I work from home, and in the next couple weeks my life is about to change. Summer break is upon us, which means I'm going to go from a precariously balanced schedule that works largely because my kids are in school, to a precariously balanced schedule and also having a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy in the house with me all day. For the past couple years, I've attempt to navigate this by going in with "a plan," but most stay-at-home mom summer plans never, and I mean never, pan out. We have the best intentions, of course, but those intentions won't entertain our children for hours on end.
Yes, the ability to stay at home with my kids is a blessing and blah blah blah. But you know what else it is? Hard. It's very, very hard. So while I'm very grateful to be able to work from home, and I realize not everyone has this opportunity (and, on top of that, I actually do enjoy it) things can still be irritating and I'm still allowed to complain about them.
I think the main reason most of our grand stay-at-home mom summer plans go wrong is because we feel guilty. Because I'm home it's hard not to feel I should be doing something at all times (and should be grateful for the opportunity) because #blessed. But guys? You can be aware of your good fortunate and appreciate it without having to be perfect or, worse, pretend everything is.
So please, stay-at-home and work-from-home moms: don't feel bad if you can't manage the following. Trust me, you're not the only one.
Keep Things Tidy
I get it, folks. I'm a bit of a neat freak myself. I don't like clutter or mess. Marie Kondo and I would be BFFs. But when your kids are in the house basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week? It's just going to be a bit of a disaster. I recommend setting aside a little time at the end of the day to pick up instead of stressing about the fact that there's always something strewn all about. Otherwise it's like trying to sweep in the middle of a hurricane — it's an exercise in futility.
Stick To A Regular Routine
My Type A self starts every summer with a big, prettily decorated daily schedule to keep my kids on track. It's loaded with lots of different activities, set mealtimes, time for rest, time for screens. Everything is planned out to the minute, from the time they wake up util they go to sleep.
We keep to this schedule for about a week before everyone starts to get a bit lax about it.
Nevertheless, I stand by the idea of making the schedule because it at least sets the tone and gets everyone into a sort of groove, even if it often veers off-course. But I'm saying, don't get too upset if you don't have quiet reading time at exactly 1:45 p.m. every day for the prescribed 30 minutes.
Limit Screen Time
"20 minutes a day, kids! That's it! You're not going to spend all summer fusing with the couch and rotting your brains with mindless garbage."
... until that first really hot day where you don't want to go outside or move or deal with anything and then, well, Sesame Street marathon it is.
(Hey: at least it's educational!)
Get The Kids To Start Eating Garden-Fresh Veggies
Most summers, I have the secret, fervently wished for goal that this is the year my kids finally start to really enjoy vegetables.
But lemme tell you a little secret: if your kid doesn't like lacinato kale September through May, they're not going to like it June through August just because it's in season.
(Keep offering, sure, but don't beat yourself up if it doesn't take.)
Spend 90 Percent Of Waking Hours Outdoors
This sounds all well and good until you remember how damn hot it gets in the summer (and, if you're in New England, like me, unbearably humid) and not only do the kids not want to run around in that weather (who can blame them) you don't want to sit around in it, either.
Never Forget Sunscreen
If you couldn't tell just by looking at my name, let me assure you that I am painfully Irish. And the most painful part of being Irish is the skin-being-exposed-to-the-sun-for-too-long part. And my kids are even more Irish than I am, so sunscreen is an absolute must for us. (And, to be honest, it's a good idea for everyone because sun protection is important.)
Every year I promise we're not going to forget to put it on or reapply, and every year all of us wind up burned at least once. It's not great.
Avoid The Ice Cream Truck
The mortal enemy of parents everywhere: the ice cream man. But no type of parent more so than the stay-at-home mom, who is most likely to run into them with their kids (just do to being with them constantly). And why is it that I always run into these dudes right before dinner? Who drives the ice cream truck past the playground at 5:45 p.m., my good man?! We're about to head home and eat and they will never do that if they wolf down a SpiderMan popsicle right now.
If you live in a city (in my experience, especially New York City) the idea that your kid won't constantly be exposed to Mr. Softee is impossible and you need to give up on even trying. In the suburbs you're similarly pretty screwed, but try if it makes you happy. Country living? Look, this is where your chances of success are the best, but I live in the country and have for two years now and still wind up fighting with my children about not getting overpriced ice cream bars.
Make Your Own Bug Repellent
Just me? Every year I look through my hippie dippie book of herbal remedies and go to the apothecary in town (yes, my town has an apothecary, what of it?) and lovingly mix all the ingredients together and (not gonna lie) pretend I'm a real witch. I then apply the concoction the next time I go out and realize... yeah, no, the mosquitos are laughing at me. This was pointless.
Regular Fun Day Trips At Least Once A Week
I'm not saying you'll stop going to the local farm and the zoo and the water park or whatever. You can (and should) do some off-the-beaten-path fun things this summer. I'm just saying after a couple of such trips you'll probably realize that schlepping kids in hot weather is a challenge and also, depending on what you do, can get expensive.
*Really* & Completely Enjoy Your Summer "Vacation"
I'm not saying summer break isn't enjoyable. Despite all these complaints, I actually really love summer break with my kids and even miss it when they go back to school. But going in too enthusiastically, ignoring the various annoyances of summers past, or suddenly imagining your children are going to be the best behaved versions of themselves at all times, is setting yourself up for disappointment.As with any aspect of parenthood, realize that sometimes it's cool and sometimes it sucks and it almost never goes according to plan, so try not to hinge your enjoyment on the idea that it will.