You know what I mean: Lazy, carefree days, full of sun and fun. Frolicking with my family like they do on those vacation destination commercials. Lounging by the pool.
Unfortunately, summer usually doesn’t give me “Good Vibrations.” Instead, it causes an involuntary twitch.
For most of the past 16 years, I have been either a stay-at-home mom or a work-at-home mom. Either way, my home is my full-time workplace.
And every June, my two beautiful children and my high school teacher husband upset my predictable schedule apple cart. I truly love being with them more.
But day after day of hours to fill (for them) + work to do and deadlines to meet (for me) = aforementioned twitch.
My kids and husband endured too many summers with a stressed-out mom/wife before I finally discovered a few strategies to mix fun and productivity:
1. Set Realistic Expectations. I used to think that I’d be able to continue my schedule as I always had, even though three more people were present during my prime productivity hours. Silly, silly woman. I’d become resentful and stressed when I couldn’t complete tasks in the way I did when they were in school. I expected them to work around me. Completely unrealistic. I finally realized it was easier for me to change my routine than expect three people to conform to mine.
2. Find creative structure. Although I needed to be flexible, the cold, hard truth was that stuff needed to get done. I’m a writer. And articles don’t write themselves. And inspiration rarely comes in a summer free-for-all. So, I called my church office and asked if they had a room that was available two or three mornings a week where I could work. I arrive there early, get in a few quiet, uninterrupted hours of work and then go home by noon or 1 p.m. I’ve been productive, so it allows me to relieve the pressure and enjoy my family when I get home. This is possible with older kids. With younger kids, having a pre-determined schedule of work/chores/errands (for both you and the kids) in the morning can help get productivity out of the way, so that unstructured, unpredictable afternoons are less stressful.
3. Hang loose. While structure is important, it can’t be rigid. This is what I call being “interruptible.” I strive for this year-round, but I’ve found it’s especially necessary during summer. Summer breeds a “vacation” mentality. Kids want to be spontaneous. Opportunities present themselves that aren’t there during the school year. They want to go and do. I have to be willing to let go of my plan now and then and just go with the flow.
4. Make a “go to” activities list. When my kids were younger, they would utter the most terrifying phrase during the summer: “I’m bored!” Somehow, I always felt like I had to solve it. One summer, I decided to sit down with them and write a list of activities that they thought were fun. The list included going to the library, playing with the neighbor kids, making a slip-and-slide in the back yard. I posted it on the refrigerator. When they would utter that scary phrase, I’d direct them to the list.
5. Tackle projects together. If you’re like me, you always have lofty dreams of getting some procrastinated projects done during the summer. Whatever the project, it always gets done faster and with more enjoyment when it’s not done alone. When they’re assigned projects to do on their own (especially big ones like “Clean your room”), kids tend to get distracted and lose steam. And then Mom gets frustrated and it all goes downhill from there.
Have these five steps haven’t transformed my summers into a lazy, carefree days of frolicking? Nope. Haven’t had one of those since I was about 10 years old.
But these strategies have kept my mind mostly intact and my twitch mostly at bay.
Sanity is such a terrible thing to waste.