As most parents are privy to, summer is not the time of year to get things done. Once the kids are out of school, it’s all hands on deck. After the first week of whiplash, my husband and I try to pull ourselves together, get our tag team mode on, and pursue the establishment of some sort of rhythm.
Our work demands remain the same, but the amount of time we have to complete our duties suffers a significant decrease. Without a plan, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the chaos, not to mention battling guilt on both the home and work front. Working mostly from home, my husband and I have some flexibility of when we do things; however, when kids are in your work space all day, every day, it demands a lot of intentionality to make it through. Spread thin, we feel like we are not able to accomplish much of anything, and the house looks like a physical representation of the chaos going on around us. If we don’t take the bull by the horns, summer’s lack of structure can run right over us.
Being a couple of years into having school-aged children, we are getting a better idea of what we want our summer to look like and how to strategize better for the transition. I have been guilty of not arranging enough activities for my kids, then responding by falling into my over-planning-mama-mode. I am hoping to land within a healthy medium, allowing both parents and children to feel fulfilled.
Our income doesn’t allow us to hire help during the day or to keep the kids in perpetual summer camp options so that they are boredom-free all summer long. I have to get a little creative with our calendar, so it doesn’t hurt to begin preparing weeks—if not months—in advance. But, if you are finding yourself in the middle of summer already without a plan, there is still hope for you! Thinking even one week ahead can make a huge difference in a parent’s summer sanity.
Our strategy starts with pursuing 2-4 weeks of summer camp activities for the kids, focusing on things the kids show great interest in, but don’t usually have the opportunity to explore during the school year. These few weeks of having the children occupied gives my husband and I time to tackle our biggest work projects. While it helps to line these up early in order to secure limited spots and take advantage of possible scholarships, some camps have spaces that open up last-minute due to cancellations. In fact, recently, my son was unexpectedly awarded a full scholarship for a camp happening the very next week! So, it never hurts to give a call and inquire, even the week of.
The rest of our tag teaming strategy is to divide and conquer each week day. I take the mornings to occupy the kids and he takes late afternoons. Mornings with me involve watching a few cartoons, tackling household chores, and then heading off on special outings before the heat of mid-day strikes. This is when I put our library, pool, and museum memberships to use, or hit up other moms for strategic play-date arrangements. I have found that most parents who are in the same season of life are willing to rotate watching one another’s children on a regular basis, helping all of us gain a few more needed hours.
In the late afternoon, my husband will take over so I can get a few hours of work in before dinner. He spends this time outside, chipping away at household maintenance duties while enlisting the help of the kids or allowing them to play in the yard freely.
This is how our family manages to accomplish a bit on every front: household duties, work responsibilities, family quality time and having fun. My husband and I have learned to adjust our expectations of how much work we can accomplish during the summer. There are times when we have to make up for things by working late at night, but we try not to let that happen too often, because that begins to encroach on our time alone as a couple.
The remaining few weeks and weekends of summer break are set aside for longer, planned family vacations or even for short, spontaneous road trips. These are highly anticipated times, when work and other activities wait, and we completely devote ourselves to our family—the only goal being to make memories that last.
We’re learning to accept summer for the unique season that it is, working within the time frame we are given. We want to spend these few months wisely, being able to maintain our work responsibilities while also leaving enough breathing room for rest, thoughtful investment, and spontaneous fun for the whole family.
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