White Knuckle Parenting: Working While Parenting
What is a work-at-home mom to do when school is out and the kids are around?
Summer has hit me like a ton of bricks—and I'm not just talking about the heat. I'm talking about the fact that it is completely impossible to get anything resembling work done when I have my three children--ages 7, 9, and 10--around all day.
I know a lot of moms and dads who work from home, which is completely doable during the school year, when said work-at-homers can count on at least six or so hours without interruption. For me, who works very part time, those hours are usually plenty. During the summer, however, it is a completely different story, what with the constant, "Will you play this game with me?" and "Someone has to drive me to chess camp," and "Can I have another cookie?"
Much as I love spending time with my kids, there are still things I have to get done that aren't easily accomplished with a 7-year-old nudgenick poking at me and saying "excuse me" over and over. Here are some of the coping mechanisms I've come up with.
Multitasking: Are the kids playing in the yard but still need to be supervised? That's what laptops are for. Note: This is also what laptop batteries are for, which means it is a good idea to charge yours more than five minutes before your kids decide to go out and play.
The television: There is a reason people call the TV the electronic babysitter. I have a suspicion that these people mean it in a pejorative sense, but my best friend the TV has allowed me to accomplish more this summer than anything else.
A real babysitter: One of my most productive summers was the one when I had a mother's helper come over twice a week. I truly enjoyed sitting in my air conditioned office and looking out the window to watch that fabulous young woman trying to teach my kids how to play field hockey in 100-degree weather. Pro: You will be too embarrassed to nap with someone else in the house, so you will actually get something done. Con: Babysitters cost actual money, requiring you to earn more than a pittance for the work you do get done.
Summer camp: Like a babysitter, but with even better activities. Unfortunately, you will spend much of the time your children are thus occupied driving back and forth for drop off and pick up. Also, they cost a lot—the camps, not the kids.
Enlist your kids' help: This only works for certain kinds of work. If you are assembling products, where their small, nimble fingers would be an asset, you are perfectly set up. If you are proofreading legal documents, they may be less helpful. Also, they will laugh every time you say "penal."
Make them nap: Babies nap. If you are lucky enough to have one of those, work when they nap. Unfortunately, babies are also needy, so you will get nothing done for the remaining 23 hours of the day. If your kids are older, as mine are, considering instituting "quiet time." Note: "Quiet time" almost never works.
Avoid the phone at all costs: It is true when they are infants and it is true when they are older. As soon as you pick up the phone, your kids will urgently need you. The more important it is that their presence not be announced on your call, the more strenuous (and louder) their need for you will be.
Work late at night: The hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. are your friends. Utilize them.
Flake completely: What's so important anyway to get in the way of summer fun? Plus, if you flake often enough, you will be quickly fired, eliminating your work/family problems entirely and you can then devote your entire summer to your children. Problem solved. You are welcome.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.