For the past few years since I’ve been working part time from home and had kids out for Summer vacation, I’ve taken a very wing-it approach, and it hasn’t always worked out so well. Yes, the kids always have fun and we make plenty of great memories, but I’m usually left feeling a mixture of stress and guilt, and by the end of the Summer I feel like we’re all sorta slugging through the days. So I wanted to approach this year a bit differently and put together a rough outline that would help make the days and weeks a bit easier for me to get work done and leave room for kids to have a fun & meaningful summer. This past Friday, on the first day of break, we sat down and wrote out a Summer list.

The framework for the list consisted of a few important points:

* It wasn’t set in stone, and should merely consist of ideas to reference when we were all feeling a bit uninspired.
*Not every activity needed to be checked off the list for the Summer to have been a success.
*The list would include daily expectations set by mom and dad, which included manner and chore reminders.
*The list would include volunteer opportunities so that we could invest in and serve our community.
*Since many of the kid’s school friends live outside of our neighborhood, making spontaneous play a bit more challenging, we would include a play date list with school friends the kids wanted to make sure to see over the Summer break.

Once the kids got going, they had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for adventures to go on, both big and small, and I think we will find plenty of things to keep us busy.

Some of their ideas included: 

Rock climbing at the local climbing gym, go-karting, visiting dad’s office to work on building Legos, the beach of course, bike riding and picnicking at the park, Nerf gun battle day, launch rockets, build a fort, and conduct science experiments and do some arts & crafts. All the local theme parks were also mentioned but I’m not sure we’ll hit them all up.

The Daily Expectations I listed were the usual things they are already familiar with but often forget during the “carefree” days of summer and when together 24/7 for 7 weeks straight. Our expectations include:

Walking the dog, emptying the litter tray, making beds and cleaning up their rooms. TV is limited to 1 hour/day and devices/Playstation are also limited to 1 hour/day. They should spend a lot of time outdoors, and some time reading and practicing piano (20-30 minutes each), and should avoid bickering and disrespectful talk.

For volunteerism, we are planning to execute a few ideas. First, with a group of friends we’d like to make homeless packs to have on hand to pass out when we see someone in need, which is pretty much everyday in our areas. The homeless population in Long Beach and Orange County has swelled over the last several years, and on many city street corners, there is an opportunity to help in even the smallest of ways. We also plan to make a meal or two for the local youth shelter, and Taylor is volunteering several times at the local library. It’s not much but it’s a start.

And since I was feeling a bit left out, I even made a list for Art and I that included:

*Date night ideas including Summer Nights in the Garden at the Natural History Museum of LA, solo brunch at a restaurant I’ve been excited to try, and an evening date to Disneyland by ourselves.
*Small house projects we’d like to tackle including organizing the bathroom cabinets, planting an herb garden and washing the windows.
*A grown up play date list of family & friends who we always say “let’s get together once things slow down” to. These are friends and family members outside the scope of the kid’s school friends.

Managing work

Of course you may be wondering how planning a bunch of activities actually allows me to get any work done at all? Well, the list is really meant to help make the most of the off-work time we spend together, and avoid those days where I’m scrambling to find something fun or interesting to do.

In addition to this list I made with the kids, Art and I also sat down before summer even began and worked out a schedule to help me get at least 8-10 hours of work done throughout the week. In addition to a couple of camps we strategically scheduled, the rest of the time we made a plan for how Art could pitch in. One day a week I will take the kids over to his office around lunch time, and he’ll get them a bite to eat and hang out with them for 2 hours or so, and another day during the week I’ll get out of the house early and head to the coffee shop and work from 7-9, and Art will head into work after I get home. Planning out some ideas for the kids to do while at home also allows me to set them up with an activity besides the TV, and I can get additional work done if need be.

I’ve always felt a little anxious about time management and never feeling like I accomplish enough, which leaves me with a near constant feeling of unease and disappointment (about time, not my life ;). So I’ve been reading up on the subject quite a bit, and trying to make some mindset shifts and plan out my days better. This does not mean that I am now a beacon of productivity and discipline, as my end goal isn’t necessarily to get more done, but to get the right stuff done. But I’ve been able to see some subtle shifts in how I think and approach work. I recently purchased a new planner and at the start (or end) of each week, as you begin to tackle Monday, there is an entire 2 page section titled the Week In Review. Writing prompts have you go over behaviors & strategies that worked, as well as those that didn’t. You also take time to analyze how far you got on accomplishing the week’s Big 3 goals you set out for yourself. I use it more as a time to journal and it’s been very helpful.

Art and I have also taken up the weekly practice of sitting down for 15 minutes to review the week ahead. What are some trouble spots that require us to be in 2 places at once, or where may we need a bit more help from the parents, who are thankfully local? We’ve been married for 19 years and parents for 13 of them, and we’ve just recently taken up this practice and boy is it a game changer. The frantic morning of or night before scramble to tackle the commitments of the day has almost entirely disappeared since we now have time to plan & prepare. For the life of me I don’t know why we’ve never done this before. Gluttons for punishments I guess?

So ask me at the end of Summer how it all went, and I’ll tell you if all this planning actually helped the Summer go smoother. For now, I am at least approaching the next 7 weeks with lighthearted optimism as opposed to a low-lying sense of dread. I’d say that alone is already a huge win.

So tell me, whether you’re a working parent or not, how do you tackle summer so that you can make the most of the days while also not losing your mind? 🙂  

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