Summer is, by far, one of my favorite seasons. Many of us spend more time outdoors, interacting more with family, and taking in the rays. It is also a time when many of us find ourselves surrounded by little people, primarily our children. Yes, summer is often a season filled with plans, vacations, activities and often, a house full of people.
For those of us who may leave the house to work or who don’t have school-age children, this might sound like a good problem to have. However, for those freelancers who find themselves working from home, the added responsibility of spending an extra six to eight hours per day with children can prove to be an interesting exercise in life/work balance.
I have a few friends who go through this every summer and I must say that I am amazed at the creative ways that they maintain a balance. Being present for their families, maintaining their work schedules, and adhering to their productivity goals are just a few of their superpowers. Although, I am an outsider looking in, here are a few things that they do in the midst of a full house.
Maintain child-friendly schedules
Compared to when I was a child, there are so many more structured activities that parents can take advantage of during the summer. From summer day camps and kiddie college, to aquatic centers and cul-de sac play dates, it is important that children stay active and engaged.
Even though they may spend more time per day at home, this does not mean that they will spend 24/7 at home with you. The key is coordinating schedules, especially if there are multiple children. You don’t want to spend valuable freelance hours carpooling if you can avoid it. You may have to lean on other parents whom you trust and create a schedule where you alternate who is picking up the kids on which days. If you end up with a Tuesday/Thursday schedule, you can create a freelancing schedule that provides you with greater flexibility on those days.
Establish and reinforce boundaries
I admit that this one may be easier said than done. My newest nephew (13 months) lives with us and it is very tempting to join in when I hear “Baby Shark” playing softly in the background, but I have to resist the urge. I also have to recognize that at his age, he doesn’t fully understand the concept of freelancing. When he sees me, naturally, he thinks that I should be available (to play with him).
Depending on the age of your children, you can explain what you do. You can also create a policy that if your home office door is closed then Mommy, Daddy, Auntie, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa is working. My older nephew understands that I can be at work even though I am, physically, at home. The key to children and boundaries is being clear that when you are working, you may not be available, especially depending on the capacity of your at-home freelance work.
Integrate your children into what you do
This last suggestion will only apply to some freelancers and will not be at all feasible for others. The summer time is a great time to literally show children what you do and how you do it. During the school year, children may only have a peripheral or surface understanding of what you do. If it is doable (and ok with your clients), you may want to share how you work.
This will also go a long way in helping to reinforce the second suggestion. Children are pretty astute. When they see all of the moving pieces, it gives them greater clarity about what you do when you say that you are busy.
More than anything, a busy house does not mean that you have to become less productive or that your freelance work has to take a backseat to your family. Find a balance that works for you. Children are only children for so long, so enjoy them and also embrace all that comes along with freelancing during the summer.