There's a lot to love about summer: extra hours of daylight, a more laidback schedule, and permission to chase a little more fun and adventure.
But for this mama who works from home, summer is the most stressful season for me.
For the past four years, I've worked about 20 hours a week. I make my own schedule and can work from home or my local coffee shop, and—10 months out of the year, anyway—this works out pretty great.
I make enough money to contribute toward our monthly budget in a meaningful way, I get to do work that is challenging and fulfilling, and my flexibility is a great compliment to my husband's job that has heavy travel demands and a more unpredictable schedule.
From August to May, my son goes to the elementary school just down the street, while my daughter attends a preschool twice a week less than 10 minutes from our house. On any given week, I can typically count on 12 childcare hours during which I can have a meeting, make phone calls and work, uninterrupted; the rest of my work time is sprinkled into nap times and evenings after the kids are in bed.
With working from home there's always a bit of blurriness between work and non-work hours, but our day-to-day consistency makes it possible for me to draw reasonably clear lines around the hours I devote to my job.
And then summer arrives and upends every last bit of my neat, predictable schedule. Suddenly, I have two energetic kids with me all day, every day, but the same job responsibilities and deadlines to juggle.
Where I once had clear hours for work and clear hours for kids neatly separated, now I find myself trying to have a conference call in one room while my children are having a pillow fight battle in the other.
(If you think that sounds like a poor combination, well, you're right.)
By the end of most days I feel frazzled, drained, and like no one got my best efforts.
Not my work, that was completed in fits and starts all day long between activities and swimming lessons and enforcing timeouts and fixing endless meals and snacks. And certainly not my children, who were told to be quiet more times than I care to count.
I don't have the option of putting my job on hold for two months, but it's also unreasonable for my kids to spend huge chunks of the day in silence so I can work like I'm used to.
Childcare seems like the obvious answer.
Unfortunately, most of the summer camps and childcare programs in our area assume that I need full-time care (I don't) and that I have a full-time-level income with which to pay for it (also, no). While I don't make enough money to justify the cost of camps, I work too many hours to try and skate by on cramming my work into the corners of the day.
What's a part-time working gal to do? One word: improvise.
I found a high school student to babysit one day a week, giving me a dedicated set of hours during which I can schedule meetings and calls. My 11-year-old niece comes over one or two mornings for a few hours to entertain the kids so that I can work without being asked to "watch this, Mom!" every five minutes.
After that? Well, it's two months of late nights, early mornings, and a pretty sizeable caffeine habit. It's not ideal, but two months of chaos seems like a reasonable price to pay for 10 months of a schedule that works really well for our family right now.
I do my best to be fully present for the fun parts of summer, without letting my workload suffer too greatly. I'm the first to admit that I don't get that balance right every single day, but it's my hope that I hit the mark more than I miss it.
Although, just between us, I did add another appointment to the very colorful Google calendar that helps me keep my tenuous grip on sanity right now. August 6, the first day of school: 60 minute massage.
After the summer madness, I think I'm gonna need it.
A version of this post was published June 25, 2018. It has been updated.