Parenting and Working: How to Succeed in Managing a Different Kind of Summer

For a lot of working parents, summer has always been quite the feat, particularly for those running home-based businesses.

You may know the drill. Without the set school-year schedule, you’re piecing together a plan – often needing a spreadsheet – as you mix and match programs to accommodate your workdays during the summer.

The good news is this summer won’t be a repeat of last year’s when working parents everywhere were stuck in a pandemic-induced struggle to work with their kids underfoot at home.

Restrictions had all but eliminated the usual summer care options. Gone were most of the camps – day long or week-long – as well as the typical programs and activities home-based working parents had counted on after school ended.

But the summer of 2021 won’t be like pre-pandemic times either, bringing its own unique set of challenges for home-based working parents.

Here’s what you should know, including how to stay safe, be productive, and keep your sanity, while working and parenting this summer.

Say Yes to Summer Programs. This summer promises to offer some relief to working parents in terms of options as increased vaccinations have helped the U.S. get a grip on the pandemic and more “normal” opportunities are available for childcare.

You may still need to do some mixing and matching but take advantage of the expanded selection this summer. A growing number of centers, community programs and schools will offer face-to-face activities this summer, including those with health safety protocols in place.

Also, consider looking beyond your usual circle of care. Consider hiring a part-time nanny to help cover care gaps and errands. Though demand is typically high for nannies, driving the price up, you might be able to find a good match in the summer pool of eager college-age nannies.

Some even offer tutoring, to and after-care pickups, and ferry your kids to other activities while you work.

Create a “Later” List. Although kids at home are often blamed for their parents’ productivity woes, they’re certainly not the only source of distraction.

Those undone chores can be equally pernicious, says Laura Vanderkam, author of “The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home” and “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.”

“You sit down to ponder something important and then think, “Hey! I need to move the clothes to the dryer!” While up, you notice that there is unopened mail on the counter and … there goes 20 minutes,” writes Vanderkam in The Washington Post.

One solution is to create a to-do-later list.

“Keep a notebook next to you while you’re doing any sort of deep work. If a thought or task pops into your brain, write it there,” says Vanderkam. “Then you can tackle it ‘later’ — during a scheduled break.”   

Your Kids’ Safety This Summer

In an informal New York Times survey, experts were asked to share their thoughts about best practices this summer for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Respondents included epidemiologists, who study public health, and pediatric infectious disease physicians, who research and treat children sick with diseases like COVID-19.

The authors of the Times article, Claire Cain Miller, Margot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy sought suggestions on how parents and unvaccinated children should behave in social situations this summer.

“There was no consensus, but they mostly advised weighing the relatively small health risks against the benefits of widening children’s worlds,” said the Times writers. “As always, epidemiologists — who tend to be a very cautious group — emphasized that it would depend on the exact circumstances, and on local case rates.”

Zack Hicks, an epidemiology surveillance coordinator at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, pointed to CDC research that has shown that schools have not been major sources of community transmission.

“But extracurricular activities are a different story,” he said. “Unmasked activities among children should be limited to outdoor settings. When indoors, children should be masked.”

Ryan Carnahan, professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, said, “I would not let my kids be in crowds of strangers who were not wearing masks, like in a crowded pool. I would ask them to wear a mask with other unvaccinated people, or keep distance when eating.”

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