That last few weeks of summer are, contrary to our collective fantasy of dog-eared paperbacks, some of the most stressful in parenting. Camps conclude before school begins, babysitters take off for college, nanny shares and playgroups break up with the onset of August vacation schedules. Add to that the heat. It drives kids indoors and parents batty.
These weeks are especially hard on the growing ranks of WAHMs and WAHDs. That would be work-at-home-moms and -dads. Those of us in this camp tend to have informal childcare arrangements and thus less reliability in these weeks.
Last week, the San Jose Mercury News chronicled the problems for these families in the country’s tech capital and a hotbed of telecommuting parents. Writing to you from Washington D.C., I can say with good authority that WAHMs here are also in a jam.
Just a few days ago, my daughter’s usual babysitter decamped so I planned to work during her nap. It was on this day that she decided to climb out of her crib for the first time and stomp around the house. Between attempts to get her back to bed, I stole a few seconds to dash back to my computer and respond to my editor, who had chided me for the slapdash copy I’d filed earlier. While I apologized electronically, my daughter slipped out of her crib once again and, in her overtired state, tumbled backward down a small stairway.
She was fine, but it was a bad moment. The lesson for me is that toddlers aren’t the only ones who need predictable routines.
Jennifer Folsom, a partner at Momentum Resources, a professional placement agency that specializes in flexible and part-time work options, knows a few things about juggling. The Post recently featured her and her family in a story about flexible work. I asked her for a few tips on how to balance professional and family lives all under one roof in the final weeks of summer.
Here are her top tips:
• Enlist help: “You can’t work if you’re supervising children, bottom line. But planning for this starts in February; you must map out and register for camps then.Short-term needs can be filled through services like sittercity. Have an arsenal of sitters to call from.”
• Get creative: “We do two “kid swap” weeks with our best friends. For one week they have my kids and I do double time at work, the second week I have theirs, and my kids at least have playmates.”
• Work non-traditional hours: “During the school year I’m up and working at 5 a.m. to get a couple of hours of work in so that I can be there when the boys get off the bus. I sometimes get up a tad earlier in the summer or work after bedtime to wrap things up. If I’m busy with swim team and carpooling during the week, I make up for hours on the weekend.”
• Set expectations: “School-age kids get this, but it’s ok to say ‘I have an hour of work that must be done right now. Please do your 30 minutes of summer reading, then build Legos.’ While you’re banging out e-mails, hand off a list of chores: taking out trash, putting away laundry, watering the plants.”
• Keep it simple. “Remember, you’re not a cruise director. Make it clear that if you can get two hours of work done now, you’ll have time to go to the neighborhood pool or check out the Mars exhibit at the National Air & Space Museum. Keep a crate of ‘I’m bored’ activities at the ready: craft supplies, word searches, coloring pages.”
Any other good tips for work-from-home-parents to help us get through the next month intact?