How to Survive the Summer as a Freelancer and Parent

Ahh, summer as a kid… Those long, lazy days where you could sleep in, hang out all day, stay up …

Ahh, summer as a kid… Those long, lazy days where you could sleep in, hang out all day, stay up late, and repeat day after day. Not worrying about homework or work-work- maybe going to camps and family’s houses and just chillin’.

Yeah- those were the days.

Do you remember what your parents were up to during those times? 

They might not have shown it but if they were working, they were probably scrambling in those summer months: more childcare, paying for those camps you loved, trying to keep you busy, and counting down the days until school started up again.

Being a working parent is hard in the summer!

Back when we had summer break, our working parents probably had more traditional jobs: 9-5s, or part-time hours and working from home wasn’t really a “thing” then. And even when people had their own businesses, it tended to be brick-and-mortar stuff.

But now? We’re in the heyday of the gig economy and being a freelance writer now is better than ever.

Being a parent and a freelance writer during the school year presents challenges like when kids have days off, minimum days, or illnesses (yeah, they affect any parent, but when you’re a freelancer, when time is money, and when you work from home? Disruptions in school schedules can be a pain in the a$$).

And then there’s summer.

Part of me loves summer because as a non-morning person, I love that we don’t have to get out of the house right on time. BUT- I love the routine of the school year when the kids are out of the house at a certain time and I know that my work day can begin once they’re in school.

As a freelancer, summers can throw a wrench in things.

Sure, you can put your kids in camps and activities (and you’ll see that’s one of my suggestions), but let’s face it, with multiple kids and 10+ weeks of summer, that can get expensive!!

It’s important to be realistic about your workload and time available all year, but especially in the summer. Since you probably have to work (and hopefully even like working!), you’ll need to know how to handle summers working from home.

Check out these 12 ways to survive summer with kids as a freelancer.

Get your kids out of the house:

  1. Camps. Camps are going to be your new best friend as a freelance writer in the summer. You can often find half-day and full-day camps and there are camps for all types of interests. Geographic location will influence what you can find, but I recommend checking through your city or town’s recreation department. We have amazing options in the Bay Area but a lot of them are Expensive. Yes, with a capital E. Even the camps through our city come with a range of price tags, but their standard day camp is super fun for my elementary aged child, and it’s reasonably-priced.
  2. Summer school. Summer school is another good option to keep your kids busy. Now, they may groan at the idea of summer school, but take a look at the offerings: you might find fun classes or courses that allow them to get ahead for the school year, allowing them to take a lighter load or more electives during the school year. The price tag for summer school is generally low. Many schools request a donation from families or the options may be free. Preschools often have summer sessions too, so this is a good option for your younger kids. My preschooler doesn’t need to know about the “summer break” idea yet, but where I am, the summer is just as expensive as the school year. If you have little ones, summer might be a good time to check out a different preschool that may have lower-cost summer options.
  3. Trade child care. This is helpful during the school year too, but can be critical during the summer. Finding another family that you can trade childcare with can be a game-changer. For example, you drop your two kids at a friends’ house on Mondays and Wednesdays for a certain amount of time, and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays the kids are at your house. Now, if you need to work a lot of hours, this setup may not work, or you’ll have to employ additional strategies (like maximizing your productivity when the kids aren’t home). You might be cringing at the idea of having morekids in your house, but depending on their ages, I find it’s become easier to have other kids over- my kids play more, fight less, and I can often get work done even with a busier house.

Get yourself out of the house:

  1. Hire a babysitter. Yes, this will cost money, but you know the saying, “It takes money to make money.” Hiring a sitter, then getting out of the house with a very clear list of priorities is going to help you get your work done. Even though you can work from home, if you’re paying a sitter, get out of the house. It will be a nice change of pace and you’ll be able to work free of kid-distraction
  2. Work off-hours. I’m writing this sentence at 8:41pm at a Starbucks, on Sunday. Though I’m sometimes exhausted at the end of the day, I love that I have the option to do my work at odd times. Though this might not be ideal, remember it’s only for a couple of months and consider using your days to hang with the kids, or sneak in a bit of work, but then get up earlier or stay up later to get the bulk of your work done.  
  3. Take field trips. This strategy won’t work for all kids, but the idea with this one is that you head somewhere you can take the kids where they can safely hang out and you can work, close by. For example, maybe you take your tweens to the amusement park and you sit at a café on your laptop (check the wi-fi situation before you go!); perhaps you can take the younger kids to story time at the library, or your elementary school kids can go to the indoor play place. The idea is that you go to a place where your kids are safe and you can keep an eye on them, but you can still do your work.
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Use your time at home:

  1. Get a mother’s helper. I love the concept of a mother’s helper. They can be hard to find, but if you do, hold onto them!! A mother’s helper is a bit different than a babysitter because you’re generally home with a mother’s helper, they tend to be a bit younger, taking on fewer responsibilities (again, you’re at home to keep an eye on things), which means you can pay them a bit less. A mother’s helper is more of an older playmate- this is the perfect job for an older child in your family or a tween or young teen in the neighborhood. So, while your helper is playing with the kids, you can be working. Then you might pause to make lunch but can get back to work while your helper and the kids eat and then get back to playing.
  2. Adjust your schedule. If your kids will be home most of the day and you’re not able to get enough work done, for the summer, adjust your work hours as much as you can. For example, wake up earlier or sleep in when the kids do (if you can!) and work after bedtime. Consider batching tasks to help with productivity or think about how to schedule your kid’s time so that you have time to work. For example, maybe you have a daily quiet-hour where they read, color, or do puzzles and you work. Or, schedule their screen time and make sure that you’re working then too!
  3. Get outside. If you have a yard or outdoor space, set up some outdoor activities for your kids, plant yourself in the shade where you can still get the wi-fi and get to work! You can keep an eye on everyone and still get some of your work done. Kids can play outside for hours, so think about the age of your kids and what they’d find appealing. But don’t forget the sunscreen and the water!

Keep the kids busy at home:

  1. Have arts and crafts, books, and STEM activities on hand. Summer is prime time for “I’m bored” syndrome. Even when they’ve got camps or activities, kids are much less-scheduled in the summer so they need reminders about how to use their time. Make sure you have things for them to do if they can’t come up with something themselves. Try to build some money into the budget at the start of summer so that your kids can pick out some things to have on hand for those “I don’t have anything to do” moments that you know are coming. 
  2. Visit the library to check out books. I love the library. Good books, free activities, passes for museums and events, and did I mention the books? Consider a weekly visit (Most libraries have a children’s and/or teen’s sections, so bring your laptop- you might get a few things done while you’re there), but bring books home to keep kids busy while you work.
  3. The TV is your friend. No, we don’t want too much screen time, but we also need to pay the bills, right? So don’t feel bad if there are times where you need your kids to watch just one more movie so that you can get your work done. Ideally, we don’t have to do this every day, and when you use the other ideas on this list, you probably won’t have to. Don’t feel bad about the screen time- find something educational that gets your kids engaged, and then get to work.

Final thoughts: Enjoy your summer

Everyone says it: Time goes too fast, You only have 18 summers. While I tend to roll my eyes at those type of statements, they’re true. I’ve blinked and my older son is a third of the way through his time at home with us (in theory…).

Remember to enjoy summer. As someone who tends to get stressed out when I’m not able to get my work done, I need to remember that summer is a great time to relax a bit and enjoy the less-frenzied time with my kids.

Keep in mind you may need to adjust your expectations for how much you can get accomplished and work may take longer, so consider this when discussing deadlines (don’t tell people you need more time because of kids, but don’t promise something in a week when you know your kids will be home 24/7 and that type of work requires hours of focused time). 

You might also find it beneficial to talk with your kids at the start of summer (and the start of each week, and day if needed), about the fact that you need to work, and what they can expect from you for the day.

When kids have a clearer understanding of what to expect, they’re likely more able to respect your time. For example, “I have to work for one hour- you need to keep yourself busy. And then we can go to the park.”

If you are able, consider taking on more projects in the months leading up to and after summer and lighten up your load in the summer months. If you have anchor clients, perhaps you can ask about assigning more work now that would normally come in the summer. 

Summers as a parent and a freelancer bring some challenges but with planning and being intentional, you can make the most of being a work-from-home parent and enjoy the summer with your kids while still getting your work done. Use these 12 tips on their own, or in combination to help you survive them summer working from home, with kids.

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