Ahhhh…those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer.
Except there’s not a lot of lazy and there is a whole lot of crazy.
How can a woman stay sane as routines change, kids get bored a hundred times, vacations happen and that pesky job thing keeps expecting you to show up?
It’s been several years since I had to go through this, so I took a jaunt through the ether and here is the best of what I found.
Naturally, as a STEM professional, I think the perfect summer begins with planning.
And there’s planning on two levels: the macro and the micro. Here’s what I mean.
On the macro level, get a paper or digital calendar out and put in the known dates such as when school ends, when it begins again, and known dates you don’t have to work.
Then add all the other dates: like when you’d like to take time off work and what weeks are available for the kids to go to summer camp. When is the family visiting or that family reunion? Get it on the calendar, and then post it where everyone can see it.
Now you have a framework to start filling in the blanks. That’s the macro planning that sets the stage for your long-term mental health. If you know your expenses will be higher during the summer due to camps, vacations or hiring childcare, start this macro planning well in advance! Even the previous fall might not be too early!
Micro planning helps with the day-to-day sanity. It’s that type of planning that seems laborious up-front, but saves brain cells every day.
- Summer food: Rule of thumb is to keep all meals simple. Cold cuts, cheese and a crunchy french baguette can be a dinner. If it’s simple, it can be adjusted to an instant picnic outside or at the beach. Or even an indoor picnic if the weather has been too hot or rainy to be outside all day. Plan for the endless grazing that happens all day. Buy bulk for healthy snacks or even the single serving size of less healthy snacks. After all, it’s easier to have self restraint if there are only four cookies in a packet rather than four dozen!
- Have a first aid kit ready and waiting. Sunburns, bee stings, cuts and scrapes are all likely consequences of summer fun, so have first aid for these things ready for the kids to grab quickly, rather than having to call you out of a meeting to tell them where the bandages are located.
- Consider your car, or the car of the kids’ primary caregiver, as a mobile command center. Keep these items ready for use at a moments notice. Kids can go from happy to cranky in five minutes, so the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” rules.
Every mom I know looks forward to the end of the rigid routines of the school year. Bus or pick up times, homework, practices, games – most of it ends in the summer with a sigh of relief.
But most humans actually thrive with some structure to their days, so make sure to have the new, more relaxed summer routines outlined. Think about:
- What time is an acceptable time to sleep until?
- What chores must be done every day? By whom?
- What’s an acceptable amount of TV time? Video game time?
- What rules do we need in place? Chores before TV? When is it OK to call mom or dad? When is a text OK? How fast of a response is expected?
- What time is a reasonable bed time?
Also, add in some parent-child fun time in the evenings. Run through the sprinklers, have a squirt gun war, heck, just go get ice cream (cones are only a dollar at McDonald’s!).
Flexibility is important, but having some structure to the day will keep everyone more sane.
Summer: Kids Activities
Approximately two hours into summer vacation, children will start the “I’m bored” cry. I don’t know what it is, but it happens. And I don’t know when it started, but when did becoming a mother come with the responsibility of keeping our children occupied 100% of the time?
Other than day-long summer camps, the internet offered up these tips that I thought sounded pretty good for the busy working mom.
Having a mom in STEM means there’s a high probability that your child has an aptitude for science as well. For a fun sidebar, watch this one minute video from Dilbert on having “the knack”. This article lists 22 Outdoor Science Experiments that can keep those creative juices flowing in the summer.
Another idea is to have your kids sit down and brainstorm dozens of different activities. Write each one on a slip of paper and put them in a “Boredom Jar”. When that inevitable “I’m bored!” erupts, you have a ready solution. Have them pull from the Boredom Jar and they have to do what’s on the paper. This can be things like color, do a puzzle, build a fort, play a board game, etc.
My last suggestion to keep the kids occupied is to volunteer with your children somewhere they find interesting. All throughout her teenage years, my daughter and I volunteered at a local farm. We learned a lot about animals and farming, spent quality time together and felt like we were giving back to our community in a meaningful way.
I want to close this article with this thought. Mindset matters.
If you go into the summer dreading it, odds are that’s what you’re going to feel all summer long.
If you think of June, July and August as idyllic days of sunshine and relaxing with no responsibilities, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
So think about how you want your summer to go. And make decisions on how to make that happen.
You have a vested interest in keeping your kids out of trouble, but you also have a vested interest in making them self-sufficient, too. How can you balance that this summer?
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: “Mommy! At survival camp I learned how to make an iPod from mud and twigs!”