I was coaching with a client of mine last week who’s a single mom. She does fairly well at balancing her role as entrepreneur and mom most of the time, but was telling me about how challenging the summer months are for her (because, here in the U.S., kids are out of school from most of June through most of August). She was telling me how much everything changes in your life when your kids are around all the time. They’ve got all these needs, they mess with your schedule, there are a lot more distractions, and it’s difficult to maintain any sort of schedule or momentum.
Since I was a single mom for more than 11 years, I can absolutely relate to that. My kids were very young when their dad and I divorced (our baby wasn’t even in pre-school yet) and I vividly remember those early days, especially the upheaval in my business caused by school vacations (and summer was the most difficult).
It made me think about that song from the Broadway Musical Porgy and Bess, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” Well, maybe if you’re a kid. If you’re a work-at-home entrepreneur (especially if you’re a mom), livin’ probably just got a whole lot harder for you. Especially if your kids are school age, it’s possible dread summer as much as they look forward to it (some days, anyhow).
So, here is my “How to survive summer as a mom (or dad) who works from home without losing your sanity or screaming at your kids (too much)” advice.
My top 5 Tips for Getting to September with Your Business In-Tact and Your Family Still Loving You
1. Let Go of The Guilt
You will never get to spend as much time as you would like with your kids or friends and family during the summer, and many people allow themselves to feel guilty about this. Wait a second here. If you had to work at a full time J-O-B, would you be able to just take three months off to be with your kids or enjoy the longer days of summer? Heck no. So think about the fact that, even though you might not be spending every waking hour with your precious littles, at least you’re there when they need you and you have the flexibility being self-employed brings.
2. Modify Your Schedule
Your “normal” school-year schedule (if you have kids) probably won’t work in the summer and you’ll have to modify it. That’s just a fact. You won’t be able to work as many hours (at least not during the day), and you’ll probably have to get creative. If you generally make calls in the afternoon and your children head to swimming lessons without you in the mornings, you’ll want to reschedule your calls for the times you know you’ll have peace and quiet during the day. I knew exactly when Blues Clues was on when my boys were little, because I could be guaranteed 30 minutes of quiet during that show. You get the idea.
So just plan on being more flexible regarding when you work and realize that things may need to change on a moment’s notice. Believe me, as someone who coaches mostly female entrepreneurs for a living, I always completely understand if a client asks to reschedule at the last minute if it’s kid related. I work with moms. It happens.
3. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Especially if you have kids, you probably won’t be able to work as many hours during the summer, so making the time you do spend in your office as productive as possible is essential. Make a plan at least once a week (if not every day) and decide ahead of time what your priorities are and what will get your time. If you get all of the big projects or commitments out of the way, you can always focus on the leftovers. But I’ve found if I don’t have a plan, I start with the small stuff and then the big projects don’t get done.
Likewise, make sure you’re present when you’re spending time with your kids or friends and family and not working. You can’t be constantly interrupting your time with them to answer your cell phone or check e-mail. Trust me, they hate that and they’ll resent it (and you.) Unplug and really give them your attention when you’re spending time with them.
4. Work With Your Natural Rhythms
This is great advice anytime, but I think it definitely applies in the summer. Being an entrepreneur allows you to create your own schedule and work during the most productive times for you, and in the summertime, that may change. Maybe the rest of the year you like to work in the evenings but in the summertime, it doesn’t get dark until well past 9:00 pm. Will this still work for you? If not, find a way to move those normal “nighttime hours” to a different time of day.
Here’s an example. I have this innate feeling that Fridays are the third day of the weekend. I really don’t feel as motivated or productive on Fridays. Once I gave myself permission to own that, I stopped booking appointments on Fridays. I still work Fridays, but it’s a much more flexible day for me and I can get up super early and get a bunch of stuff done so I can take the rest of the day off if I want to without having to show up for scheduled appointments.
5. Create Accountability for Yourself
Print out your schedule and hang it in a community place in your home, like your refrigerator. Now gather your family around and let them know that this is your summer schedule, and that you’re as committed to NOT working during the times not listed as you are to working during the times outlined for work. Then, if you’re really brave, ask your kids to hold you accountable by giving them permission to ask you to stop working if you’re in your office during a time that’s not on your calendar as office hours. Believe me, kids LOVE to catch you doing something you’re not supposed to be doing and they’ll definitely call you on it, especially if you ask them to.
Finally, if something comes up that you need to do during the time you’ve scheduled to work for that day, be sure to go to your calendar right away and “pay yourself back” the time you’re borrowing from yourself. If you don’t, the work activity you’ve scheduled for that day won’t get done and you’ll find yourself getting behind.
One last thing…
It’s perfectly okay (and even normal) for you to do the Snoopy dance on the first day of school. By the end of August, you’ll be VERY ready for your kids to get back to school! That doesn’t make you a bad parent. It just makes you honest. Embrace it and remind yourself that the summer will fly by and that first day of school will be here before you know it. Depending upon what sort of day you’re having that will either be cause for celebration (as you tell your kids for the 15th time to PLEASE TURN DOWN THE TV), or one that brings a little tear to your eye (as you watch the wonder on your child’s face as he meets Mickey Mouse for the first time or you hold your daughter who’s fallen asleep in your arms under the stars at an outdoor concert).
Summer is short. That’s the good and bad of it. So make the most of it, both as a parent and as a work-from-home business owner.
P.S. As I wrote this post, it kept dawning on me that I no longer have to worry about any of this. All 4 of my kids are grown and scattered to the winds, living their own lives. If you have younger kids, trust me when I tell you, in no time at all you’ll spend a lot more time asking your kids when they’ll be home so you can spend some time together than you do asking them to keep it down or wanting them out of your hair. Just a little bit of a “sigh” moment for me. If you do have little ones, enjoy them. Mine were that age about 10 minutes ago, I swear.
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