The “school is out” panic attack is upon us – strategies for a sane summer

It’s a tough time of year; the kids are super-excited for a break from homework and have fun camps to look forward to every week, and as parents we’re wondering how the hell we will survive without the hot-lunch fallback option for 3 months.

To make matters worse, we have to survive the next 73 days (but whose counting) with the most inconvenient drop off and pick up times conceived breaking up our normal routines, try to remain employed and somehow attempt to enjoy summer in the process. How on God’s green earth do we make all this work?

I scoured my resources and came up with what I believe to be a pretty comprehensive list of survival tips. Please share your thoughts on your plans or what’s worked for you too!

1. Work from home from time-to-time

Set up playdates with your children’s friends when you are working from home, and return the favor to others. When your kids are at home and you have a deadline, set them up with a project and use a timer to bargain for uninterrupted working time. If they give you an hour, you give them 50 water balloons and let them have a free-for-all outside. If they give you two hours, promise to take them to the park to play.

2. Part/time Nanny

Consider hiring a part-time sitter/nanny to give yourself a break. One with a drivers license can be a life-saver if camp gets out at 3pm and work requires you put in a real workday. High school students are generally reasonably priced and have the energy to keep things fun for the kids. Try care.com if you need access to a sitter network; this option also has background and driving checks that can be purchased for additional fees.

3. Pay attention to camp details

You want camp to be fun for your child, and preparation is critical. Make sure your kids know the schedule – who is picking them up and when, where the lunch & snack are located in their backpack, where the bathroom is at camp, etc. Similarly, pay attention to sunscreen. Getting a sunburn on day 1 will make for a painful days 2-5 and start the week off on the wrong foot.

4. Figure out your new commute

For yourself, map out traffic patterns so you are aware of when you need to leave work to pick up the kids on time. Waze is awesome for this, and will send you a reminder 15 minutes before you need to leave to arrive on time based on the day’s traffic patterns.

5. Pick the right outfit

The right clothes can make or break the experience – be certain your child is dressed appropriately for weather and activities. Summer camp often involves water, mud, sand, watermelon and/or pie eating contests and more, hence, expect messiness. One of the best tips for parents is to visit your local second hand store and buy 6 or 8 outfits that are “camp only” clothes. This relieves everyone from worrying about stained-beyond-salvage situations, and no one feels bad about tossing them at the end of summer. Alternatively, you can be lazy like me and utilize our friends at Amazon:

Boys Shirts – Multiple Color Options

Boys Shorts

Girls Shirts – Multiple Color Options

Girls Shorts

6. Grandparent Camp

If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who are willing and able to spend time with the kiddos, take advantage of it. Kids benefit from multi-generation influence, and you gain back some sanity knowing your kids are in good hands.

7. Juggling Vacations

If you are part of a two parent family, consider taking separate vacations so each parent can cover kiddo duty while off work. You have the opportunity to bond with your kids in a new way, and save $ compared to an expensive camp option.

8. Tap into your community network

Hopefully you’ve scheduled some camps with your children’s friends – if so, take turns with drop off and pick up to allow other working parents to stay late one night while you take another night that same week.

Pay your friends’ generosity back with an easy and appreciated gift – Alcohol delivery via Saucey in 30 minutes or less! Get Saucey! Use code “Try21” at checkout for some savings.

9. Make lunch in bulk

I often make lunches for 2-3 days in one setting to save time and energy. Some easy, yet palatable and fun ideas:

For the “I only have time to make lunch once” family: 1 week of lunches in 1 hour

For the kid who only eats snacks: Lunches for the snacker

For the “I don’t want my food to touch each other” kiddo*: Mason jar recipes

This lunchbox set is perfect if you want to avoid the glass mason jars:
Perfect Tupperware
*Use the same concept to segregate hummus/veggies, nut butter/apples, ranch/carrot sticks, crackers/ meat/cheese slices, etc.

What did I miss that saves your sanity in the summer? Please share your tips!


Mommy Guilt

There are moments that I wonder what it would be like to swap roles with my husband (who also works Full Time+some and travels like I do). I don’t wonder about the split of the chores, that seems equitable. I wonder about how our role and contributions as working parents affects our psyche. 

I wonder if, generally speaking, men feel guilt like working mothers I know do. And, if so, is that guilt self-imposed, or is it a societal expectation that hasn’t gone away? Do we expect more from moms than dads? I know, at minimum, our kids do. About a year ago, I counted the number of times my boys said “mommy?” In a 10 minute interval. I kid you not, it was 102 times between the two of them. How many times did they say “daddy?” 3. Three frickin’ times. We were both in the room the entire time.

I sure hope it’s not societies expectatation, but not because it’s wrong. I sure hope not because I know kids do better with a balance. My husband does an amazing job teaching our boys life skills they need to know – how to use a power tool, mow a lawn, ski, treat women respectfully, make homework seem reasonable and pee standing up, to name a few. I don’t have near the level of patience he does and I’m not nearly as good as he is at any of those things (especially peeing standing up).

He also appreciates the stage our kids are in better than I do. He’s always made time for early morning snuggles, even if it means starting the morning off later than he wanted. I suck at living in the moment and struggle with appreciating the current ‘phase’ our boys are in, particularly when it means I’ll be late for something or someone…. and then I feel guilty about it later.

Now, this isn’t a pity party. I’m good at a lot of things, and share those teachable moments with the kids. My point is, one person can’t be expected to do it all, and to do “it” all well. So why does society (or we as individuals) expect that of moms? And then why do we feel guilty about juggling too many things? Shouldn’t we celebrate what we are good at, and what we can do for our kids instead of focus on what we aren’t good at, or aren’t doing?

Enough of the diatribe; what can we do to cope with the guilt?

1. Commit to what’s reasonable and take pride in meeting that commitment

I tend to get a healthy dose of mommy guilt around Valentine’s Day when my children come home with perfectly handcrafted/scrapbook worthy Valentines that are individualized to each child in a room of 30 classmates. Instead of falling into ‘craft mom’ guilt every time I see this, I’ve opted to make a different commitment to my kids that is important to them. I’ve obligated myself to making my children one pretty phenomenal birthday cake every year. It ends up being about an 8-12 hour commitment, but I can plan ahead for it and I know it makes their day that much more special. I’m spending time and energy on something that matters to my kids. Pick something that matters to yours, and deliver.

2. Put your phone away (and other distractions) when around your kids.

The painful reality of the importance of being present to my kids when we did have time together set in about 2 years ago. My 4-year old at the time told me to ‘wait a minute’ because he ‘was busy doing some work’ (on a first generation iPod). Okay! Message received kiddo. Let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of minutes to spend together, so genuinely enjoy each other’s company when the opportunities are available.

3. Make a daily commitment to do something for you.

I am 100% positive that when I take care of myself (my outlet/’me time’ is exercise), I am a far better person. I’m more patient, empathetic, caring, relaxed, and confident. The benefits of my ‘me time’ shows up in all my relationships. Sometimes life gets in the way and it’s not possible – your spouse is out on business and you have a kid with croup home from school for 3 days. Cut yourself some slack when life throws you the lemons, and jump back on the ‘me’ wagon as soon as you reasonably can.

Would love to hear any tips you have to deal with ‘mommy guilt’. Comment and share!