When I think back to my childhood memories of summertime, I smile. I think of lying in the soft green grass with my sister, looking at clouds. Blowing bubbles. Jumping rope. Running as fast as we could up and down the road.
But this year, I found myself groaning at the thought of summertime. I’m a mom, and I also run a business, so this time of year tends to be difficult. Trying to keep working while also caring for my family can feel overwhelming and exhausting. So, I decided to try to work on figuring out a good balance this summer – spending some time with my kids and continuing to accomplish work goals I’ve set for myself. I wanted to share what I’ve done in the hopes that you can find some balance in your life this summer, too.
Schedules are helpful
My kids respond very well to having a visual schedule for the day. There are times for free play for the kids & work time for me, time to play with a parent, reading, arts and crafts, etc. They get to pick what they want to play, what they want to read, if they want to work on writing in their journal, make a silly picture, or something else.
Having a schedule gives some structure to a day that can otherwise seem too long and never ending. This also takes away the constant question of when screen time will happen because it’s on the schedule. Our whole day isn’t planned out to the minute, and I’m not like a drill sergeant when it comes to time frames, but it does give us a helpful outline and sets expectations.
Focus on quality not quantity
Because we have a schedule set up, I try very hard to focus on my work when it’s work time and focus on my kids when it’s family time. It’s more about the quality of time that we have when we’re together rather than the quantity. I put away my laptop and I leave my phone in my room so I don’t get distracted. And then we spend some time together. Some great ideas for family time include:
Listening to an audiobook
Doing Mad Libs
Reading a book
Creating and asking your own “would you rather?” questions
Watching a TV show or a movie as a family
Playing board games or card games
Making a snack or a meal together
Take a few minutes for yourself every day
Just as we focus on quality over quantity with our kids, we also need to do that for our own self care. We may not have the luxury of taking a morning and going to the spa or the funds to get a massage every week, but we can find small ways to help recharge our energy. Here are some ideas you can do with just a few minutes:
2 mindful minutes – Use your senses and focus on what you see, hear, feel and smell around you. Pay attention to small details, listen and focus on what you maybe didn’t notice before.
Go outside – It doesn’t have to be a long stretch of time. Even a 10 minute walk can re-energize you and help you focus. You can walk early in the morning, or take a quick walk around the block after dinner. You can stay right in your neighborhood or you can go to a park or trail.
Listen to a podcast – This is one of my favorite things to do when I fold laundry or empty the dishwasher. It’s a great way to learn something new, or laugh or listen to a story you’ve always wanted to hear.
Read a book or a magazine – So often we find ourselves reading for work or school. But when was the last time you read something just for fun? Re-read a favorite book from your teenage years, or find a new one that intrigues you. Pick up your favorite magazine and take a few minutes to read it.
Watch a TV show or movie – Ask your friends for recommendations, and then chat with them about what you watched.
You can’t fill from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself so you are more fully able to care for your kids.
Take a break and have a family adventure
This doesn’t mean spending a ton of money or going to Disney World. It doesn’t have to be a week long excursion at a fancy resort. Go somewhere in your local area you’ve never been before. Find a small museum. Take a family hike together someplace new. Explore local parks. Go geocaching. Play tourist in your own area.
It will not be perfect all day every day, but you’re forming memories and making connections as a family. You learn more about one another, like what makes your daughter excited or what grosses out your son, or what makes you all laugh. These are the times and moments you want to remember and recall as your children grow into adults.
This year I found some local easy hiking trails to explore as a family which we’ve all really enjoyed. It wasn’t expensive. For the cost of a few gallons of gas and parking fees, we’ve spent some refreshing time in nature and done something new together.
Focus on the good
It is so easy as humans to focus on the negative. Try to focus on one good thing that happened every day, and encourage your kids to do the same. Talk about it at dinner or bedtime. It doesn’t have to be a super long conversation. And the good things don’t have to be huge. It could be “I saw a beautiful butterfly today when I looked in our backyard”. Or “I saw someone being kind and holding a door for someone else.” Try to focus your energy on the positives rather than only negatives.
There are seasons to parenting
What I’ve found helpful is to think of parenting in seasons, and I don’t mean fall, winter, spring, and summer. I mean in terms of where your focus and energy has to be during a particular time of your children’s lives, depending on how old they are and whether or not they are in school.
In summertime, when kids are out of school, this is a season where you may need to devote a little more time to connecting, playing, and spending time together.
Keep in mind that this time also isn’t forever. They’ll get bigger and will soon be making plans of their own, leaving the house and going off on their own. You won’t get as many opportunities to do things as a family. Focus on the season of parenting you’re in now and find joy in it.
Now, when I think of summer, I think of hiking with my kids. I think of sitting by the pool and watching them play while I read a magazine. I think of blowing bubbles together in our backyard. I’m trying to enjoy the moments I have right now with my family and smile.