When my kids were little—when they truly needed near-constant supervision—the only summer option that allowed me to continue working was some sort of care arrangement that covered school hours. They could go to camp, or I could hire a sitter, but there had to be something. As they’ve grown, summer has changed; we’ve gone from constant, full-day care to fewer scheduled activities, and now that they’re both teens, I don’t have to schedule them for anything at all. Let’s face it, they can feed themselves and keep themselves alive without much help. They’ve even reached that magical age where I never hear “I’m booooooooored!”
So the good news is that I can work as much as I need to and I don’t have to worry that my children are going to wander off or set the house on fire or anything. We sat down as a family and discussed the summer, a few months back, and this was the first year where I was really able to say to both kids, “Tell me what you think will work best for you.” My son was really looking forward to doing a whole lot of not much, and maybe spending more time with friends than we generally manage during the school year. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted to take a class and some lessons. They had different desires but we wanted to make it work, and so far it seems like it is.
The interesting thing, for me, is how keeping the kids on a workable schedule is actually helping me make my summer schedule more productive.
We have our routine during the school year, of course. It works, mostly, but once school’s over, all bets are off. I no longer have those days when everyone’s cleared out of the house by 8:00 and I have the day to myself. Even though my teens might not need “tending,” they’re underfoot, or needing rides, and our daily schedule keeps changing, and I still have to try to get some work done and maybe find some of that elusive “quality time” with the family, at the same time. So what to do?
I stopped working on the weekends. I’m trying to make this a year-round rule, actually, but in the summer it’s a lot more iron-clad than during the school year. I just don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays while my kids are on vacation. This was a really hard thing for me to do, at first, but it’s gotten easier, and I think it has significantly improved my mood and even my productivity. It’s nice to have a couple of days off each week, and I get more done when I know I will not succumb to “just one more thing” over the weekend.
Teenagers like to sleep in, so I get up early. I’m not really a morning person, but now that the whole household isn’t forced to get up at o’dark thirty, I can get up a couple of hours before the kids do, easily, and take that quiet time to power through some work. I appreciate my faux-alone time, and I don’t even have to get up too early to get it.
I give a schedule alert every morning. Once the kids are up, I let them know what appointments, if any, we have that day. I also let them know if they are free to make plans or not. If we have no appointments, I may suggest my son invite a friend over while his sister works on her online class, for example. And if there’s nothing planned for the evening, I may encourage my daughter to get her work done so she can do something that night, etc.
If I have to go places, I bring my laptop. Theoretically I could be working any time I’m waiting for a kid somewhere, but during the school year sometimes I take a half hour in a waiting room just to sit and read a magazine or whatever. During the summer, though, with so many stints of idle time during music lessons or doctors’ appointments, I make sure I’m always ready and able to get some work done inbetween chauffeuring engagements.
I try to remember that it is, in fact, summer. If it’s a beautiful day, well, I try to get as much work done as fast as I can so that I can knock off early and we can go swimming or otherwise enjoy ourselves. Or maybe I tell the kids to leave me be until lunchtime, and then I take a long break with them before returning to work. And with my daughter spending so many hours working on a class online while I’m working, too, I’m now much more aware of the need to take breaks, stretch, have a snack… all of the things I’m encouraging her to do, I’m realizing I should be doing, as well.
Basically, I fully expect to have mastered the summer schedule juggle just in time for everyone to go back to school. Obviously.
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