I face summer vacation with a mix of excitement and dread. I’m tired of doing homework and packing lunches, but I know my limitations as a stay-at-home mother. Having my children at home for three months challenges my patience and enthusiasm. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to staying sane all summer. Here 6 of my favorites.
Because I’m an organized person — chaos makes me crazy — I have to have some semblance of structure to enjoy summer. Some years I have chosen a theme for each day of the week, like this FamilyShare article outlines. One year I made a spreadsheet for each week and we stamped off chores and activities each day to earn prizes. But, that took quite a bit of effort.
Last year I found a happy medium by putting one simple rule into action. Only one rule? Yes! The rule is: No media before lunch. Media at our house includes TV, computer, video games and handheld or tablet games. By implementing this rule, we get our chores, reading, piano practice and math workbooks done in the morning. Or, we meet friends at a park to play before it gets too warm. Having a media break after lunch means the tired toddler (and her mommy) get a nap when things are quiet. Then we get back to having fun.
Like every good mom, I know how to use my magic wisely. Novelty is key to making the break from school seem fun when everyone thinks they’re bored. I have a several summer fun ideas on a Pinterestboard, and a stash of new craft supplies for art projects. If kids whine too much, I also have a list of chores available.
Planning a few day trips is also a way to keep things fresh. We are going to explore the covered bridges and waterfalls near our home this summer. A few other ways to mix a little novelty into your summer include having theme days (kids’ choice day, finger food day, unlimited media day). Save up money to go out to lunch or buy a new book or toy. Visit new places in your town.
Ideally, summer planning should happen in advance. I try to space out our trips so that we have things to look forward to all summer. For example, if we have a family reunion to attend in June, I’ll schedule a camping trip for August, and then let the kids attend one day camp in July. Taking too many trips tends to wear out children and adults alike. Part of the fun of summer is being able to relax and enjoy the warmer months. Space out your fun so that you can appreciate each adventure.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad, you know how demanding taking care of children full-time can be. Make sure you have people to help! Possible reinforcements include extended family members, an occasional babysitter or nanny, day camps, free community programs and your spouse or partner. I really enjoy having guests in the summer because the children play so well together and enjoy being outside. I also enjoy occasionally leaving for a few hours and letting someone else be in charge.
Your kids might want a new playmate during the summer, and the best person for the job is you. If it’s been a while since you joined in your children’s games, give it a try. It beats folding laundry or cleaning bathrooms. I try to say, “Yes” more often during summer — yes to baking cookies, science experiments, bike rides, water fights and doing makeovers on mom. I still say no to mud and bugs in the house.
When the kids are fighting, you’ve used up all your craft supplies and you’re counting down the hours until the first day of school, dig into your secret stash of ice cream sandwiches, declare it unlimited media day and grab your favorite book. Escape to a shady spot outside and indulge yourself. The kids will survive and you will too. Soon you’ll be back to being super mom (or dad) and making sure the kids have a summer worth writing about when they head back to school.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.