Karen Green: Out Of My Element


Give Me Five More Minutes, Kids

Summers are tricky when you work from home

Although I quit my full-time job, moved 300km and began a completely new and different life to be able to spend more time with my kids, I still have to dedicate a chunk of my week to working.

I can manage this during the school year, even though my youngest only goes part-time. But soon, we’re going to have to come up with a new game plan.

Summer is coming.

I love summer. I’m all for lazy, unscheduled days, and impulse trips to the lake or the movies or the stables or the children’s museum. I’m all for picnics in the backyard and afternoons at the splash park. I know that the word-count for my novel won’t be advancing much for two months, and I’m ok with that. But I am a freelance writer, and the important part of that title is not the ‘free’ part. At some point, even if the sun is shining, I’ve got to do some paid work. The ever-elusive concept of balance will have to be addressed.

So what to do with the kids?

They’ll be in camp for a few weeks (not in a row), and they are old enough that I am able to say, go play in the backyard, but they are young enough that they will only play for so long before they come looking for me. Short of locking myself in the bathroom (tempting), I’m going to have to find a way to keep them busy while I keep working.

Last year, I gave them the Lego challenge — they had all summer to create a universe using every single piece of Lego that we have. And we have a lot. On rainy days, on really hot days and on days when I was otherwise occupied for a bit, the girls went down to the playroom and went to town on the Lego. By time school began again, we could see the bottom of the 60 litre bin that the Lego had been stored in. The challenge had been a success, on many levels.

This year, I’m trying to come up with something similar, but I don’t think the Lego thing would work again. So what should I do? I could have them organize the Tupperware cupboard — it would probably take all summer — but I don’t know how enthusiastically that would be embraced. So I’ve come up with a shortlist of activities that will consume their time, hold their attention, and allow me to get a little bit of work done with two young kids in the house.

Buy a 1,000 piece puzzle and have them complete it without my help. PROS — will take all summer. CONS — 5 year-old will lose interest almost immediately.

Gather materials for them to create a scrapbook of the previous year. PROS — creative, nice keepsake, good for 5- and 8 year-old. CONS — I hate scrapbooking and don’t want to have to keep procuring decorative photo corners that will end up all over the house anyway.

Challenge them to colour every picture in a gigantic colouring book. PROS — not messy. CONS — boring.

Come up with a ‘craft-a-day’ calendar; put ideas into a jar, have them choose an idea when necessary. PROS — fun, creative, different every day. CONS — that’s a lot of planning.

Create-a-Cookbook – give them access to all of my cookbooks and have them copy all of their favourites into their own volume. PROS — transcribing recipes by hand takes a really long time. CONS — boring

Latch-hook a pillow, needlepoint a picture on plastic canvas, cork a rug. PROS — kids will learn valuable, sustainable skills, and have something nice to show for it. CONS — just because it takes me 10 years to complete a craft project doesn’t mean it will take them as long.

In the end, I think balance will be achievable only if I have buy-in from all parties, so I’m off to hit Pinterest, scour the bookstore, and of course, pick the kids’ brains for ideas.

And like it or not, I forsee a lot of late working nights or early working mornings in my future, where the only thing I’ll be balancing is my computer on one leg, and a cup of coffee on the other.

So what will you do to keep your kids busy this summer when you need some time for yourself?