When I was a kid, I literally lived for summer. I started counting down the days until summer as soon as I got back from Spring Break and often daydreamed of neighborhood kick-the-can battles, sticky popsicles and backyard BBQs. Whether it was swimming at the beach or camping in a friend’s backyard, the opportunity for adventure and fun was endless. From the smell to the sounds to the sun—summer was simply magical. Later bedtimes, sleeping in late and carefree days came and went. As the first day of school approached, I found myself wondering how summer could go by SO FAST.
Now as a parent, that longed-for euphoric feeling brought on by the summer solstice has now been replaced with a countdown until the first day of school. Since Memorial Day weekend, we’ve already had sleepovers, trips to the beach, day camps, pool parties, movie nights, etc. You name it and we’ve done it. Yet somehow my kids are still complaining they have nothing to do. I’ve been reading a ton of articles on how to mix things up for the summer—from DIY backyard play projects to “out of the box” summer must-try activities—but there is still some serious down time. And, of course, there’s the ever-present boredom factor that my kids remind me of on a daily basis. So, in an effort to give you some relief from the heat (and your complaining kiddos), I’ve put together some tips for our Stay at Home Mom and working mom friends as well as some general sanity-keeping tips.
Tips for the Stay at Home Mom
Patience is a virtue
It sounds so simple yet it’s something so few have mastered. Whether you have toddlers or teens, patience can run thin by the end of breakfast and you may find yourself dreading yet another long day. In the whole scheme of things, this is a sliver in time that will pass in the blink of an eye. Don’t let the patience get the best of you—if you can't beat them, join them. Instead of fighting the good fight today, load up the car with your littles and LilyPads and head to the local splash pad or park for a day in the sun. Let that inner child out to play and don’t be afraid to get wet and wild. Summer is for the young…and the young at heart.
Ignorance is bliss
It’s important to remind ourselves that we need to encourage our kids to be kids. In the busy world we live in, agendas, activities and events seem to overtake our calendars and there is little time left to just be. Growing up, I wasn’t provided an activity or form of entertainment for every minute of every day during the summer. Instead, each day was a clean slate for a new and organic adventure to be created. I could start my day off building a tree fort and that could easily turn into a wild water balloon fight with friends and then end with roasting marshmallows in the backyard. Some of the best days were the ones without a plan. The only goal we had was to make the next day more fun than the day before. Why don't we afford our kids this luxury? The backyard may seem like a boring place to us, but to our kids, it’s a wonderland of new adventures every day. Some days, it’s a secret garden and other days it’s a dinosaur excavation site. Let their imaginations soar and personalities flourish!
Boredom is necessary
This seems to be a theme this summer on Facebook/Instagram. When in school, our kids live by a schedule. Summer has proven to be a huge challenge for most kids as they’ve spent the last 9 months being entertained by their teachers and now expect the same from you. Most of my mom friends (and I) want to pull their hair out when they hear, “What are we gonna do now?” after an action-packed day of fun in the sun. Rather than enable this expectation by adding more to the agenda, try to initiate a household quiet time every afternoon to encourage your busy bees to be comfortable with down time. For toddlers, dim the lights and give them (and you) a little peace and quiet in their crib, resting on their Pebble Mattress with a toy or listening to soft music. For older kids, give them a book or a toy and encourage them to curl up on their Pebble Lounger or a LilyPad - no TV or electronics. Remember, the cure for boredom is curiosity. So, let’s encourage our kids to be curious!
Tips for the Working Mom
Take out the guess work
Whether your child is in daycare, camps or you have a nanny, save your sanity by creating a weekly schedule every Sunday night. This schedule can be shared with your partner, the school or camp and your nanny, depending on the circumstance. What to include on the schedule:
- Child’s name, age, allergies
- Emergency numbers
- Naptimes and any lovies he/she needs
- Approved TV shows/movies and length of times TV is allowed for each child (if it varies)
- Appointments for that week
- Your and/or your spouse’s availability (include major meetings or appointments you have so the necessary parties are aware if they are unable to reach you)
- Meal planning ideas (approved meals for the kids)
Label everything! Create a space in the pantry or refrigerator that’s just for the kids so your nanny or partner don’t have to think twice about what’s okay vs. off limits. Label your kids’ clothes and food containers for school. If the camp or daycare has an allergy sensitivity like peanuts, label your child’s sandwich if you use almond butter instead so they don’t have to worry whether or not it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When in doubt, write it down.
Create the right weekend balance
By the time Friday comes around, you’re probably exhausted and not really looking forward to a weekend of nonstop entertaining the kids. Set boundaries with them and make special times for fun. Tell them if there’s a party or play date planned. Label your special time with them as “Special Mama/[insert child’s name] Time” so they understand it and can look forward to it. They miss you during the week—and you miss them—but in order to be the mama you want to be and they need you to be, you’ve gotta make time for yourself too - away from the daily grind of the work week. Don’t underestimate your child(s)’ ability to understand you. Be honest with them and set expectations they can work with. Say, “I need 10 minutes of mama time and then we can have special time together to do x, y, z.” This allows you to go into the special time with your Little One focused on them and not on what's for dinner or the unread emails in your inbox.
For all the Mama’s out there
Preparation is key
Your car is likely the family transportation vehicle. To save yourself the headache of having to make last minute shopping trips or running home in rush hour traffic to get something you forgot, turn your car into the Central Command Station. Have an extra item for any activity from the pool to camping to sports to picnics. Get a cooler for the car and if you know you’re going to be gone with the kids for more than an hour or are traveling anywhere during peak traffic times, throw snacks and drinks in with some ice. Always have your First Aid Kit on hand and don’t forget the sunscreen
Keep a routine going
It’s easy in the summer to get lazy in the mornings and not get dressed until 9 or 10 am, but then it feels like a mad dash to get everyone dressed, diaper bags packed, snacks and water bottles done and out the door in time to go wherever it is you need to go. Save your sanity by keeping some things the same. Get the kids dressed when they wake up or right after you eat breakfast. Whatever it was you did during the year, continue doing that during the summer. Not only will you be less stressed, but your kids strive on routines, so the more consistency they have, the less out of control things will feel all around. It will also make the transition back into school that much easier.
Get the kids involved
Tired of carrying the load and always being the one coming up with the ideas around the house? Get the kids involved. Try having a family meeting once a week to see what they might like to do the following week or before school starts again. Including them in the planning will not only give them a little subconscious appreciation for how challenging it is (depending on their age, of course) but it will also give them a sense of pride and excitement when you say you’re doing one of the activities they came up with! This teaches them to be solution-based and creative all at the same time.
Easy Meal Planning
Come up with some summer staples for quick meals. This will help with grocery shopping and budgeting for the kids being around the house eating all day. On Sundays, try planning out your week’s meals so you don’t feel like you’re having the same ham sandwich or quesadilla for lunch every day. Put a spin on easy staples and mix things up. It’s also another opportunity for you to get the kids involved. Ask them what they might like to eat. Get them in the kitchen to help out!
Put the kids to work
I remember my parents taking summertime as an opportunity to teach me valuable life lessons like “work before play” and “the early bird gets the worm.” Get them to help out more with chores around the house. Both the chores and their rewards can easily be tailored to each child’s age. Older kids might enjoy a little extra spending cash while younger kids might appreciate a 20-minute TV show or star rewards that equate to dollars and lead to a toy of their choice for the amount of stars earned. It not only teaches them good work ethics but also gives them a little early finance lesson!
Remember, the biggest tip of all is to remind yourself that you are awesome at this whole mom thing. Don’t be a victim of the mom comparison game and don’t succumb to the guilt of Instagram and Facebook moms seeming like they’re perfecting this job. You just keep doing you and know that your kids love you and think you’re the best mom around (unless they’re teenagers, in which case, give them about 15 more years to come back around.)