Tell me if this scene sounds familiar. You’re about to join a conference call and have spent the last 15 minutes beseeching your children to please, please keep the noise level to a muted roar. You join the call and just as you’re reviewing the slides you’re about to present, you hear it – the unmistakable and incessant bickering that children seem to reserve for when their parents are desperate for quiet. This nightmare doesn’t just unfold for working moms, as this dad’s hilarious account of being interrupted during a live radio interview by his arguing kids proves.
In my case, my home office is directly off the landing of the stairs down to the playroom. It’s incredible how a stairwell can amplify the sound of children hollering. And I will freely admit to having muted the phone while threatening my kids to keep it down or else!
Balancing work against the needs of children is a given for a working parent, but the summer months present a particular challenge. For all that school introduces stresses and pressures, it also provides structure for kids and their parents. If you don’t really need full-time childcare during the school year, you may find yourself at a loss during the dog days of summer.
Here’s my summer time survival guide for busy working moms. Disclaimer: my kids no longer require constant supervision, so these tips are geared toward slightly older kids. What are your top tips?
1) Add Structure to the Day
My kids like structure. I’ve found that giving them a short list of things to do on any given day can make a tremendous difference in terms of household harmony. I’m talking about simple things like, a) bring your laundry up, b) clean your fish tank (before the fish all croak), and c) take that book back to the library. Simple chores that require cooperating with siblings are an added bonus.
2) Let ‘em Be
Yes, I know that my first point was about maintaining a measure of discipline. But a little goes a long way and it’s the summer, after all. Let them play in the dirt and be responsible for deciding how to spend their time. Goodness knows they’ve got their fill of responsibilities when school is in session.
3) The Library Is Your Friend
Have you ever noticed how libraries can feel like a wonderfully hushed cocoon? Have you also noticed how calming a library can be for over-stimulated children? Let your kids peruse the aisles of your local library and choose a few books to bring home. Give them a few bucks to spend on donated books that you library might be selling. Then offer a silent thank you when you get home as you watch your kids reading (quietly) on the family room couch.
4) A Little Extra Screen Time Is A-OK
No screen time during the school week is a cardinal rule in our house. It might sound harsh to you but it works for us. When school’s out, this rule falls by the wayside. I figure that if 30 minutes on an iPad will preserve the peace in our house, then that’s a fair exchange. We try hard to keep screen time within reason, but hey, sometimes we fail.
5) Work It, Baby
Make sure to give your kids plenty of reasons to get outside, run around, and enjoy the sunshine (don’t forget the sunscreen). Kids have seemingly boundless stores of energy. Encourage them to take it outside. I find that if my kids are cooped up inside all day, they’re much more likely to argue, fuss, and fight.