Making Summer Work for the Home-based Solopreneur: 4 tips for balancing business and kids
In just two weeks, I’ll have my third go as the “school’s out for summer insatiable solopreneur.” As all of you home-based entrepreneurs well know, working from home can be challenging. And it becomes an even more delicate balancing act when school lets out for the summer. You no longer have a school district-prescribed window of working opportunity set into every Monday through Friday. You can no longer count on uninterrupted periods of solitude for making important calls to clients, focusing on projects and keeping up on your blog posts.
I admit it – I get a little uneasy as this time of year rolls around. I love the idea of having my daughter home with me for 9 weeks, but the contradictory aspirations of growing my business and making summer an enjoyable experience for her add an extra serving of stress to the solopreneurial plate.
This year, I’m finding it a little easier though – in part, because I know what to expect, and in part, because I’m doing a better job of planning ahead. Maybe you’ve already got a summer system in place, but if you don’t, here are a few ideas for juggling it all without letting balls drop:
- Decide what your summer work week is going to look like.
Take inventory of meetings that you need to attend regularly, and also decide on the weekdays and times that you’ll reserve for holding ad hoc meetings with clients and vendors. Then, if your children aren’t quite old enough to be home alone during those times, you can line up – in advance – a grandparent, friend or childcare provider who will be available to keep your kiddo safe and entertained while you’re out on business.Also take stock of how many hours you’ll need to devote to your business each day and how you’ll work that in while your children are home. As a freelance writer, I’m fortunate in that I’m not tied to an 8 – 5 work day. I suspect many of you have a good bit of flexibility as well. Will you need to wake up an extra 2 hours early to focus on clients’ projects without interruption? Will you need to stay up 3 hours later to stay on top of your responsibilities? After you get your kids settled in with breakfast, can you crank out an hour of work while they watch The Disney Channel or play a game on the Wii? Although your routine will routinely stray off course (and you know that WILL happen) occasionally, having a master plan will give you and your family some sense of structure during what could otherwise be complete pandemonium.
- Add enrichment.
Look and you will surely find a wide array of summer programs that can give your children the opportunity to try new activities or immerse themselves in the ones they love most. The bonus is that they can give you several hours to a full day’s worth of guilt-free time to devote to your business. We enroll our daughter in an all-day local theater camp – that’s 4 weeks of the 9-week summer when I know she’s having a blast, and I can settle into business as usual.
- Find Friends.
It depends on your child’s and her friends’ ages, but there’s a point in time when having an additional child at the house requires less attention than if your child is there by herself. “Play dates” (Note that my kiddo would cringe if she heard me calling them that!) are often productive time for me because my daughter and her friends don’t want me hanging with them while they play with their Monster High dolls. While they’re doing their thing, I take up residence in the home office, crank out some work and attend to them when they need me.
- Vacation in summer.
Taking a week’s vacation during the no-school summer months leaves you with one less week of worrying about the kids/work balancing act. Pledge to do minimal – if any at all – work while you’re gone so you can dedicate your time away to your family. If getting away isn’t in the budget, plan a week’s “stay-cation” at home when you unplug from work and focus solely on having a great time with your loved ones.
Finding the right combination of activities that translates to a successful modified work schedule may take more than one summer season to master. As you figure it out, have patience! And remember, this time-sensitive dilemma is well worth the temporary inconvenience given the year-round flexibility we enjoy as solopreneurs.
What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your business running smoothly and your kids happy during no-school months?