We’re in the frenzied last month of school.
Activities ramp up so the kids are in a busy whirlwind of after-school recitals and parties and school is full of treats and fun games.
Summer break is tantalizingly close, and maybe you’re dreaming of lazy days and more time to get through your to-do list.
But, a lack of routine, while it seems appealing right now, can quickly lead to boredom, sibling fighting and moms everywhere spending all their time in fire-fighting mode.
And getting to the end of the to-do list seems as elusive as ever.
What should you do if your kids are going to be home all summer, or are only going to one or two camps, and you desperately need to save your sanity?
How do you carve out some much-needed self-care if you feel as if you’re spending more and more time managing the kids, instead of less?
1. Create a Routine
I know, I know, that’s what you desperately want away from after nine months.
But with you in charge, you can fill in a few spots in the week to keep everyone afloat, while leaving lots of buffer room for mornings to lie-in and lazy afternoons by the pool or in the yard.
The difficult bit is getting the balance right; you don’t want to tire you and the kids out with endless activities, and being bored now and again is a great thing for young brains.
But equally, most kids thrive when they have a basic idea of the structure of the day.
I usually try and plan one activity a day.
In the lead up to vacations, or just after we arrive home, you would think you might want to ditch plans, but I find these more important than ever (see the next point). And while each family has its own rules about screen time, whether they allow it and how much, I freely admit to using Netflix as a babysitter once a day (at least).
The kids know when it’s coming, we decide on a show together, and I get the next 24 minutes to myself. It isn’t much, but when I know it’s coming, I can plan for it.
Sometimes I prep dinner, sometimes I get household admin or work done, sometimes I snuggle next to my boys and just scroll Facebook. It’s triage level me-time; I need more than this, but it’s enough to make it through the day if it’s all I’m going to get.
2. Get Time By Giving Your Kids Your Time First
My kids do really well at self-directed play just after meals.
I always sit and eat with them, and we discuss the craziest topics, whatever’s on their minds. We tell jokes and silly stories, we discuss what’s happening in the rest of the day or week.
Meals are never a relaxing occasion for me, but I love the time with my boys.
Their bellies are full, but so are their hearts, and I think that’s why they are so happy to go off and play alone afterward. Right now, I use that time to clean up the kitchen, but I’m going to try and mix things up during the summer and do some of my admin then.
Heaven knows, there’ll be more dishes later in the day, I can catch them up then.
By setting a time aside each day to do something really fun or enjoyable with the kids, I know I’ll fill their buckets with connection, making it more likely they’ll play without me and I can get some of my to-do list ticked off.
Meals are one example for us, but I love to get out and play with them too.
This summer, pledge to leave the phone behind once a day, and go out in the yard with them and really play, not just stand close by watching.
We kick soccer balls, jump on the trampoline, search for bugs. The kids love it when I help make up the rules to a new game on the trampoline, and even more when they get to boss me around and tell me how to play their game.
I love it because once I’ve mentally decided I’m not going to multitask and try and do anything else, I get to really engage with the kids, have fun and play, and I enjoy it far more than playing a game with one hand while checking my emails with the other.
I go outside with my kids, if I can, and joining them in whatever physical activity they’re doing means I get a great workout in too!
I like to go for a run or workout without kids if I can, but on the days that can’t happen, I still need to raise my heart rate. I feel much better if I do, and as a result, life in our house is much more calm and everyone benefits!
3. Get Everyone Outside
For me, getting the kids outside, being physical, and connecting with nature all help us stay on an even keel at home. On my blog, I write about the different ways I encourage my kids outside, and the advantages I see as a result.
We love to bike, hike, go for nature walks in our neighborhood, play in the yard. While getting outside doesn’t have to involve anything more than heading to the park, summer is a perfect time to mix things up and try something new.
Three tips for a short, easy hike might help you if you want to try dipping your toe in hiking with your kids.
And if, like me, you have kids who find it hard to peel their eyes away from books or video games, try taking a mental picture – to help kids transition to an outdoor activity which gives a technique I use with my 6-year-old to help him want to get outside more.
4. Trade Playdates
Before school ends, grab parent info and send out an email or text suggesting you trade playdates.
This can be hard when you have kids of different ages and you might not get the holy grail of being kid-free. BUT, be upfront about what you need – ask for a playdate over naptime for your toddler, or at 9 a.m. if it means you can whirl through a mostly empty grocery store with your older kid.
Explain to the other parents that you are open to these requests too – once they’ve seen you do it and know you’re genuinely willing to help, they’re far more likely to follow through and ask for what they really need, not just fit in with your suggestions.
5. Share Playdates
Being home alone with the kids over summer can be really isolating if you don’t have the same opportunities to chat with other parents that were built into your school year routine.
My kindergartner finishes for the day at 11.30 a.m. and a lot of kids who are picked up by parents will hang around and play in the outdoor classroom at the front of the school for half an hour or so before heading home for lunch.
It is a perfect decompression time for them after sitting still in school all morning, and it allows the parents a chance to chat, even if they aren’t friends or don’t feel able to suggest a more formal meet up.
I love that time, not just for my kindergartener, but for me too, and I know I’m going to miss it.
And the times spent chatting briefly before library preschool classes start are similar – these might not be parents I knew well enough to invite over for a playdate, but we have built up a rapport.
Be bold – offer to trade numbers with those parents you know well enough that you can tell when they haven’t slept, but not enough that you see them outside the designated activity your kids attend.
Suggest meeting up with your kiddos at the park one day, or maybe at the library even when storytime is on hiatus for the summer.
If you can muster up the courage, you’ll be surprised how often the other parent is delighted you asked and wished they’d been brave enough to do it.
I’m on my third new town in six years with kids in tow, and I’ve quickly learned that, while feeling a bit like you’re asking someone out on a date, tired and isolated parents are the most welcoming and encouraging when you make suggestions that you exchange numbers and get together again. I know I find meeting up with other families really helps fill my self-care bucket; the kids play together, and parents get a chance to chat.
Sometimes it’s mutual commiseration over dropped naps and poor sleep, sometimes you hear a story that reminds you your kids are not as far out of the bounds of normal as you had feared. If you’re lucky, you might meet new friends, at the very least you’ve had a break in your day while the kids were busy.
Self-Care Ideas When Kids Are Home All Summer
I hope these self-care ideas help you figure out where you can fit in a little downtime from all your mom duties during the long summer break. Tell me in the comments what self-care things you do over the summer when you have a house full of kids!