Ahhhh, it’s summer time. Endless days of pools, sunshine, not a care in the world…if you’re under 16.
If you’re a parent, summer means a break from checking homework folders and signing assignment notebooks, but it also means one of two things: if you work full-time and have more than one kid, you’re probably spending most of your summer earnings on babysitting, a nanny, or camp fees. If you stay at home or work from home, you’re trying to figure out how to cut down the incessant whining, complaining and yelling long enough to actually try and get things done without losing your shit at least once a day. Or maybe that’s just me.
This is the first summer I have worked from home. While not having to pay childcare fees is nice, the craziness of trying to work, take calls, send emails and basically just be professional in ANY sort of way is freaking impossible with three “soooooooo bored” and “soooooooo hungry” and “WHY CAN’T WE________” timesuckers up in my biz every 5 minutes. I heard someone say that raising kids is like being pecked to death by chickens, and I totally feel it when I’m trying to get work done!
Me, every morning about 10am: Jesus, Imma need more of you and coffee to before I open my mouth.
I lasted exactly ONE day of summer break before I freaked out and decided that we needed a schedule. The battle was on between me, Fortnite (boys), and Kindle (Maryn) and I was determined to win—or at least tame the beasts and keep my children’s brains from turning to Jello over the summer.
I decided to skidaddle myself down to Dollar Tree and see what structure I could build into our summer for as little dough as possible. I grabbed wipe-off boards for each kid, activity items, writing tools…and the whole haul came to a little over $25. That’s less than a therapy session, so if it kept my stress level from exceeding “hair on fire” then I figured it was money well spent.
First order of business: taking care of the “Morning Musts.” These are the tasks that my kids are supposed to do every day, yet they look at me like I’ve grown a third eye if I ask them if they’ve completed them:
- Make bed
- Eat breakfast
- Clean up from breakfast
- Pick up room, bathroom and closet (I added “closet” because my kids have the notion that cleaning their room means shoving everything where I can’t see it and calling it good—Mama has played that game too, kiddos!)
- Shower (This usually requires a quality-check to make sure the boys didn’t just turn the water on, sit on the toilet and watch YouTube videos for 10 minutes without actually getting wet)
- Brush teeth (with a Mom smell test to see if breath is minty-fresh or “oh my God did you just eat a bag of Funyans”)
- Get dressed (Quality-check to make sure Maryn is wearing underwear and that the boys didn’t just throw on the same dirty clothes they wore the day before)
The items above don’t change. However, I am a super-lucky mama because our school system offers FREE summer school for all kids kindergarten through 6th grade, and it’s right down the street from our house. So, on Mondays-Thursdays I only have Pryor at home from 9-3. On summer school days, I’m okay with the littles not doing anything besides the “Morning Musts.” However, on Fridays (and every day for Pryor), the additional tasks are as follows:
- 30 minutes of reading
- 30 minutes of journal writing or coloring
- 30 minutes math
- History or Science worksheet (I found these at Dollar Tree and they are awesome!)
- 30 minutes of outside activity
- Pick up main floor and basement
- Put away laundry
- Make lunch and clean it up
- Complete chores as assigned (these vary as to what needs to be done that day)
- 30 minutes of a “together” activity (if anyone complains or argues, I restart the timer!)
The “reward” for completion is Maryn gets her Kindle and the boys get to play Fornite from 4-10pm, with a break from 6-7 for dinner. Of course, they immediately started about who was getting to play at what time, so I had to draw up a “Fortnite Schedule” as well. They can trade times, but that’s on them, not me. And if they complain, it gets turned off. Fortnite is going to be the death of me.
If a kid does something unacceptable: talks back, is disrespectful, yells at his brother, etc. I take away their earned electronic time in 30 minute increments. Unless I catch them lying about something, and then it’s just gone. Maybe for a day, maybe for a week—depends on the lie. Mama don’t play when it comes to dishonesty.
The wipe-off boards took about 5 minutes each to make, I just used a permanent marker and they use wipe-off markers to put dots in the box when they are completed. I did learn that if you write with a wipe-off marker over a permanent marker it will take the permanent marker off, so if you want to be all fancy and get something laminated that would probably be better, but I’m cheap and lazy and this works great for us.
We’ve used it for 2 weeks now, and I have to say it’s really working well! I have 3 cheap timers, one for each kid, and I watch the kid start it and then they bring them to me when they go off, so I know that they’re not fudging their times. (Will Godfrey, I’m talking about you.)
Having a schedule lets the kids know what is expected of them, and I let them do their “assignments” in any order they want, so they do have a little control over their day. It usually takes them around 3-4 hours to get everything accomplished, which gives me time to do my part-time work from home tasks in peace and quiet. Everyone wins!
Not to say that it isn’t without enforcement, but I haven’t lost my shit once in the past two weeks…and I’d say that’s pretty awesome. Parenting a teen, a pre-teen and a precocious 7-year-old isn’t easy…but they CAN be sweet to each other some of the time. And this season is one I’d like to remember with a smile and not shivers. We can do this, mamas. Only 10 more weeks to go! 😉
What are your best tips for surviving the summer while working from home? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!