School’s out for the summer, and for perhaps the first time in my life as a parent, my kids are old enough that—if I needed them to—they could be left to their own devices most of the time without starving, burning down the house, or tormenting one another to death. The reality is that I could continue my “regular” schedule and the kids would be able to entertain themselves while I work. I don’t have to send them to camp or schedule a babysitter. If I need to work a solid eight hours, I can do that.
What I’m discovering is that just because I can doesn’t necessarily mean I want to. In fact, this year when the “Gee, I wish I got to have the summer off” twinges of jealousy reared up, I decided to take this as an opportunity to restructure not just the kids’ summer, but mine, too. Isn’t that supposed to be the perk of working for myself? The flexibility? Being my own boss?
And I ask this in all seriousness, as I sit in our dentist’s waiting room as the kids’ get their teeth cleaned. Heh.
So here’s a few of the things we’re doing this summer, in our quest to find that elusive work-life balance for our family:
Selective scheduling. While the kids are old enough to hang out at home, it’s no fun to do nothing all summer, of course. But rather than the overloaded have-something-every-day pace of days of yore (when the kids were smaller and I simply couldn’t work with them underfoot), we’re being picky about what we choose to do. Each child is getting a few regular activities without the other one, of course. (I find that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” was almost certainly coined in reference to siblings.) And we have certain days designated as “at home” days and others where they are welcome to invite friends. By being clear about all of this, up front, I find the kids are pretty agreeable about it.
Shifted wake-ups. During the school year I get up at 5:30 in the morning to get a bit of work time in before the kids get up, and frankly it makes me want to stick sharp things directly into my eyeballs, but it’s what works for me during the academic year. With the advent of summer, I can once again sleep in… until about 7:00, which is still a good hour before my son gets up and two or three hours before my son does. That’s my “power time” to do nothing but work.
Lightened work load. You know what? My kids are going to grow up and move away eventually. I seriously doubt I’ll ever look back and think, “Gosh, I wish I’d worked much harder over the summers!” I’m purposely passing on a few opportunities that would load me down at this point. I’ve got plenty of work, and there’s time to take on more once they head back to school.
Increased chore load for the kids. Hey, I hear you don’t have classes and homework right now… how about you learn to cook? We have a completely new set of house rules this summer, and they include regular dinner assignments for the kids as well as extra chores over what I expect during the school year. They’ve grumbled just a little, but honestly, the look on my son’s face as we raved over the dinner he made was priceless. Kids like stretching their skills, even if those skills include things like laundry. This one not only keeps the kids busy and teaches them life lessons, it frees up more of my non-work time to spend doing fun things with them!
Remember to have fun. There have been too many summers in the past where I’ve been so stressed out about juggling the kids and my clients that I pretty much forgot to enjoy our increased family time. I’m vowing not to do that, this year—we have the pool, the garden, camping… plenty of great reasons to leave my computer and go out and live.
I think it’s going to be our best summer, yet.