Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Schools Out For Summer! (My best tips for working from home while the kids are on break.)

Today is the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL (!!) for my big kids, which means that, as soon as 2:55 pm rolls around, I will officially be the mother of a 3rd grader, 1st grader, kindergartener, and preschooler.  Oofda!  That’s hard on this mama heart.  But I’m not about to get ahead of myself – not even for one minute!  There’s a whole lotta summer left to live!

SUMMER

One of the benefits of working from home is the ability and flexibility to be here with my little loves during the summer months when they’re out of school.  It’s my absolute favorite perk of this WAHM gig, and one that I hope to never have to give up.  Summers are our favorite.   

BUT.  And this is a big BUT.

As a work-at-home-mom, summers are H-A-R-D. Hard to balance work and life.  Hard to keep kids busy.  Hard to establish a routines and set expectations. It’s a good hard…but hard, nonetheless. 

The good news is that, at this point in my parenting career, I’m used to it!  Used to it?  Yes.  An expert? No! BUT I have been a WAHM for the past 8 years and have learned a thing or two about what works for us when it comes to the transition from school to summer. This year, though, is going to be just a tad different.  For the first time ever, I’m working to help others grow their businesses, all the while trying to grow my own.  I need to be focused, organized, and productive alllll summer!  So, I’m doing what all OCD prepared work-at-home moms do – I’m making a plan! And sharing it! 

Here are my tips for managing the summer/work struggle!

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1.  Get Up Early. Honestly, this one is pretty easy for me.  I’m an early bird by nature and prefer to have my morning workout done before the sun rises.  This summer, though, my plan is to set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual.  You know you’re a mom when you realize the possibilities that lie within 15 minutes.  My options for those 15 minutes are endless (laundry, breakfast, meal planning, cleaning, emails, work, devotions), but feeling productive first thing in the morning is the best way to start my day!

2.  Set A Routine.  Around here routines are the norm and always have been.  In our house it’s a non-negotiable. But summer presents the need to change from one routine to another.  It may take us a couple of days and a few discussions, but it won’t be long and all Starr siblings will have a thorough understanding of how our summer days will run.  Now, that’s not to say that every minute of every day will be scheduled. At all.  I’m a huge fan of lazy mornings, impromptu playdates, and trips to the park, but there’s a general scheduling framework that most of our days will follow (and you’d better believe that includes plenty of pool time!).  I plan on making this a blog post of its own, but for now, just know that our schedule will always include a set-aside work time for me.

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3.  Have Quiet Time.  Now that we’re past the necessary naptime phase, we are much more purposeful with the instated Quiet Time routine.  Call us crazy, but our expectation is that the Fab Four spend time each day, after lunch, resting/reading/playing quietly.  Heck, I’m certainly not above allowing electronics during quiet time on occasion and as a special treat.  For me, THIS is the time when I hit the ground running with my work.  I can count on a good hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted work time to get things done and crossed off my list.  Oh, and don’t tell my kids that I know, but I’m well aware that they enjoy this time, too.  Generally, they emerge from their rooms happy, refreshed, and ready to get outside!

4.  Staying Active.  Scheduling summer activities is a fine balance.  We all enjoy our downtime, but can really only have so much before getting antsy!  This year our go-to activities include: the summer reading program at our local library, camps/programs (basketball, volleyball, Safety Town, and vacation bible school), the pool (frequently and for long periods of time…), park hopping, service projects, and summer bucket list conquering. 

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5.  Give Kids Responsibility.  For our family this comes in many different forms, but is mainly observed through chores.  From dusting, sorting socks, and watering the garden/flowers, to making lunch, folding laundry, and reading to siblings, everyone has to help out.  And quite honestly, it’s the only way for our house to function.  J and I cannot do it all.  Nor should we have to.  We have 4 healthy children, with capabilities beyond our imagination.  Of course, this means that I sometimes have to let go of my unrealistically high expectations and quest for perfection, and instead enjoy and appreciate their efforts and willingness to help out.

6.  Go Old School!  We’re big fans of, “JUST GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!” No iPods, Nooks, or Leapster Explorers – just grab your shoes and go!  Throw a tennis ball off the garage, ride your bike, play with the neighbors, swing on the swings, slide down the slide, play house, use sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, paint with water, run through the sprinkler (no, I will not set up the Slip & Slide everyday)!  Do whatever your little heart desires (within reason, of course!), but do it outside! And by all means, HAVE FUN!!

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7.  Be Flexible! Finally, recognize the value of being easy-going.  No, this is not to contradict my opinions on schedules, routines, chores, and quiet time – those are important. But you will never appreciate the “off days” if you don’t have the “on-days” too.

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