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A Stay-at-Home Mom's Summer Frenzy

Photograph by Getty Images

This morning at our town’s famer’s market I was talking with a friend who is a freelance PR person and works from home. She asked how my summer was going and I said, “I feel as if I am up to my shoulders in a vat of molasses.” She knew exactly what I meant.

There are two parenting camps when it comes to summer break: Those who look forward to the copious amount of carefree time spent with their children, and those who don’t.

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Parents who work from home seem to often fall into the latter group. I do for sure. Not because I don’t love my four daughters, but more so because while they are home from school for three months, they (and seemingly all of the neighborhood kids) seem to spend most of their time standing, sitting or running through my office (because as a food writer, my office is my kitchen).

I always wanted to have that house. The house in which everyone felt comfortable — where every kid knew that they could get a sandwich, use the bathroom, get a drink of water or just chill out for a while. And I honestly feel fortunate to have created that atmosphere in our home.

Except when I am trying to work ... but can’t because of all the people in my office.

This has been the case all summer.

Of course, I am not alone. So many parents work from home these days, and it’s a great gig when one’s office isn’t crammed with dirty dishes, half-consumed bags of bagel chips and counters strewn with vegetable peelings.

I marched back inside, determined to have a good, productive attitude, and found the dog now vomiting up the bird’s head.

So, this summer my plan was to give in to the chaos and take on fewer deadlines until September. Just the idea of this relaxed me a bit before school let out this past June. I would just hang out with the kids; make snacks round the clock, be an ear if needed, a nurse when necessary and a chauffeur on demand.

Then, on day one of summer break, I was offered a cookbook contract — my first ever. This is something that I had been working toward for literally 20 years. I was so happy when I got the call from the publisher that I sobbed. This was more than success; it was steeped in meaning, showing what it means to be patient and tenacious and not take "no" for an answer.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of chirping birds and the warming rays of sunshine. I made breakfast for my 9-year-old twins, did the dishes, tidied up the kitchen and was ready to get down to work after I drove one of the twins to her "reading camp." I returned home and realized that one of my teenage daughters had woken up and made herself breakfast, leaving the kitchen a wreck. Still trying to hear the birds chirping, I yelled up to my daughter Claire and asked her to come down and clean up the kitchen. Now. Please. Although it took 15 minutes, she did eventually come down and clean up.

The sun was still shining but the birds had quieted. I mean that they literally quieted because at exactly that moment, one of our three dogs very proudly pranced inside with a headless bird in her mouth. I chased her (and the bird body) around the house as my other 9-year-old alternated between screaming and hiding her face in her hands. Finally catching the dog, I pried the bird from her jaws, carried it out outside, placed it beneath a bush and said a little prayer. I marched back inside, determined to have a good, productive attitude, and found the dog now vomiting up the bird’s head.

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I won’t bore you with details of the rest of the day, except to say that the morning was the calmest part.

I can’t help but wonder what other work-at-home parents do with children during summer break. What do you do? How do you stay productive ... or do you stay productive?

I’ll be here, stuck in my self-made vat of molasses, waiting for your advice.

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