If you work from home like I do, you know that having your children home for the summer means that there is zero chance of getting even small projects done in one sitting. Working from home with children underfoot is akin to running into a brick wall: There will be tears, often yours, occasional cursing, and a general feeling of failure. Only one person will be happy at a time, and it will probably not be you until you’re waving goodbye to that yellow bus as it pulls away with your kids.
I have tried to stem the flow of working-mom angst. I have gotten up before the sun has even peaked from behind the horizon. I have premade meals, and even occasionally cooked them. I have imported friends and babysitters alike to entertain my children. Sometimes my efforts work, but many times they don’t. My kids are like velociraptors and will search until they find the weakest spot in my mom armor. At this point they have worn down my patience of steel to frustration in tarnished tin.
Every day, I tell my kids that my closed office door means I’m working. This is apparently an invitation to stand outside the door and scream things at me or barge in like the Kool Aid man. Yesterday I dropped my work amidst cries of, “The hospital is on the phone!” I barely managed a terrified and breathless hello before finding out it was the veterinarian hospital calling to see how our pooch was after his kennel stay. And god forbid I forget my daughter’s third breakfast of the day. I swear that kid has a tapeworm. I always say, “I am not your waitress, make your own meal.” Yet, what she hears is, “I am your waitress and live to make every meal for you.”
So what’s a work-from-home Mom to do?
Fear not, working mothers of America. I have some tried and true tips from the trenches to help us work through the summer child annoyances.
1. Only allow electronics to be used when you are working. Trust me. The house could be burning down and my kids wouldn’t even notice during their daily Minecraft session.
2. Incorporate a required reading hour, or four, daily. I hear Tolstoy is perfect for the under 12 crowd, or maybe something in Old English that will taken them hours to figure out. The young kids of today really need to get going on their Shakespeare.
3. Pick a nice, long movie, like Harry Potter or some other series that requires rapt attention. It’s magical how much work you can get done while little Harry is busy flying around playing Quidditch.
4. Always have a secret stash of crafts available for emergencies. I pull them out, paper my kitchen table and turn a blind eye to the firestorm of mess while I take care of business in my office, just a few feet away from the where the next Picasso is being created.
5. Set them up with the Easy Bake Oven. There is nothing easy about it, but kids love it and even though the kitchen will take forever to clean up you may get 30 minutes to check some e-mails.
6. Give your kids a mid-afternoon ice cream break…outside. When it melts everywhere, just hose them down.
7. Turn on the sprinklers and let your kids run through them to their hearts content. You might even get a chance to take a conference call during the fifteen blissful minutes of water-induced giggling.
8. Sign your child up for as many camps as you can manage. Even if little Susie doesn’t want to learn to knit at first, four morning sessions at the local YMCA will give her plenty of time to figure out how to make the perfect Christmas scarf for Grandma.
9. Have your kids start their own business. It could be a dog walking business, or a lawn business pulling out all those pesky weeds, possibly a lemonade stand – at the next door neighbors, anything is fair game to get some much needed time to work. And think, it will burn energy and make them some cash too!
10. Hire a sitter for a few hours and escape to the library with a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Who cares if you look like you’re trying to land a 747 in the parking lot? You’ll be happier sacrificing fashion for silence.
11. Farm out little Jacob and Caitlyn to your friend’s house a few hours, and reciprocate for her little terrors. Play time—or work time is much needed for everyone.
Most importantly, be sure to always have some of your favorite snacks in your office drawer or your closet though, because your work time may be the only chance you get to mow a Snickers bar all by your lonesome. Working from home is difficult. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity, and chocolate, to pull it altogether.