I was visiting with a business associate and friend of mine last week who's a single dad. He doesn't generally spend more than weekends with his son, and now his son is with him for most of the Summer. He was telling me how much everything changes in your life when a kid is around all the time. They've got all these needs, they mess with your schedule, all kinds of stuff.
I just smiled. Ummm, yea, since I was a single mom for more than 11 years, I think I can sort of relate to that.
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, you know as well as I do that you probably dread summer as much as your kids look forward to it (some days, anyhow).
So, here is my "How to survive summer as a mom who works from home without losing your sanity or screaming at your kids (too much)" post. Ready?
My top 5 Tips for Getting to September with Your Business In-Tact and Your Kids 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 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 in the 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. You'll Need to Modify Your Schedule
Your "normal" school-year schedule 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 quite 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 direct sellers 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
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. 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. Make Your Work Time Play Time For Your Kids
Imagine how cool it would be if your kids actually looked forward to you going into your office to work. Here are a few simple ways to possibly encourage that feeling in them:
- Find ways for your kids to get involved in your business (putting stickers on catalogs, putting together host packets, etc.) and reward them for their participation.
- Have a special box of toys that they are only allowed to play with when you're working. This one is great. They'll actually be begging you to work!
I'm sure there are more creative ideas. These are just a few I used when my kids were little.
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 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 mom. 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 much of this. My oldest son Sam is now 18 and heading off to college in a few weeks and squeezing every last moment out of spending time with his girlfriend and buddies this summer. His little brother Eli is 15 and has a long board and lots of friends as well. They're really independent, have cell phones, and we live in a pretty small, safe town, so I spend a lot more time asking them when they'll be home so we can spend some time together than I do asking them to keep it down or wanting them out of my 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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Julie Anne Jones is direct sales corporate consultant, coach, and trainer, and the CEO of Julie Anne Jones, Inc. She is known for her authentic and easy-to-use scripting and specializes in specific language and tools for success in direct sales. To learn more about Julie Anne and her products and services, and to read her weekly blog posts, visit her at www.julieannejones.com.