When you're a kid, summer means playing outside with friends, swimming in the pool, visits to grandma's house and summer camp. When you're a working parent, summer is torture. Ok, maybe not every day is that bad, but it's hard.
It's hard when you want to spend the day hanging poolside with your kids but still have a full-time job. It's hard balancing a vacation when they're not in school with your service member's block leave and your limited vacation time. It's why I advocate childcare when at all possible when someone says they're going to be working from home.
But enter 2020, and the latest gif showing someone throwing everything out the window.
Summer camps -- nope. Vacations -- nope. Regularly scheduled childcare -- nope. Take away the fun things, the free things and the helpful things. For some of us, add in a service member who is also working from home while fighting against 245 years of Army tradition that screams "you must be working in an office to be working."
In short, it's a mess -- a dramatic, emotional mess.
But there are still some ways to make it work. Here are our ideas.
1. Make a schedule. Make a beautiful schedule with meal times, work times and play time. Try to split things evenly among both working parents, or schedule in outside play for over your weekly staff meeting. Encourage your kids to look at the schedule if they can read, or remind them if they can't then when the door is closed you're working and they should go to their other parent.
2. Be creative with work hours. If you regularly work from home, you know that work doesn't have to be done between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Even if you usually work in an office, things are different. Try getting up earlier and getting a few hours in before your new coworkers wake. Take advantage of rest time (yes, children of all ages can take a rest) and be open to working in the evenings or weekends if required.
3. Stop apologizing. Everyone is off their game right now. Almost everyone has spent some time on a conference call with Fortnite playing in the background, dodging dueling conference calls or shoving snacks in their toddler's face so they stop screaming. Stop apologizing for it. This is what it means to be a parent. And if your boss or coworkers have forgotten this, it's a great time to remind them.
4. Do one thing well. You can be a great parent or a great employee. You cannot -- at least I cannot -- do both of them well at the same time. So I stopped trying. I rearrange tasks so I can do some while also watching the kids play. I stop work to spend time devoted to them and then I shut the door and get work done. You can have it all, but not all at once.
5. Explain it to the kids. This is truly the secret. Kids, even younger kids, understand life. When you say, "I'm going to work for the next hour, I'm locking the door, ask your dad if you need something," they truly do understand. They still may ignore you, but they get it. Explain to your kids that you have to work, and you want to be able to finish so you can go to the pool or go for a walk. Then watch as they figure out the faster you get done the faster you can play. It really does work.
6. Remember it's just a season. Imagine your last deployment. Remember knowing it was going to end, without actually knowing when? That's what this is. At some point, we'll send these kids back to school and daycare and we'll revert back to normal, or establish a "new normal." It's a season, a hard, lonely season, but a season just the same.
Some people have their kids home all the time when trying to work, some do it just in the summer and others are trying desperately to hang on until school starts again in the fall. Either way, we're all in this together, learning as we go and realizing that work, while important, is not always the most important thing.
What's your go-to tip for working from home with kids this summer?
Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life
For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to Military.com and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.