Summer is a fun time of the year. The sun is out, and so are the children...out of school, of course. There's lots to do, places to go, and things to see, and your children just want to have fun. Yesterday, for instance, I took the girls to an outdoor movie and a fun line-up of children's activities in a nearby city. I had an impending deadline, two actually, but at that moment, seeing how happy they were, their happiness meant more to me than work. I knew I'd have to make up the time by staying up late to catch up on my projects, but it was worth it.
As a mom who works from home, summers can be especially hard to juggle. No matter how well you think you've planned for it, things don't always go as we've planned. But I've learned a few things over the last six summers, that make the two months spent at home working with our children a bit more organized and bearable.
Prioritize what's important: Having children at home while you work is doable if you prioritize what's important. The good thing about working from home, especially for those of us who own our schedules, is that you decide when to work and not to work. For example: as a book editor, my phone time is limited, so I can afford to dedicate parts of the day to my girls and then work when they're asleep at night. On days when I have calls scheduled, I prepare them to be as unintrusive as possible, ahead of time. I might let them watch a little TV, or play or color or paint. We work together as a team, and they understand that when I'm done, they can come to me for all the TLC they want. Figure out what works for you and your situation, and then put it into practice.
Have fun and be positive: None of the things I've mentioned above and below are possible if you are negative. Have a positive outlook, and see summer as a great time to spend time with your children. Listen to inspirational podcasts, read positive affirmations, uplift your spirit with inspirational quotes, read your bible, and do whatever you need to do to stay positive. Before you know it, they'll be heading back to school and you'll have even crazier days getting them to and back from school and all of their after-school activities.
Make time for yourself: As with every other season of motherhood, making time for yourself is critical. When we think of making time for ourselves, we sometimes think of grand ideas like going on a solo trip abroad or going away for the weekend. No, not those lofty ideas, though they won't hurt if you can afford it. I'm talking about carving out one-hour slots after work as "me time," or taking a solo walk around the neighborhood, taking a drive, reading a book, or taking up a Zumba class. I make it a point to let my girls know when I need 'me' time, and they've been around me long enough to respect that when I say I need some time to myself then I need some time to myself. And they know that when I finally get back to them, I'll be better rested and much more energetic and fun to be around.
Create a schedule: I'm almost tempted to call this "train your children" instead of "create a schedule," because oftentimes I find that mothers are overwhelmed because their children are not well-trained. Every summer, since my oldest daughter was born, I've kept a summer schedule. Admittedly, we're winging it this summer, and things have been a little scattered and mostly unplanned, but survivable. However, I can attest to the fact that having a plan/schedule for the day's activities is a life-saver. If possible, plan each hour of each day down to the minute, and let your children help you with ideas. My oldest daughter who just finished first grade this year was so excited the first time she got to help with the schedule that she volunteered to write it down and act as the "enforcer." If your summer schedule is implemented often enough, it will become part of your children's psyche and they'll follow it like clockwork, bringing structure and sanity to your chaotic summer days.
Take breaks: It is typical for me to sit down at my desk in the morning and not take a break until evening. Sure, I might run downstairs from time to time, to get a snack for one of the girls, or get them lunch, listen to something they want to tell me, get myself another cup of coffee, etc. but I hardly take a break. I feel like I'm wasting time when I take a break, plus breaks are hard to come back from. I know; I've taken a break by sitting on the couch many times and ended up just calling it a day. But breaks are important, not only for your productivity but also for your health. Go for a walk around the block with your children, smell some flowers, chase some butterflies, and just be silly for a few minutes. Then get back to work feeling refreshed and re-energized.
Seize moments: Moments come a dime a dozen, every day; seize them and make them meaningful. Make them count. When your child comes to you and says, "remember when ..." with the biggest smile on their face, it's because they've just remembered a moment spent with you. A moment that made them smile. A moment when they were a priority to their mother. Seize these little moments throughout the day to make the day count as great in their minds.
I know it's easier said than done. So much of life revolves around things and bills, and as parents, we're constantly worried about a million other things that we forget to focus on what's important. I don't discount that I'm writing this from a place of privilege. My husband works full-time, so I have support, and I don't take that for granted. I have also had the privilege of being a present, full-time mother to my children since the day my oldest was born, all while running a business from home, again not something I take for granted. The good news is that my group is no longer an anomaly - more and more women are seeking and finding ways to be home with their children while building income-producing businesses. I love that, and I want you to know that it is doable. You can contribute to your family's income while being a present, full-time mother to your children and not wearing yourself and your patience out.
I'm still a work in progress. I take on too much in the summer and easily become overwhelmed. But I do have fun with my girls. We may not go on big outings, but we make the little ones count. Last summer, our goal was to discover and explore new parks across our region, not just in our county or local community, but far beyond that, and I am planning on continuing that exploration with them this summer. And just like last year, we'll be doing it together, with laughter, giggles, and smiles!