This is the working mom’s guide (whether you work from home, out of the home, or just have a lot on your plate) on how to navigate summer break with kids home AND everything else!
This topic actually comes from one of you! When I say that I love when you pop into my DM’s or reply to an email, I really mean it! I want to know what you specifically need help with, and podcast listener Carly Jo did exactly that! She messaged me and asked:
When you work from home or run a small business from home, how do I balance my work and my kids during summer break.
She shared that she had struggled so much last summer with feeling like she wasn’t doing a good job, and definitely doesn’t want a repeat of last year.
So Carly Jo, and for anyone else feeling the stress creeping in as summer break is on the verge, this is for you.
This episode will help:
👉 Any mom who is worried about how to handle work (or your other stuff) and family this summer
👉 You to create space to front load and do the prep work now to enjoy summer when it gets here
👉 Any mama actually works less this summer without losing income, and enjoy your kids without stress and guilt
In this episode:
3:04 When it comes to summer, we cannot expect things to look the same
4:23 Simplify pain points
5:36 Create or modify summer work hours
6:44 Start Now to Prepare using Front Stacking
8:55 Limit big or new projects
9:26 Utilize an autoresponder
10:00 Create a summer schedule
15:39 Have you considered outsourcing?
17:40 If I could turn back time
Things are going to look different
Summer is a different season, and like all seasons, we cannot expect things to look the same! Certainly not as they do in September – when our kids are at school and occupied for a big chunk of the day. So before we do anything else to prepare ourselves, our families, and our businesses for the summer season, we must accept or, better yet, embrace that things will not look the same as they do during the school year.
Maybe this is a no-brainer for you. But when I was first starting out, it was not that obvious to me. I don’t know why; I just thought that all my schedules, routines, and expectations would stay the same. It, of course, didn’t, and no big surprise to you, I’m sure, it did not turn out well.
While I tried to act like everything was going to be normal, what really happened is that a lot of days ended in tears, both mine and my kids. There was too much screen time, I was behind on deadlines, and there was so much stress and guilt. It was a far cry from the happy, fun summer I had envisioned.
As I got to my second summer as a WFH mom, I did a little bit better, and by my third summer, that’s when I really got into a groove where things felt good.
My goal is to help you avoid the trial and error (oh so many errors) and make this a summer where your business feels good, you feel good, and your time spent with your family feels oh so good.
So, if in the past, the kids being home for summer felt a little too much like this…
Let’s change that right now!
Start preparing now
The biggest trick I learned is to prepare EARLY, which is why this episode is coming to you in April and not one week before school gets out. You need to get in your calendar and schedule some really good blocks of time to front stack so that you’re ready for summer. Do as much now as you can to create the summer experience with your kids that you want.
If you listened to our episode all about brain dumps and using the Eisenhower Metric, you’re gonna recognize number two is important, but not urgent. These are the things you want to focus on. So for a real life, real-time example, right now I am batching things like newsletters, and working on the podcast. We have been heavily stacking interviews for the last couple of weeks all so I will have podcast interviews scheduled all the way through the end of September, because summer is coming and I want be able to really pull back.
It takes intention. It takes sitting down and prioritizing, carving out blocks of time and turning off distractions to increase your productivity and reminding yourself: I’m doing the work now so that I can focus on what matters to me most (my family) during the summer.
Summer Work Hours
One thing that I did that really worked for me, and I know will work for you too, is that I started creating summer work hours. This made a HUGE difference since my availability dramatically shrinks during summer. I realize that it can be a scary thing to think about cutting your hours, as if that also means cutting your income, but with my tips and your preparation, it doesn’t have to!
With my work hours, I want everyone to be on the same page. That includes my family and my clients or anyone else who might need me.
One thing you can do is set up an auto-responder and actually set your email signature to says, I‘m in summer hours. I’m spending extra time with my kids. Right now, I’m only checking my inbox two times a week.
When we make it clear that we are limited right now, the expectation is set, and people don’t think they’re being ignored. As Brene Brown says, ‘clear is kind’.
With my family, I make sure that they know my working hours too, for a couple of reasons. Number one it keeps me accountable. If I say I am done for the day at 1:00, then I need to uphold that boundary and be done. And when my kids know my hours, it’s easier to keep interruptions at a minimum. If they need something and know I only have 30 minutes left, they know it can wait.
One way to help teach this concept is with visual cues. Currently, I have a light on the outside of my office door that lights up red when I’m working and really can’t be interrupted. If it’s green, then everyone knows it’s okay to come in. Before I got that awesome addition, I used to post my office hours on my door.
Help your kids help you
Okay, so first I want you to know that you can use screen time to buy yourself some time. The trick is to use it to your advantage. It’s not just setting your kids in front of a screen for hours and hours.
Number one: it’s bad for them.
Number two: it stops being effective. If you give them too much screen time, they become bored with it much more quickly.
Speaking of bored, it’s totally okay for your kids to be bored! I have this saying that I would say to my kids all the time and it drives them crazy.
You can’t be bored unless you’re boing.
They hated that response as much as you can imagine, but it taught them very quickly that I wasn’t going to swoop in and entertain them all day. Kids are totally capable of figuring out something to do, and they need those experiences to strengthen their creative muscles!
But one thing we did do to help was, as a family, we created a ‘bored bucket list”. It was all these ideas of things they could do when the inevitable “I’m bored” comment came. We came up with a list of things together, hung it on the fridge, and they could go get inspired any time they were bored. Sometimes it worked like a charm, and other times they just stayed in their boredom until those creative juices finally kicked in, and they came up with something to do.
Another thing we did during their telemetry and junior high school years, was set reading goals during the summer. This is great because it gives you another thing besides screens to occupy them, and they get to work toward a goal. You can even take it up a notch and create a reward system around it like $1 to $2 per book read, and then at the end of summer they get to do something really fun.
Of course, we can’t have this episode without talking about the idea of getting external help or what I like to call outsourcing. If you don’t know by now, I am a big fan of outsourcing. Outsourcing can look a lot of different ways, and in fact, I have this episode and this episode that both dive deep into outsourcing and how to make it work for you.
But I’ll share one quick example of what it can look like. One year we hired our old babysitter to stay with us for the summer. She was responsible for getting the kids up, to swim lessons and other activities in the morning, and then I would be done working by lunchtime and could enjoy the rest of the day with my family and be fully present because I had the dedicated time in the morning to get work taken care of.
If I could do it all over again
Let me just say this. You have 17 summers, 18 if you’re really lucky. The first three, they really can’t remember, and in the last three, your kids will have their own social lives, activities, and possibly even jobs. So how are you going to make the most of these summers that you have?
Here’s what I would honestly do differently if I could do it again.
I try not to regret, but being that my oldest is 18 and she’s going off to college and summers are looking very, very different than they did when they were little. Here is how I would’ve changed things if I could from one mama to another.
I would automate more. I would work less. I would say no to the last minute clients. I would let myself miss the deadline before I missed time with them. I’d go to the park, I’d set up the outdoor movie night. I’d eat more picnics, even if it was just the Costco rotisserie chicken on top of the Costco Caesar Salad. I’d plan ahead more and I’d realize sooner that time is our most precious commodity.
You can make more money. Money is always out there. It’s always available.
You only have so much time. And as one mama who is running out of time and summers with her kids, that is what I would do differently.
I hope that this episode helps you both from a philosophical, personal perspective of be present, be there, make the memories, it’s worth it. You will never regret that, and a tangible, here’s how we still make sure that we cover the mortgage and pay for food and all those.
Please share this episode with another mama who is working. We need each other’s help. So share this with the women in your life that you love and that you care about, who are also trying to figure out how the heck to manage summer vacation when the kids are home.
LINKS YOU’LL LOVE:
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OTHER EPISODES YOU’LL LOVE:
Episode 32: Busy and Productive Are Not The Same Thing
Episode 11: Why You Need Boundaries in Your Business
[00:00:00] Leah: Welcome to episode 44 of The Balancing Busy Podcast. This is The Working Mom’s Guide to Summer Vacation. Summer Break When Your Kids are Home from school. When my kids were little, I didn’t really know. Any other working moms, actually. So when summer came, I was at a loss on how to balance the kids being home and my work schedule.
[00:00:26] I heard someone say one of the best things you can do when you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to do summer break and work is to ask other parents, but I didn’t have any. So this episode is dedicated to anyone who’s not really sure who to go ask and who needs some. Now that all of my kids are in high school, this episode, it’s dedicated to you mamas trying to figure out how this is all going to work.
[00:00:53] I’m going to share with you what I’ve tried. I’m gonna tell you what worked. I’m gonna tell you what definitely did not and failed. I’m gonna share about the mom guilt and the frustration when it didn’t work, and I’m gonna share about how good it felt when it did, and the actual tangible steps that I took to make that work.
[00:01:13] And we’re going to really take this in two different areas. We’re going to look at the philosophical, and we’re going to also take a very tangible approach. So we need to start by asking and knowing. How do you set yourself up for success? Kay, that’s gonna be the tangible, but what is success? And that is the philosophical.
[00:01:35] So how are we gonna set it up? We’re gonna talk all about that, but you need to know what success looks like. And I’m gonna say it later, but I’m gonna say it now. Is success really how much work you can get done during the summer, or is it how many memories and moments you capture? With your kiddos. We’ll come back to that, but I’m gonna just set that in there right now.
[00:01:58] So this episode is for a listener. Her name is Carly Jo, and she sent me a dm. I tell you guys to do this. I hope you will. What do you want to hear me talk about? What do you need help with? How can I help you balance the busy? Well, Carly Joe is incredible and she DMed me and she said, okay, anticipating this.
[00:02:17] When you work from home or run a small business from home, and being able to balance my work and my kids, she shared vulnerably that she struggled so much last summer feeling like she wasn’t doing a good job. So, Carly Joe, this is for you. All right, let’s dig in. First things first. When it comes to summer, we cannot expect things to look the same, so we have to accept, better yet, embrace that things are going to look different than they do September through June or whatever your school year is Now, I know that seems probably obvious to almost all of you, but it wasn’t for me.
[00:02:56] I, I don’t know why I. That I was just gonna make my same work routines, schedules the same expectations that I was gonna just get them to fit into summer. That it’s not advisable and it didn’t work. So we have to start there. The first year, I really did try to act like everything was gonna be as normal, aka the same way it looked while they were in school.
[00:03:23] It ended in tears, both mine and theirs. There was too much screen time. I was behind on deadlines. There was so much stress and guilt. I mean, it felt horrible. It didn’t feel like summertime and you know, all the happy, fun feelings. We feel it. It felt like more stress, more weight. So move on to year two.
[00:03:44] And I did get it a little better. I planned a little earlier for summer activities, getting them into camps and different things like that. And I simplified some of the big pain points. I’ll get into more of these, but one of them was dinnertime, uh, just. Creating simpler dinners. So I am talking summer dinner menus that were fast and easy and they were on rotation over and over again.
[00:04:10] I was not needing to rethink this, the easiest of them being really and truly like the Costco rotisserie chicken, and it was either a top Asian salad and I had like fancied up by adding a can of mandarin oranges, some cilantro, and those little crunch. Or it was even simpler and it was the rotisserie chicken.
[00:04:31] I topped the Costco Caesar salad, and that is dinner once a week, sometimes two times a week. I mean, that can be done in 10 minutes. And then in year three, that’s when I really, really feel like I got good at this. So I started looking for simplifying. I started looking for cutting things down a little bit and preparing myself to be able to do that.
[00:04:54] But year three, that’s. That’s when I got better at this. I, it, it did take a while, so I hope I, I cut out some of, some of the pain of it taking longer for you. I started creating summer work hours. That was one of the first things that really made a huge difference. Uh, they were more limited and they were more adaptable.
[00:05:18] I sometimes chose working early in the morning before the kids even got up. Other times it might look. Asking hubby to take over the nighttime routine so that I could do work in the evenings a bit, but just being willing to shift everything around and change it up and make it less. I mean, my schedule dramatically shrinks during summer.
[00:05:45] So how that works, especially as I shared many of these years, the years when my kids were little, so they’re home for summer and they are very needy. During the summer, I was either the sole provider or the primary provider. So my husband was either still in graduate school or he was just starting his practices, or whatever was happening during that time, it was on me.
[00:06:07] So if you’re saying like, Leah, I can’t step back. I need to pay the bills. I get it. That was me also. And here is how I did it. And I wanna just, I wanna say, I’m gonna talk to you about, I started front stacking and there is a reason that this episode. Publishing in April, and I’m sorry to those who, your school is going to end in May.
[00:06:32] I’m in Washington. We’re not outta school till June, so this is a little bigger window, but you need to do some work. You need to get in, schedule some real good blocks of time to front stack so that you’re ready for summer. So here’s what I would tell you. This is the tangible. Do as much now as you can.
[00:06:51] These are the things that are not urgent right now, but they are so important in order to create the summer, the experience with your kids that you want. So if you listen to our episode that was all about. Brain dumps and using the Eisenhower metric, you’re gonna recognize number two is important, but not urgent.
[00:07:14] These are those kind of things. So I started pre-scheduling. Back in those days, it was blog content and YouTube videos that I was really working on. So I was batching out tons of blog content and trying to get them. Completely done and scheduled through summertime. It was things like newsletters, and today it still would be, but right now it’s looking like my newsletters.
[00:07:38] It’s looking like my podcast. So we are heavily stacking interviews for the last couple of weeks and going on for another couple weeks, so that I will have podcasts scheduled the interview. All completely scheduled all the way through the end of September, or maybe it’s early October, and that’s all gonna be done because summer is coming and I wanna be able to really pull back.
[00:08:03] It takes intention, it takes me sitting down and prioritizing and saying, I’m not gonna get distracted. I’m gonna do these things. I’m gonna carve out blocks of times. I’m gonna schedule it, but doing as much as I can. Front stacking, front loading. Doing the work now is gonna make it so I’m so much more available in the summer.
[00:08:25] Next is limiting the projects and the big things that you take on during summer. If you’re thinking about developing a course, you’re thinking about building a giant summit, starting a podcast, writing a book, summer. Is maybe not the ideal time to do this. I’m just gonna be honest. Maybe it needs to wait until September when the kids are back in school because part of you might be thinking, oh, this is a great time.
[00:08:49] Everyone’s home. But everyone’s home. And is that really where you want to be or would you rather be with them? And my third suggestion for you is setting an autoresponder, actually setting an email signature that says, I’m in summer hours. I’m spending extra time with my kids. Right now, I’m only checking my inbox two times a week.
[00:09:11] And just making it very, very clear that you are limited right now. And of course, that means it is not the time to take. You know, the big last minute urgent project, that’s probably gonna be a really hard client or whatever it might look like in your business, in your world. Another thing I really wanna suggest is creating a summer schedule.
[00:09:31] So looking at and thinking about what you want your summer to look like. We start our summer schedule by looking at the fun that we wanna have first. Sometimes create summer bucket lists, and sometimes it’s just a matter of saying, okay, what vacations do we wanna do? What activities do we wanna do? Let’s drop all of those into the calendar first.
[00:09:55] Let’s put all those in now and then work is going to fit in where it can, but we’re not going to compromise the experiences as a. For the workload instead, during summer hours, we’re gonna compromise the workload for the family experiences. And I’m not saying that, you know, we make it so we can’t pay our bills.
[00:10:14] That’s why we’re doing things like front stacking. That’s why maybe you take on extra client or two before the kids get outta school to make up for this season where you’re pulling back when the kids are home. I started preparing for summer, way before summer came, and that’s really how I started to actually be able to enjoy my kids being home, making memories with them, having time, but not having this feeling in the background nonstop. That was, there’s things to do, you’ve gotta get to work. When are you gonna get this done?
[00:10:48] You’re on deadline. What’s happening? Ha. You know, that stress, that frazzled. We wanna go from frazzled to fulfilled. We wanna go from chaos to calm, and this is how I. Able to create more and more of that and truly enjoy summers. Now, here are some other tips that I’ve learned over the years that have really helped me.
[00:11:06] One of them is family council. So sitting down as a family and talking with everybody, kids, hubby, partner, all the people, and establishing when your hours are going to be and how you’re gonna make them. I even at this point, this was a gift from my husband, Taylor got this from me. I have a light on the outside of my office door now, so if it’s green, everybody knows they can come in if it’s red.
[00:11:30] It means you cannot come in right now. I just said it from my computer and it makes it so that, you know, especially if my kids were little, I would’ve loved having that because they would’ve been like, oh, the red light, that means we have to be really quiet. And I would’ve created a whole special contest like, oh, if you guys do really good and I can’t hear you when the red light’s on, then that means you get a special.
[00:11:52] I would’ve come up with something. Maybe they got points and then that earned some activity, or I don’t know. I definitely would’ve gotten really creative around. Um, I had things like that. I just didn’t have anything as special as a light on my door when they were little. I don’t think it probably existed, but get creative, figure out how you’re gonna make this work.
[00:12:10] Use screen time, but use it for your advantage. It’s not about setting our kids in front of our screen indefinitely. Here’s number one reason it’s bad for them. Okay? That’s the actual number one reason. Here’s the number two reason it becomes ine. You know what I’m talking about. If you give them too much screen time, they then start getting bored by screen time and they’re walking off, they have completely lost interest.
[00:12:34] It’s not doing what you needed it to do, which was to keep. Their attention while you needed to get something done. So I would save screen time until I really needed it, and then I would be like, okay, this is your time. You get to have this amount, set a timer. And then that helped me to really get what I needed to get done, done, and then come back and be able to be present again.
[00:12:58] Also let them be bored. I have this saying, I’ve said their whole life, which is, you can’t be bored unless you’re boring. They hate when I say it, but, uh, there’s many of summers where they would be like, mom, we’re bored. And I’d be like, can’t be bored unless you’re boring. And that was their sign.
[00:13:14] I’m not gonna help you with this. Go find something to do another time. Something we did is we created a board bucket list. So it was all these ideas of things you could do when you’re bored. They, we came up with all of it together. One day they came up with most of it, and then it was on the fridge, something like that, but they could go check it.
[00:13:33] So if they were feeling bored, I’d say, oh, go look at the list. And they could look for something that looked fun. And sometimes they’d be like, none of it looks good. Okay, well, you can’t be born unless you’re. And, you know, they’d wait until that creative juices finally kicked in and they came up with something to do.
[00:13:48] Another thing we did is we set reading goals during the summer. So this was great because again, you might be able to use screen times for a little bit. Maybe you, you know, do one hour of screen time or one movie screen time, and then you also have reading time and you’re like, Hey, it’s gonna be quiet time, 45 minutes.
[00:14:04] You try to make it a little special, maybe fun pillows and, uh, yummy drinks, or, I don’t know, like lemonade, something kind of. But we had reading time too, and we set that with a reward system, which was, they got money for every book they read. It was a dollar, $2, something like that. But while the kids were, were in older elementary school for several years, we were going to Disneyland every September.
[00:14:32] So we started our reading challenge at the very beginning of summer. And then however many books they read, they got a dollar or two. Per book, and then they got to spend that in Disneyland, so that became their way to earn their spending money when we went to Disneyland in September. This is not me saying you should go to Disneyland in September, although you should.
[00:14:54] It’s a really good time to go. This is me telling you, get creative, figure out how you could make a reward system that helps your kids be excited about reading and doing these different.
[00:15:09] And of course we can’t have this episode without talking about the idea of getting external help outsourcing. Maybe that looks like actually paying someone to help you. Maybe you happen to have a family member, a friend that you could ask to help one day a week. Maybe it’s a trade. You gotta make sure that’s actually working for you though, because if you end up having to be all in watching their.
[00:15:33] It’s not serving you and that’s probably not worth your. One year we did pay someone. So most of the years we did not live close enough to family for them to be able to help. And one year we had a nanny who lived with us for the summer. She had been our babysitter through all of her high school years, and then we had.
[00:15:54] Recently moved away. We are in a bigger city now. She was getting ready to go to college and she came and stayed with us for the summer to be able to just experience something new and she would help in the morning. So she got the kids up, she got them to their swim lessons and did those activities.
[00:16:11] Played with them a little bit, made lunch. Then I came out at lunchtime. We all had lunch together and then played from there together. So it was great because I. A little bit before the kids, and it gave me a really good chunk of time to get my work done in a few hours in the morning, and then I had the whole rest of the day to play with them and be fully present.
[00:16:32] There are so many things that we can do to make summer be something that we really enjoy, something that feels good and works for us, and I’m gonna say, Most of it is going to rest on getting organized and doing some work early to set yourself up for success. But let me just say this, you have 17 summers, 18.
[00:16:58] If you’re really lucky, the first three, they really can’t remember, and the last three, they’re gonna have their own social lives activities, possibly even jobs. So how are you going to. The most of these summers that you have. Here’s what I would honestly do different. If I could do it again, and I’m not saying it in a regret way.
[00:17:20] I try not to regret, but being that this is it for me, that my oldest is 18 and she’s going off to college, and summers are looking very, very. Here is how I would’ve changed things if I could from one mama to another, I would automate more. I would work less. I would say no to the last minute clients. I would let myself miss the deadline before I missed time with them.
[00:17:54] I’d go to the park, I’d set up the outdoor movie night. I’d eat more picnics, even if it was just the Costco rotisserie chicken on top of the Costco Caesar. I’d plan more and I’d realize sooner that time is our most precious commodity. You can make more money. Money is always out there. It’s always available.
[00:18:18] You only have so much time. And as one mama who is truly running out of time, running out of summers with her kids, that is what I would. So I hope that this episode helps you both from a philosophical, personal perspective of be present, be there, make the memories, it’s worth it. You will never regret that, and a tangible, here’s how we still make sure that we cover the mortgage and pay for food and all those.
[00:18:55] Please share this episode with another mama who is working. We need each other’s help. I did not know these things, and it was so hard figuring it out. So share this with the women in your life that you love and that you care about, who are also trying to figure out how the heck to manage. Summer vacation when the kids are home.
[00:19:16] Thank you so much for being part of the Balancing Busy podcast where I help you do less but better so that we can live our dreams and build the business and the life of our dreams, but without sacrificing our home, our health and our happiness. I’ll see you next week, and here is to the most incredible summer.Hide Transcript