Summer is here. And with it, parents breathe a heavy sigh of relief, followed quickly by a hesitant intake of breath. Relief because school is over. And that last week of school often feels like the last weeks of pregnancy. So many appointments, field trips, assemblies and the pressure of finding the perfect gift for the teacher. Hesitancy because, well, summer is challenging as a parent. Especially a parent who works from home.
Never fear, there is hope, there can be structure, and you and your children can survive (dare we say "thrive"?) this summer.
The first step to a successful summer break — and by successful, we mean where you don’t spend the whole thing screaming at your kids — is to manage expectations. Talk about what you need to accomplish, talk about what you’d like to do. And ask them what they’d like to do. Then explain budgetary concerns and restraints, travel plans, and how much time you are going to allow them to waste watching YouTube.
It would also be helpful to manage expectations with your partner or anyone else involved in the day-to-day lives of your kids. If you’re setting a two-hour tech limit at your house and the kids go to another parent on Tuesdays, you may be able to coordinate to share limits. Because you are now toting kids with you everywhere you go, your partner may be able to take on a little more parenting or household responsibilities. But unless you talk these things through, they are never going to know you are struggling.
Fewer fights occur when everyone has all the information.
Hunt the free stuff
There are tons of free activities for kids, of almost all ages. Those ages 2 and under often get left out of things like Vacation Bible School and other free programs but there are places where you can grab an hour or two of free supervised child care. School-aged kids can probably find something organized to do every week of break. There are tons of free and educational library programs, where you can supervise from a comfortable couch reading your own book. Or swim team practices when you could conceivably read a second(!) book.
If you’re a work-from-home parent, summers can be so stressful. But if you can learn to work through distractions you will come out on top. And yell less. If your kids are old enough to get through life generally on their own and you can take your work with you, then get out of the house! Sign up for the Kids Bowl Free program and work while they bowl. Treat them to two hours at the trampoline park and work there and while they veg out afterward. You may even be able to work in the lobby of the movie theater while they watch the cheap summer movie special for as little as a dollar on a random Tuesday morning.
Ask for help
There is never, ever any shame in asking for help when raising kids. Sometimes help looks like driving six hours to take the kids to grandma's for three days. And sometimes it means grocery delivery. If you’re a parent who struggles to find the balance between housekeeping and kids' activities, there are several shortcuts that may be worth the money or learning curve to implement. Common things to outsource include house cleaning, grocery shopping and child care. Perhaps you don’t need child care full-time, but you may want a few hours without your kids, just like the mom next store does. So consider a kid swap.
When it’s all said and done, you have about 10 weeks with your kids this summer. It may be cliché, but it is true that you only have 18 summers with your child, and you know you don’t want to waste any time yelling or fighting over the remote. Organize some fun activities, plan some downtime and don't stress too much about the schedule.
Kids are meant to drive parents crazy, and parents are meant to love them through it all anyway.