I am a mother of two phenomenal children. They are beautiful, and smart, and talented, and funny, and absolutely precious. I love them dearly. Really, I do.
But then there’s Summer. And all bets are off.
It’s hard to explain, but almost overnight my incredible children suddenly morph into something that I’ve never seen before…not even in the darkest corners of my most horrific dreams. They change. I change. The entire world comes to a screeching halt as I melt into a puddle on the floor.
Surviving the onslaught of Summer Break is the bane of every working mother’s existence, especially for us Mompreneurs. Granted, we are really lucky because we get to juggle the chaos without the ever-judging, burning eyes of bosses, but often our world then translates into ALL projects and income comes to a screeching halt. Or the even better option; working furiously trying to maintain the momentum of normal business, in half the time….and with bored, screaming, starving children forever hovering in the background.
As I too fight this war, the war to end all wars (with the constant barrage of outside “moments of perfection” shared gloriously across social feeds around the world) I start to develop my own strategies to survive the Summer. Testing limits, trying new tactics, and discovering ways to salvage some slivers of joy amidst the stress, here are my 6 ways to enjoy your break:
1. Pick Your Battles
I always enter the Summer months with an embarrassingly optimistic and aggressive plan. My dreams of playing together quietly, cooking healthy meals, following a schedule, staying on budget, and still having enough time to cater to my clients….those dreams are more like pipe-dreams. One week of trying to reach all of my goals, reminds me that in Summer SMART Goals quickly become: Stay Mostly Alive Regardless of Torture goals.
Your new BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is now to simply survive. You just need to make it out alive. There aren’t any gold stars or blue ribbons for killing yourself to be “Little Suzy Homemaker.” If the kids are fed (mostly), the work is done (mostly), and the house is still standing (mostly), then you’re good. Sit down, have a drink, put your feet up, and give yourself a pat on the back. Job well done, Momma.
I encourage you to make 10 minutes to take an honest assessment of what really matters most.
- How much work do you absolutely have to do in order to make ends meet? Then forget the rest.
- What kind of budget is necessary and where can you cut corners? Watch what you need to and then move on.
- How do you want to spend your time with kids, while staying on budget and not going crazy? Make plans that matter.
- What extra things are most important and why? How can you actually make this happen? Now you know.
Once you can clearly state your priorities, then you’re able to set some more realistic intentions for yourself. Building a goal schedule is more attainable when you let go of the unnecessary. Summer has these mysterious black holes which swallow up time without warning or explanation, so be prepared for anything.
2. Ask for Help
I live in a small town and am kind of a loner. I have friends, but not many “Hey, would you watch my kids for the day?” kinds of friends. Luckily, my husband’s family lives within 30 minutes, so I can plan out a few days a week where the kids are out of my hair. However, I’ve had to learn the best possible ways to ask my in-laws for help, while still respecting their downtime and sacred outings. No matter how much people love your kids, they are still YOUR kids, and the work will ultimately end up back on you. Which is cool, you did kind of sign up for this.
My husband also works a lot more during the summer, since his career involves managing college interns. He works long, hard, exhausting days, so I try really hard not to dump kids in his lap the second he gets home. I cook him dinner first. Then I’m gone. (For at least an hour)
I’ve had to give myself permission to step away when the stress is overwhelming. Even though it isn’t always in my nature to ask for help (I’m an Entrepreneurial Aries, a Performer and an ENTJ…I got this, people!), Summer has a way of breaking me of my bad habits. Juggling work, kids, and daily stresses can be enough to break even the strongest-willed momma. Find out who you can turn to when things hurt, figure out how to take some time for yourself, and then work it into the schedule. Focus on the long game.
3. Use this as a Business Opportunity
It’s funny, but even though I pull my hair out over trying to maintain momentum in my business, having to narrow my focus during the Summer always ends up being a refreshing change. I end up enjoying having a reason to be pickier around who I work with. Suddenly, my client load shrinks down to only the people and businesses who I really want to engage with. What a novel concept!?
All too often, Summer gives me the excuse that I’ve been looking for to clean up shop. When there isn’t enough time to do it all, it’s amazing how you’re then able to uncover what actually matters the most. What clients are the best or most important? What projects are the best or most important? What do you need to do and what can wait?
Wow! It’s like you just hired the best business coach in the entire world, and they cut all of the fluff from your company. Pay attention, be grateful, and make the most of it! This can be lovely.
4. Chunk Out the Day
Once I learned the daily rhythms of my children, I was then able to better map out our time to get the most “me” time possible. I’ve found out exactly how long they will entertain themselves so I can work on my laptop, and what time of day is the best time for working. Their eating schedule and meal preferences are easier to predict now that their routine has been analyzed by my social scientists. (I keep them in the basement)
I’ve also trained myself to pick up on their “transition cues,” which is super helpful. When they need to change rooms, change projects, or just get out of the house, I’m now ready. I’ve found pockets of time to work and make phone calls over the course of the day, all with the goal of making sure that when my screaming hellions are ready to run through the streets, my bags are packed. (pitch forks included)
5. Find New Ways to be More Productive
I don’t know if you’re like me, which is probably a good thing, but I am an over-planner. Especially when I can’t be as productive as I normally like to be, I have to find other ways for me to stay engaged. Summertime gives me the chance to improve my meal-planning procedures, since I’m having to map out meal options for weeks at a time. I’ve found more effective ways to introduce new foods, try some make-ahead meals, and work in healthier options for myself.
My kids are also more open to me riding my stationary bike than me working on my laptop. When they just want me to be in the room with them, without the distraction of my work, I can sit down for a quick ride. Utilizing the time to steal 20 minutes of working out is much better for my psyche than feeling like I’m trapped on the couch again watching the next episode of Paw Patrol.
This year is the first time that I’ve introduced structured ‘homeschooling’ topics for my kids, to help fill the time. At the beginning of the Summer, they sat down and listed the top 13 things that they wanted to learn more about. (Examples: Space, USA, Dinosaurs, China, New York City, The Jungle, etc.) We’ve now made it into a routine of visiting the library every Monday morning to find our new books & DVDs. I do my best to find 30-60 minutes each day to sit down together to learn something new and do a craft/activity that correlates with the topic. I’ve found that this is the perfect way to get my kids excited about learning, fills the time with a structured activity, and I’m not having to kill myself coming up with stuff to watch.
6. Stop to Enjoy Something Each Day
During a recent rant to my husband the other day, he looked at me softly and said, “you should really try to enjoy this time with them, pretty soon the kids won’t even want to hang out with you anymore. You only get so many Summers.” At first, I wanted to smack him across the face. Of course I love and enjoy my kids, until I want to rip my own hair out.
As much as we all treasure the small moments, these very moments can also make us want to punch that damn pillow in-the-face! It’s the great conundrum of motherhood, especially when we have the added stresses of running a business. It’s beautiful and painful all at the same time. Sometimes we have to pull ourselves out far enough to see the beauty, and not just feel the pain.
After I got over the initial frustration of his comment, I realized that my husband was right. (But please don’t tell him that) When there are plenty of moments that stress us out, sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to rise above it all and hold the space for gratitude. These snot nosed kids are growing up fast. Pretty soon they’ll be snot nosed teenagers. OMFG.
So, as I wrap this up (since my kids are ready for snacks/swimming/throwing blocks at each other’s head), I just want to remind you that Summer is hard for all of us. Even though we like to think that all of the other moms are way better at this, and that this stuff is actually easier for everyone else….that’s wrong. Dead wrong. This is impossible for everyone. I’ll be the first one to stand up and say, “I have no effing idea what I’m doing! And that’s still okay.”
Carry on, Momma. You got this.