Here in Colorado, school has been out for a couple of weeks. Elsewhere in the U.S., summer vacation is fast approaching. If you’re a freelancing mom or dad, it’s both the best of times and the worst of times! Each morning in the summer, I wake up and have a little gratitude moment: I’m grateful for a job that is so flexible; I’m grateful for a husband who supports both my work and my parenting; I’m grateful for a child who enjoys spending time with me; I’m grateful that I have a wonderful group of friends with kids of similar ages; I’m grateful that I enjoy what I do for work. On the flip side, if it’s hard to fit a semi-full-time job into the regular school schedule, it’s really hard to fit a semi-full-time job into the summer, no-school schedule. What’s a freelancing mom or dad to do?
As I see it, there are a few basic options: pay for child care in the form of a babysitter or summer camp, try to work while your kids are at home with you, work less or take the summer off, trade or barter child care or find a source of free child care, or patch together some combination of these strategies. As with all things parenting-related, I think that the ideal solution depends on how much you need or want to work, how many kids you have and how you get along with them, what financial resources you have available and how your spouse or partner (if you have one) can pitch in.
Here at the world headquarters of Thoughts on Translation, we tend to use the patchwork strategy and so far it has worked out well. Out of a 10 week summer break, we’ll be away for 3 weeks, my daughter will go to half-day or full-day camp for 5 weeks and we’ll have 2 free weeks at home. I feel that this gives me a good balance of uninterrupted work time and extra time to spend with my daughter and our friends, but I can also see that I’ll be working at night a lot more than I normally do. In addition, I think that the patchwork strategy works best if you only have one child. For example, the total tab for our 5 weeks of day camp was $1,500. Not bad as a percentage of my income, but if you are enrolling 2+ kids, the enrollment fees start to add up.
In mulling over how to plan our summer, here are a few creative solutions that I came up with; feel free to add your own!
- Enlist your kids in the planning. This summer my daughter wanted more unstructured time, so we struck a deal that when she’s not at camp, she will read or listen to an audio book for at least an hour a day while I’m working.
- Steal an hour here and an hour there. If your kids sleep later in the summer, get up as early as possible and work then. Maybe there’s an hour between when your spouse gets home and when you eat dinner; maybe you can get a netbook or small laptop and take it to the pool, park, playdates, etc. I have an Asus Eee netbook and I make a habit of always having it with me in the summer in case I get some unexpected work time.
- Get your spouse on board. Maybe your spouse can arrive early at work and then leave early, so that you can have some extra work time in the afternoons.
- Barter child care. You’re not the only one in the freelancing parent boat; maybe you could even form a child care co-op with other freelancing moms and dads. Maybe you have a friend who’s a stay at home mom or dad and wouldn’t mind watching your child (either for pay or as a trade or favor) some of the time.
- Use a less expensive babysitter while you work at home. For example, we know several neighborhood middle-schoolers who will babysit for $3-$5 per hour while a parent is home. This is a significant savings over the $10-$15 per hour that “full-fledged” babysitters in our area charge.
When my daughter was really little, a wise older woman in the supermarket line said to me, “When they’re that age, the days are long and the years are short.” I find that in the summer, that advice is still true; the days often go slowly, but when school starts I’m always amazed at how fast summer vacation went. So, the last piece of advice for freelancing moms and dads with a long, hot summer ahead? Enjoy it!!