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It’s funny how at a certain point in time along the mothering journey, one just accepts the way they are and finds what works for them. No comparisons, or panic, or feeling left behind or out of the loop. It took me years to get there, and lots of experimentation and failure and acceptance of who I am and what works for my family. I know right now there are lots of moms looking on Pinterest for elaborate job charts and summer bucket lists and what have you. (Ugh, that Pinterest-love/hate.) To do or not to do summer camps/library clubs/nothing/tech turn-offs/family trips/play-dates/no play-dates etc. So many choices we have to filter through!
We moms, as our children age, have to be fluid and flexible. But we MUST be kind to ourselves-sometimes, even often, we must do what works to keep us calm and settled and not burned-out by July 15th.
1. Be aware of babies and toddlers schedules and do not feel guilty keeping those schedules. Some babies and toddlers are very flexible and snap back easily from disruption, and others MUST have that nap every day at exactly this or that time. Some toddlers (kids!) can withstand a late bedtime, some can’t. I have one child who wakes up at the crack of dawn every day, I swear he would if he went to bed even at 3 a.m. He can’t “catch up” on his sleep. It’s ok to plan days around this and keep a tight schedule even though it’s summer.
2. Chores. There are so many elaborate systems of allowances and chores. Elaborate and overwhelming and maybe they work for some people, but try as I might, they did not for me. They just created one more thing to keep track of, to remember, to argue about with kids. I don’t pay for anything but cutting the lawn, and every day I write on a piece of notebook paper a few simple jobs. My mom did this for all of us my whole childhood. We woke up, ate breakfast, did jobs and then were free to run. No stickers or rewards or financials.
3. Technology. It’s easier for me to just turn it all off. Yes, there can be a withdrawal from TV. (The littler kids don’t have other tech, the older kids are busy enough with work (this is the key to teens in the summer!). I have put up reminders on the TV about not turning it on, or asking first. Once they hear no enough, they give up, we just have to be strong and outlast. That doesn’t mean on a rainy day I just might say yes to a movie, or a favorite show or sporting event, that just means I’ve learned I don’t want it used as a constant fall back to boredom or the way we start our day out.
4. Play dates with little ones were hard and unnecessary unless there are neighborhood-no-drive playing. This gets so much easier when they are older-before that siblings are enough. Also playdates are supposed to make my life easier because the friend is really easy, respectful, resourceful and not hyper so I choose carefully.
I do know it’s hard to keep little ones home and older ones busy. This is where Lego projects or elaborate craft projects or books or some sort of “goal” or fun fall back activity comes in for us when those “but I’m so bored” comments start. (My kids and the neighbor kids built an entire dog house out of wood scraps last summer!) It is worth it’s weight in gold to invest in anything like this.
5. Food and laundry=priorities. Food prep (simple meals) and a plan for dinner and a load or two of laundry every day.
6. Low expectations. No cute bucket lists for me. I tried one year and it felt like another to-do list. I refuse to be held accountable for anything we didn’t do, which might just be nothing, who knows? But for me, it’s so much better to throw a surprise in than feel like we all disappointed ourselves.
7. Routine. Setting a lose routine for summer days help enormously. Ours is up, breakfast, whatever school work I’ve assigned (which is another post and very simple things like a page of a Summer Bridge, or whatever we’ve decided together for the summer, and then jobs). I try to plan week by week what is going on and where we need to be when, if we go anywhere.
7. Self care. Summer is full throttle for me and long long days. Some summers were full on survival mode for me and they were hard! What would have helped? A little exercise, a healthier eating plan, even hiring someone to clean or just feeling less guilty about take-out. Creating some way to feel a little more control of days where schedules changed constantly especially with teens and I felt like I was caught in the storm instead of the EYE of the storm where everything swirled around me and I remained still. I needed to set more boundaries all the way around. To do that, we have to have time to exercise or meditate, or sit by ourselves, or read, or get up really early to get a hard start and a plan-anything. Even a teeny tiny bit helps. It also helps to write this reminder and hang it inside my bathroom cabinet so I don’t get so caught up that I forget the essentials.
And sometimes we just have to know and accept that we are in a hard stage and it will get better.
The recognition that mothering, especially a large family, or new baby, takes a lot of energy, and brain space,and can be stressful, is so important. Taking non-swimmers to the pool is stressful-we are “on” 100% of the time. Going from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. (or later) is stressful. Doing it yourself with no outside help is stressful. Going on a family vacation can be stressful. The goal is to make it as non-stressful as possible depending on OUR own stress meter, no one else’s.
It is up to us to learn about ourselves and our children and set the way we want our days and weeks to look accordingly.
I say probably once a day “I love summer!”, and I really mean it. I am so grateful I get to be home and not in a yucky office, I love what summer means to me-ice cream and pools, and books and green grass and easy meals and bike rides and more ice cream. I have the fondest memories of my summers growing up and we seriously did “nothing” but play every day with neighbors, and ride bikes on our gravel road and swim wherever we could find a pool and drink from the faucet and eat tons of hotdogs and corn on the cob and read so many library books for three months straight. It was the best ever.