For many families, the approach of summertime has kids jumping for joy at the school year’s end and brings the anticipation of pool trips, picnics, and sleeping in. And the excitement is there for us moms, too.
But as thrilling as the season is, summer doesn’t come without challenges.
Whether you’re a work at home mom, a mom working outside the home, or a stay at home mom, you and your kid(s) might face some of these common summer struggles:
- Cabin fever
- Lack of alone time, structure, or routine
- Planning and paying for adventures
- Sibling rivalry
- Finding childcare
- Hearing “I’m bored” once or twice…or a hundred times
Though it’s tricky to eliminate any of these struggles completely, you can establish personal boundaries and systems to help keep yourself grounded and present and to keep your family — and your professional life — thriving through the summer months.
Here are some summer-saving strategies to add to your toolkit.
1. Communicate your needs
Communication is key in navigating the unique challenges of parenting during the summer.
You can’t expect your employer, partner, babysitter, or anyone else in your network to know what your needs are, so tell them!
If you need to adjust your work schedule during the summertime, talk to your manager or HR. Not everyone has the luxury of flexibility in work, so summers may require some creativity and some sacrifices on your part. But don’t assume you don’t have options. While we have a long way to go overall in accommodating for moms, many organizations pride themselves in having a family-friendly culture and work-life balance provisions.
If you employ a nanny, babysitter, or mother’s helper during the summers, be clear about your expectations. What exactly do you expect as far as pay, household duties, phone use, body safety and abuse prevention, having guests, and screen time? Spell it out, write it out, and display your guidelines in a visible place.
Meaningful family activities usually require meaningful planning and discussion. If it’s not on the calendar, it probably won’t happen! At the start of summer, have a family brainstorm session where everyone gets to write or draw pictures of things they’d like to do during the summer. You could hang a stretch of butcher paper, make a giant chalkboard out of the driveway, or give everyone several notecards to tape on the wall.
Then, discuss all of the ideas and pencil them into a master calendar displayed for easy access. Hold on to the ideas you didn’t have room for on the calendar. If a certain plan falls through or if you find yourselves with an unexpected window of time, you have a ready-made list of options for family fun.
Determine what you expect from your kids as far as daily responsibilities, behavior, and family rules. Make summertime responsibilities distinct from those of the rest of the year. Then make it visual! Kids thrive when you focus on positive reinforcement so consider implementing a system that showcases their progress in one of these ways:
- Use a paper sticker chart
- Make a dry erase board checklist
- Paint a chalk paint wall for communicating
- Fill a jar with pom poms
Enlist your children’s help in meal planning and preparation by assigning each family member a night for meal prep, including making a shopping list and creating a menu.
2. Create your village
No matter if you work outside the home or at home, it takes a village to feel supported as a mom.
Get to know your neighbors
If you haven’t yet, now is the time. As a mom, you need friends, and so do your kids! Exchange numbers with neighbor moms and form a network for the kids during these adventurous summer days spent. As connected neighborhood parents, you can look out for all of the kids when they need help with conflict resolution, scraped knees, or hydration needs. There is safety in numbers and security in friendship.
Invest in breaks
One of the trickiest aspects of summertime as a mom is the constant togetherness of school-aged siblings. They need a break from each other! Encourage these breaks at home with an hour or two of “quiet time” every day. When possible, spend one-on-one time with each kid, even if it’s in small windows.
When you find a good babysitter, pay them well so they’ll stick around! You may also want to try swapping babysitting with a trusted neighbor or friend.
And don’t knock the power of screentime, when implemented sparingly and strategically so you can relax or get some work done at home. Ditch the guilt, because educational and age-appropriate shows and games can be a great tool in your toolkit. But be sure to set family ground rules and utilize parental controls whether you’re letting them use your device or theirs.
3. Establish schedules for the kids
You need structure during the summer to accomplish goals, and so do your kids.
Provide paid work opportunities
For older kids, this could mean assisting with major home renovations or smaller home improvement projects. Your kids could pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor as simple as a lemonade stand or as involved as orchestrating a multi-day dance camp for younger kids. Other ideas for offering paid work:
- Label envelopes with specific jobs. When the job is complete, they get the money inside
- Have a weekly “power hour” where the whole family works together on a task and each person gets paid for the hour
- Make allowance dependant on the completion of certain household duties
Paying your kids for chores outside of their usual household chores is a great opportunity for teaching them about hard work, budgeting (or “planned spending”), and delayed gratification.
Take advantage of camps and lessons
Summer can be full of opportunities for formal and informal learning outside of the classroom setting. Libraries, universities, preschools, and gyms often have enrichment programs set up for the summer. Look into the resources your community offers. Get your kids’ friends involved and you can set up carpools and built-in playdates.
What do your kids want to learn this summer? Using their interests and goals in mind, look outside the box to find something new for them to try, whether it’s a rock-climbing camp or sewing lessons. And consider having your kids invest in themselves by contributing to a portion of the cost from the money they’ve earned.
Expect that adjustments will need to be made
Even with all of the planning in the world, life as a mom is unpredictable. And summer doesn’t change that. Sickness happens. Babysitters move. Siblings sulk. Friends fight. Work overwhelms.
Practice the art of give and take. When you can give more in one area, give more. When you have to let certain things go, let them go and be at peace. And laugh whenever possible! Laugh at yourself, laugh with your friends, and laugh with your kids. Kids are pros at finding summer magic, and they’ll help you find it, too!