Working parents around the world share the same general feeling about extended vacations from school: oh, crap.
How will we keep the kids entertained while still managing to work so that we can also keep them fed?
Summer breaks are especially difficult, I’ve found, because I’d rather be outside playing or taking the kids to the pool than working. (You’re never too old to appreciate that sunshine is better than the glow of a computer screen.) This year, however, I’m looking forward to my kids’ break from their school schedule and the added flexibility it provides our already loosey-goosey lives
Here’s my summer survival plan in a nutshell:
- I schedule only the things that absolutely have to be done at a set time, and everything else gets put on a to-do list.
- At the beginning of each week, I make my daily to-do lists for the upcoming week.
- I keep my daily lists short, allowing for the unexpected tasks that will needed to be added as I go.
- I prioritize tasks based on importance, making it easier to postpone non-essential chores when something more important comes up.
(If you’ve ever used the Franklin Covey planning method, you’ll recognize these as the tenets of his system. If you haven’t, I recommend checking it out his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
Now, the idea of to-do lists are nothing new, to me or anyone else. But what I’m doing differently is letting go of the notions that everything needs to be scheduled and my list needs to be completed every day. I’m working towards letting my days become a more accurate reflection of my priorities by leaving room for flexibility.
In the past, I’ve tried to make my schedule reflect my priorities. I’ve set aside time for things like movie nights or ice cream runs, but I could never force my loved ones to connect with me during those times - and only those times. I couldn’t avoid my daughter coming to me in the middle of the morning to tell me all about butterflies or my son deciding sometime in the afternoon to finally tell me how last night’s baseball game went. Ultimately, it’s these constant, little, and important interruptions that make parenting so rewarding - and school vacations so tricky for me - and yet they were the things I was putting off until later because I had things to do. Not necessarily more important things, but things that were not yet checked off.
This summer, my goal is to live by the list, the weather, and the temperament of the people who matter most to me. I’ll focus on what needs to be done, but know when I can say “sure, let’s go play, I can finish this up later.” I’ll also know when to say, ” go play with your cousins, I have to finish this project this morning.”
What’s your trick for balancing summer fun with real work?