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Work-From-Home Summertime Blues

Work-From-Home Summertime Blues

By Amalah

Amy,

I am really hoping you can give me some advice. Before I had my oldest child I was a high school math teacher. When he was born I started a tutoring business. It was a great way to stay at home and still work. Two years ago I was offered a job working remotely for a brokerage firm. I really love the job, and most of the time the schedule is ideal. Except in the summer. You know, when the kids live here all day long.

I have 4 kids (ages 9, 8, 6, and 3). I have to work every morning from 8-11, and the rest of the hours I can do on my time. During the school year I usually work 35 hours a week, and in the summer I try and do 25. The first week the kids were home was awful. Really, really awful. I tried to have things for them to do and a checklist. They fought constantly and were interrupting me every 3 seconds. I have to take a lot of calls in the morning, so that doesn’t go over well. Each day I would end up caving and just allowing a lot of screen time. My kids have been visiting grandparents the last few weeks and I’ve gotten a shitload of work done.

We leave tomorrow for Europe and that will bring me to the end of July. I really have no idea what to do for the last 4 weeks of summer. We live in a really small rural town, and camps aren’t really an option. Most of them are just a few hours (and don’t start until 9) and there is nothing I can find for the three year old. I could get a babysitter, but that’s a lot of money to watch all four kids five days a week for a month.

I know you work from home, so do you have any great suggestions? Do I just suck it up and pay for a babysitter? Any advice is appreciated.

Best,
A

Ohhhhh am I right there with you, lady. Working from home in the summer, with multiple children who are just so HERE and LOUD and INCAPABLE of staying off each others’ nerves (and mine), is very, very challenging. I signed my kids up for as many camps as possible (we use my husband’s flex spending account to get as much coverage as we can), and I’m still facing down multiple weeks of trying to work while all three of them are home and camp-less. This is one of those weeks! Hopefully I can type a few paragraphs for you without too many interruptions.

(Six year old just entered office to show me his Captain Underpants costume, which is exactly what you’d expect.)

So I don’t know if this is an option for you, but instead of a full-priced bona fide babysitter, try to find a younger “mother’s helper” sort of arrangement. This could be a kid on the cusp of babysitting age (like 11-12) who isn’t ready to be left completely alone and unsupervised with children, but who can be trusted to run interference and supervise just enough to keep them out of your hair. We’re using the 13-year-old younger brother of one of our college-aged babysitters starting next week — he’s not charging much at all per hour as it’s more of an intern/gaining experience/reference building sort of thing for him.

(And my own 11 year old really doesn’t need to be “watched” per se; this is more to keep the younger two entertained and the arguing/squabbling to a minimum. The mother’s helper tasks are mostly about keeping everybody away from my office and not letting them completely trash the house in the meantime.)

(Oh. Said 11 year old just entered office to tell me about a dream he had last night. I was there! Fascinating!)

This week, we’re just going to muddle along the best we can. I do the personalized chore checklist/schedule thing (and try to avoid too many collaborative or team-based chores since I’ll just hear about who isn’t pulling their weight every 30 seconds), and yes, screen time is the reward for getting everything on the list done. The faster they power through their list (which also includes non-chore stuff like “play outside for X time” and “have a snack” and “draw a comic book”), the more screen time they get at the end of the day. Which: Well, that is what it is, because you have to do what you have to do.

Your kids’ ages make this approach tough, since a 3 year old is just going to need/expect more supervision and entertainment than the older ones. I definitely relied on PBS Kids and Nick Jr. a LOT more when I had a kid under 5 in the summer. And there probably aren’t three solid hours’ worth of unsupervised chores/activities you can assign to a kid that young. Is there an older one who they get along especially well with? Maybe you could assign an older sibling to be the 3yo’s “buddy” for the day, mother’s helper style, with an extra reward for no fighting or interruptions? I don’t know.

(Annnnnnnd the 8 year old just told me the 6 year old isn’t doing his half of the dishwasher and also showed him his butt. We have the interruption trifecta!)

In my “do-as-I-say-not-as-I’m-doing-this-week” experience, finding some actual proper childcare really does end up being “worth it” since 1) I actually can focus and do good work and thus make the moneys, and 2) I’m not constantly snapping and yelling at my children, which isn’t exactly #SummerMomGoals. If you can find a younger preteen or teenager eager to get some babysitting experience under their belt (and willing to do it for just a few dollars an hour), that’s probably your best bet. Or at least something you can aim to have in place for NEXT summer, when yay! We get to do this all over again.

Photo source: Depositphotos/yobro10

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • M

    I do think that you need to get a babysitter for the 25-35 hours per week that you are working from home. I know it will be expensive, but I just don’t think it is realistic to expect the kids to be on their own without supervision, and you can’t supervise while you are working. Could you do some of your work in the evening when your husband is home? That could cut down on some babysitter hours. Or could you trade babysitting with a friend where she watches your kids in the morning, and you watch her kids in the afternoon or on the weekend? I also think you should let them have as much screen time as they want when you are working, as long as whatever they are watching is appropriate. Good luck!

  • E

    Are the older two perhaps old enough to help out at a trusted neighbor’s place? A lot older kids/tweens in my area volunteer on local farms (sometimes in exchange for riding lessons!). If you could find something for the older two the babysitting for the younger ones would (hopefully!) be less expensive.

  • I was going to suggest swapping kid-watching with a neighbor, but M beat me to it.

    I totally ditto hiring a mother’s helper or an outright babysitter. It’s an investment in KEEPING your job through the Summer so you can go back to doing it peacefully throughout the rest of the year.

  • Caroline Bowman

    What does their father suggest you jointly do as a couple to solve your joint childcare issue? I know, I know, I sound so… sour. But this is a problem for you both. Of course you work from home and of course your income is likely to be somewhat secondary and of course the idea is that you are the at-home parent… but that’s during the school year. During the long holidays, I’m afraid it’s got to be a team effort. You’ve both just had four weeks off, the grandparents have helped out quite considerably by the sounds of things. You got stuck with the first week. What is his suggestion for the remaining four weeks to ensure you don’t lose your job completely?

    It annoys me endlessly that women look at it as ”I need to be able to try and afford” when they have another parent in the picture. No. You BOTH need to look at your finances together to come up with a cost-effective way to deal with this situation, one that does not involve you sucking ALL of it up, 100%. You already do a lot, and now, for just a few weeks out of the 52 in a year, it’s collaboration time.

    You need a morning sitter and ideally you need it somewhere not at home. If they know you’re there, you’re sunk. Can you trade mornings with anyone else for afternoons? There may be parents out there tearing their hair out who would take them from, say, 8-11 if you then taken theirs from 1-4pm or whatever, even just a couple of days each week. That would alleviate some of the load at the very least.

    • CKD1

      This is amazing.

  • L

    This is a timely post! Thanks to a ridiculous school schedule and no available aftercare, I’m looking at working from home (basically to watch the five year old, because our city is the opposite of kid friendly and we have no options/cash to pay for a babysitter/nanny for literally a few hours a day because they are so expensive here). I’m terrified! How does one actually get anything worthwhile done with all the interruptions. And that’s just one kid!! Kudos to you, OP – you are already doing amazing things. And I totally second the mother’s helper, that’s what I’m going to be looking for. I remember doing that when I was young (12?), and it was good experience and I felt SO responsible 🙂 As for the post about your partner helping out – can we assume that you have talked about it? And that your partner has an inflexible work schedule? Because I’ve been on that end (the one with the inflexible work schedule) and it’s really sad when people assume that I’m not supportive of my husband or an equal partner in finding solutions. But sometimes we don’t have the cash or we want to save my PTO for an actual vacation OR sometimes I struggle with deadlines and work stuff that just…yeah. I have to bring home that paycheck, because without it no mortgage. I get that in an ideal world, we should always be 50/50, but sometimes that’s just not realistic, as much as I wish it could be, especially when one or both parents are in a competitive field or have a project/deadline driven job. Just saying – let’s assume the best at least sometimes 🙂