Sitting hunched over my laptop at six in the morning, I hear the floor creak in the kitchen and I know that my son is up.
I rush to finish typing an email and then hurriedly hit send before I close my computer and step away from my work to give him a hug.
As I prepare breakfast, my two girls enter the room as well, and my youngest asks enthusiastically, “What are we going to do today mama?”
In my mind, I’m running through a checklist of to-do items that need to be done for work before the day comes to a close, but my work will have to wait until later because it’s summer break and my kids need me.
The rest of my day is spent teeter-tottering between keeping my kids busy and taking caring of business tasks. When my kids go to bed, I return to my laptop and work until midnight.
When I was working in a full-time corporate job, one of the main reasons why I quit and decided to work for myself was the catastrophic cost of child care. To be able to work at my nine-to-five job, I had to pay close to $2,500 a month for child care for my two young children - and that didn’t include the added costs of babysitters if I had to work overtime hours or attend evening events with my spouse.
When I decided to work from home, my firstborn had just entered kindergarten. While I had thought that would reduce the rates, the price I paid for before and after school care was only slightly less. The financial burden paired with the demands of a job that required long hours, made working for myself a must-do decision.
Remote work definitely has its perks. While I still rely on part-time care for my third child, I’m saving significantly on child-care costs. I work flexible hours and work for myself. But with the pros come cons as well.
As a freelancer, I don’t always have the security of a steady income or the health benefits often provided by a corporate employer, or an allotment of vacation time (because when I’m not working, I’m not getting paid).
And when the summer months approach, so do the challenges of trying to balance a full-time workload with a house full of kids.
When people hear that I work remotely, they often assume that I have it easy. I hear regularly, comments like, “you’re so lucky you get to work from home,” and people jealously jest that I get to be “there” for my kids during the nine-week break, spending more time with them and saving on the substantial summer camp costs.
But juggling my job with a house full of my boisterous brood (and often a slew of their buddies) is no easy feat. I still rely on summer camps - which at $400-plus per child, per week, can add up quite quickly. And there are no steady work hours when you’re trying to combine work and family at the same time - the lines are constantly blurred.
As a professional, being present for my children during the summer months poses challenges, even though I may be physically there. Just like parents who work out of the home, the summer guilt still sets in, and the struggle to find support is equally as strenuous. Having your children in the same room while you work means that they are often left to their own devices, and ignored when they want your attention.
The truth is, when it comes to summer break, we as working parents are spending most of the season just trying to survive - regardless of where we work.
Whether you’re working from an out-of-home office, or working remotely from your dining room table, when it comes to the summer months for working parents, the struggle is real for us all.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.