time! This also will let your neighbor get some experience and you can move them into a regular babysitting gig later on!
I found that the two hour sessions usually worked the best for all of us. I started with once a week and if I needed more time, it was well worth it.
3. Set up a a portable office – ready anytime, anywhere!
This is another great option that won’t cost much extra. You can set up a portable office to get in some work while your kids play at the park or participate in a lesson or for when you find yourself with some spare time away from home.
If you sign up for half day camps of have your kids in lessons, you know how much time is spent in travel and just sitting and waiting. So, turn that time into work time.
Create a bag that is your portable office and keep it in your car. I like to have a bag with the basics – a notebook, pens and mechanical pencils, a small calendar, headphones, extra phone charger, and an extra laptop charger (order a second one just to have for this bag).
Then all you have to remember is your laptop and/or phone.
If you need wifi where you are for your laptop, then invest in a portable option for that too.
You can then sit in your car and work in the quiet if your kids are taking lessons, or take your portable office with you to the lesson or the park. If the lesson is louder, you can put on headphones and listen to some soothing music while you work and still keep an eye on the lesson.
At the park, I usually find the closest picnic table and set up shop there. I try to work for about 15 or 20 minutes, then go play with the kids for a few and then back to work. They appreciate the independence and time to play and I appreciate the work time. And there are a lot of tasks I can accomplish in 15 minutes.
4. Have challenges and activity packs ready to go.
Sometimes you are going to be home with your kids and have a need to work quietly. Of course, the TV or video games are always there. I do try to limit their time on decices and sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate enough for me to send them outside.
This is when some great book challenges and activity packets for your kids come in handy. Your goal is to find engaging ideas that they can do on their own without a lot of oversight from you.
These types of projects work great with a timer … for you and for them! There are so many great workbooks and ideas for kids these days, and many you can find in your public library and check them out for free!
For example, you could have an artistic child work on cursive writing and progress to calligraphy. A techy child might want to tackle keyboarding practice (a great skill to have!). You can also find a book challenge for kids online and have them participate. Perhaps a kindness project or pen pal project would work too. Check out homeschooling blogs for great ideas on short activities that build skills and let kids learn on their own.
Your job would be to have these activities and ideas ready to go and the kids would choose one and work for a set amount of time. The key with these is not expecting a child to do that same activity for a long period, but to expect and plan for shorter times.
So, you have to plan your work and be really focused during that time they are working. Some type of visible timer works great for these. Set the time for 30 minutes and everyone goes to their work corners to work.
5. Pool resources with others.
In the summers, the keyword is flexibility. During the school year, you have set hours, but in the summer, we have to be creative and flexible with our work time. We still need to put in the same work, but in order to do our best, we do need some time without the kids underfoot. Another great way to do this is to enlist some help and barter your time in order to get that time you need.
So, perhaps after dinner, your husband gets some quality time with the kids while you slip off to your office or the local coffee shop to get some work done alone. In this scenario, it is best to leave the house or have a separate office with a door if you can because it is easy to get sucked back in.
Or perhaps, your neighbor needs time to work every Tuesday and Thursday morning and you watch her kids on those days and then on Mondays and Wednesdays, she watches yours and you both get some work time and your kids get to play with friends.
Grandparents and relatives are great too, but don’t take them for granted! Offer to help them out with something in exchange for some scheduled time.
The key to all of these options is being ready to work at any time or any place! This requires you to have your work planned and ready to go so that you are able to make the most of the work time that you do have. With these strategies, you can continue to be awesome at your work and be an engaged and attentive parent!
Do you have any other strategies to keep productive when the kids are at home?
Lisa has been a teacher for over 24 years and recently left teaching to start her own business. She started Cherry Tree Virtual Services to help other bloggers and small business owners with their tasks and to help them grow their own businesses. She also blogs at Stitch in Progress about crocheting and knitting and she teams with her brother and sister-in-law to blog at Our Land and Home where they talk about building and living in a home in the country.