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July 14, 2011
Creative Survival: Working from Home with Kids
 
This is my first summer alone with the kids while I try to work from home. Last summer, my husband worked from home too, so he was the fun parent. He’s at work full time now, so I’m on my own, and the poor kids are at home with the boring, distracted-by-work parent. We’re halfway through the kids’ summer vacation and I’m nearly at the end of my rope. I can’t cope! I’m mourning the loss of those few quiet, uninterrupted hours that I had when school was in. “Uninterrupted” is the key word here. The kids cooperate mostly and allow me the NUMBER of hours I need to get my work done, but I never seem to have enough of the uninterrupted long periods of time that I need to be able to concentrate on one project and devote my entire brain to it. As anyone who has tried to do this knows, your day is a series of stops to redirect your attention and back again. STOP. Fix Breakfast. STOP. Work Some. STOP. Break up a fight. WHAT WAS I DOING? Check Facebook while I try to remember. Then just as you start to dig in and find your flow, someone comes into the house crying and bleeding.
 
I talked with a few of my friends who are in the same boat. They have more experience than I do, and I needed some tips from the pros. Here is what they shared with me.
 
1. Make a deal with the kids. A very good girlfriend of mine, who is a better mother than I am, came up with this one. She says to make a pact. They agree to leave you alone (as much as possible) from 10–2 with a break for lunch if you then agree to plan something fun in the afternoon. If the kids know they ARE actually going to get out of the house eventually, they’re more likely not to bug you. Granted, I don’t think it’s possible to do something fun for the kids every day because, honestly, we can’t afford it. Sometimes I tell them we can’t go anywhere today as punishment for not doing as they were told—they’ve always done something you can blame it on!

2. Forget your old routine. If you are used to working in the morning while school is in, change up your schedule. Do the brain-and-time-intensive work after dinner when you hopefully have a partner home to help with the kids. Or if the library is having a program in the morning, rearrange your schedule to include that as your activity for the day. I usually don’t recommend a never-ending workday, but since you know that it’s not a permanent thing, it’s less likely to affect your psyche. If my kids weren’t going back to school in the fall, I would have to consider hiring a sitter. I’m too cheap to do it for just the summer.

3. Summer Camps. I thought this was a good suggestion from a friend. The kids have already been to three weeks of different camps, but there are four more weeks left! In a fit of desperation, I called every church in town to see if I could enroll the kids in Vacation Bible School (because it’s free), but was sorely disappointed to find that they all do it the same week! So what now?

4. Have laptop; will travel. I hate doing this, but when there are deadlines to meet and the kids have cabin fever, I will work at a table near the snack bar at the water park, at cheer practice (where I am four evenings per week), and at the library. The library is actually a very good place to get things done. They probably wouldn’t like me advertising it, but it’s like a free sitter. The programs they put on are fabulous, and if your kids aren’t clingy, you can send them in by themselves while you work at one of the tables outside of the children’s section.

Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE my kids and I love having fun with them, but the bills have to be paid. I am so very thankful that I can make money from my home and do a few fun things with them. I don’t like to see them bored, and I feel guilty that we’re not out at the beach, the movies, or the park every day. So I justify it by telling myself that my parents didn’t take me somewhere every day, spend thousands of dollars for summer camps, or cater to my every whim. I was told to go play and if I needed a drink, I turned on the hose. And I had two children for a reason — so they would have someone to play with. 

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Larissa Harris is a graphic designer, Web developer, and social media marketer. Read her blog, LarissaHarris.com; "like" her Facebook page; or follow her on Twitter
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