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Flexibility and family time top the reasons most parents decide to work from home. But the idyllic daydream of lounging by a pond, sipping lemonade with the kids happily splashing nearby (and all the while making money!) is quickly interrupted by the reality of summer vacation. The kids are home all day and ready for attention, not to mention fun. Now how will you – successful, busy work-at-home Mom or Dad – get your work done and still be a great parent?

Managing busy summertime work and play schedules can be hectic — sometimes downright stressful — for even the most organized among us. Until now, school days provided an almost eight-hour workday free from most distractions, and after school activities were just that, after school – and thus, after your workday.

Summertime schedules differ greatly. Fun, safe and educational summer programs abound to occupy kids of all ages, but they typically do not last eight hours each day. Unless you’re willing to take on the expense of a daycare-type program to free up several hours each day, you’ll have to get creative and do a little research and planning to make time for both work and family.

Have a plan for work and for fun
First, take a moment to review your at-home work routine. How many hours each day are required to accomplish your work tasks? Do you require a quiet setting? Do you need to meet clients or be available per their schedules? Do you typically work during the day, with the kids in school, or at night after they’re in bed? Do you work weekends, a few days a week, or strictly Monday through Friday?

Now see where you can build in flexibility and family time during the summer months. Can a five-day work schedule allow for one or two complete days off if more hours are worked on the other three? Can you squeeze all of your work into a few hours each day if you have complete quiet?

After you have defined your work requirements and areas for flexibility, it’s time to look for activities for the kids that fit your work schedule, your kids’ interests, and your budget.

Many organizations offer part-day summer programs for school-aged kids. Some, like those at your local library may be free, while others generally carry program fees to cover staff and materials. Places to check include your school system, area junior colleges, local libraries, churches, community theater groups, local parks, zoos, museums, neighborhood recreation and community centers, and of course, the YMCA and scouting groups.

With a little planning, you can schedule a combination of activities throughout the summer to give your kids fun, new experiences while providing the time you need to concentrate on work. Don’t forget to check within your parent network, too. You may find some great activities with carpool opportunities built in!

Remember to take time off!
Ask anyone who works for themselves or sets their own schedule — one of the hardest things to do is schedule time off. If you find this a challenge, don’t delay scheduling time off this summer, do it now – and stick to it! Even if you don’t have any travel plans or big ideas for a vacation, take time off to spend with your family – maybe just sitting by a pond sipping lemonade…

After all, that’s why you chose to work from home in the first place!