Work + Play: How Working Moms Can Survive the Summer Guilt-Free
It’s officially summer in our house. The boys have wrapped up their last days of school and we’re moving into Memorial Day weekend with one big exhale. We have fun summer plans that include vacations, rest, camp, lots of play, a World Series and very little electronics. But I still have a job and a company to run. Matt and I both have obligations that prevent us from unplugging for the entire summer.
So if you’re a working parent, like us, how do you navigate the play of summer with your work commitments? How can you be an engaged and invested parent, but still be thriving in the workplace? How do you not let guilt or shame rule when you see parents unplugged with their kids all summer – at the pool, beach, zoo or library?
Here’s how it all goes down in the Adams household:
- Manage Expectations: One of the first things we do when school is out is create a Summer Bucket List. Years ago when I first started this tradition, it was miles long and by the end of summer it felt more like a chore (or where we had failed not marking off items) than an actual fun and rewarding way to spend time together. Now, we limit the amount of activities and have a filter that determines what makes the list. In addition to determining these events, we decide as a family at the very beginning of summer what our hope is for the season. What will it look like in August if we’ve had the best summer together? Matt and I clearly communicate with the boys when we’ll be working (even if that is from home) and when we’ll be fully invested in them. Aside from setting expectations early on at home, it’s essential to do this same thing with your team at work. They know that summer looks differently for my availability and office hours, but I don’t make them guess or constantly have to question. I make sure they know what this looks like for me and both their access to me and my priorities during these three months.
- Edit Your Routine: My routine is altered significantly because I’m not getting up every morning and driving the boys to school or picking them up in the afternoon. That’s a lot of time that I’ve just recaptured. How am I going to spend that during these summer months? Traditionally I work from our office four days a week during the school year, but during the summer, I’m only planning to be there two days a week and those days are set, but of course allow for change when we have a team meeting or a client in town. I find that in the summer months when I’m working from home, I can get WAY more accomplished in the early morning hours before the boys are even out of bed. Plus, I’m not making a commute (or putting on makeup a lot of days) so by 10 am, I have checked off the majority of my daily to do list. We also set a new routine for the boys. They tend to sleep in later, but when they get up, they have a set schedule they work through before play occurs. They have breakfast, chores and reading at minimum. It sounds militant, I know. But, my boys thrive on some kind of schedule, even when it’s loose. I also don’t want our home to turn into “Lord of the Flies” by the end of summer. This structure helps with that. I think you have to allow for flexibility and spontaneity, though.
- Slow Down & Under Commit: In the summer months, we prefer to do a few things well and not a lot of things half-way. This is not the time to add big, major projects to the to do list. It’s not the time to have 18 dinner parties at your home. This is when you want to have Friday night happy hour on your back porch with neighbors while your kids play in the yard. It’s when you want to take long walks in the neighborhood after dinner. It’s when you want to wake up at 7 am instead of 5 am. It’s when you want to have dessert before dinner, just because. In our house we don’t want to get to the end of summer utterly exhausted, so we try to incorporate lots of rest into our weeks. And, we try not to overdo it with trips and events. We are all-in on the few that we do, so that they can be meaningful and memorable. At work we prepare well so that we can be completely unplugged during that time away. I try to leave lots of room for margin in my summer calendar, even more so than the other nine months of the year.
- Schedule Time for Play: At Choice we have Friday summer hours, which means between Memorial Day and Labor Day our Friday workday ends at noon. My hope is that if I model rest and play in my summer, my team will follow suit. I want them to take that time. I encourage them to work effectively and efficiently through the week so that they can actually enjoy that Friday afternoon.For some that looks like extra time with children. For others it looks like lying by the pool or a lazy afternoon nap or a chance to get something done around the house that they’ve been putting off. We also try to incorporate some extra play together as a team into our schedules. Last year we took a strategic planning retreat together. We just happened to be in Mexico. So, we worked for half the day and played for half the day. That investment paid dividends to our overall team rapport. At the Adams’s house we go through the entire summer calendar and put fun experiences into our months. One of our favorite activities together as a family last year was kayaking down the Caney Fork River. We’ve made that a priority for this year. My boys loved weekly trips to the library, so that’s happening again. Your scheduled play could look like trips to the pool or family foursquare battles in the driveway or neighborhood bike rides. The idea is that you are making play a priority this time of year and that when you are present, you are fully there.
- Take Time for You: There’s a lot more “together” time in the summer for our family. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that’s utterly exhausting. And, there are times that I may not like my family very much because I’ve just been around them too long. Ha! For me that means I need to get away by myself. I usually am up earlier than everyone so I have a very quiet house for several hours, which starts the day well. When I’m working from home, I draw boundaries with my boys so they know when I can be interrupted and when I’m off limits (unless someone is bleeding). I also try to get away for things like barre class, running errands (alone), time with friends and even some meals by myself. I know that I’m a much better mom and wife when I’m not frazzled or at my wits end. Screaming usually ensues at that point and NOBODY wants that, especially not me. Invest in yourself so that you can invest well in your people.
As we launch into the summer months, let’s all take time to explore and slow down. But mostly, let’s make sure that we don’t let someone else’s Instagram photo allow us to feel like we are failing. Be proactive with these three months. Utilize the time well so that you can look back in August and say this was your best summer to date. At that point, we’ll all be ready for the kids to head to school anyway, right?