In theory, I love Summer's lack of structure and schedules. (Sleep in! Stay in your pajamas all day! Why bathe when you can swim?!) But having two wild children has magnified my inner control freak, who knows that the season's "no structure, no schedule" philosophy makes my kids even crazier and, consequently, me one stressed-out mama. So, though I relax things a little around our house when school's out, it's definitely not a free-for-all.
If you're a Type A mom like me, here are some tips on how to keep things structured during the sunny season.
- Start your Summer prep well in advance. Summer sneak up on you? Learn your lesson, and next year start scheduling your Summer break way in advance to make sure you and your kids have lots to look forward to during these months. However, it might not be too late to get your kids into a local day camp or sports program, or to book a last-minute family getaway this Summer, so start planning now!
- Stick to normal bedtime schedules. You remember the days when you used to stay up late on Summer nights and sleep until noon? Well, those days are gone. Keep your kids up until midnight and guarantee they're still going to wake you up at 6 a.m., so save yourself from sleep deprivation and stick fairly close to that normal bedtime.
- Assign chores to your kids. They're home all day long, every single day, but that doesn't mean they're on a permanent vacation. Start doling out age-appropriate household work; you're teaching your kids responsibility and lightening your load.
- Keep up the school work. Teachers recommend students do at least 15 minutes of educational work a day to lessen the Summer brain-drain, so make sure it happens by scheduling in reading and other educational activities every day.
- Head to the pool early or late. If crazy crowds give you anxiety, then plan your pool time around the least crowded times of day: when the pool first opens and around dinner time. Even better, pack a picnic dinner, let the kids shower off at the pool and then get directly into their pajamas, and you've checked off another item from your daily to-do list.
- Find day camps in your area. Most day camps for kids ages 5 and older are almost as long as the school day, so enroll your kiddos and you're automatically almost back on schedule, only you get to pack their backpacks with swimsuits and sunscreen instead of homework and permission slips.
- Set up a kid activity center. Boredom is the enemy of every mom during Summer, so set up an area of your house with craft supplies, Legos, Play-Doh, and other favorite activities, tell your kids they can help themselves when they start claiming boredom, and then make sure they also put everything back when they're done.
- Set limits on screen time. Let your kid have their iPad first thing in the morning, and before you know it, it's 11 a.m., they've been watching YouTube for four hours while you were cleaning and folding laundry, and they're asking for lunch while they're still in their pajamas (please tell me I'm not the only mom this has happened to). Go into your YouTube settings to set time limits and set a timer on your phone when you hand over the iPad, so you can keep everyone in screen-time check.
- Join a gym with childcare. On mornings when you don't have a camp or a sport drop-off time to motivate you to get out the door, the gym is a lifesaver. Find a morning class that fits into your schedule, load up the kids, and get moving.
- Spring for a weekly sitter. Running errands with children is every Type A mom's nightmare. It takes three times as long, is half as efficient, and usually ends in tears. If you can swing it, book a sitter to come at the same time every week for a few hours and schedule your major errand-running for the week during that window.
- Schedule some downtime every day. If you're a mom who likes to be on the move, Summer days can feel like the longest ever as you rush around from one kid-friendly activity to the next, trying to fill the day. Give yourself a break and also schedule in downtime every day. At my house, 4 p.m. is quiet time while I prep dinner, and we're all happier for it.
- Plan a vacation. Even Type A moms need a break from the monotony of the family schedule, but it can be hard to mentally get there when you're at home. So schedule a family vacation to change your scenery . . . and hopefully you'll be able to leave your never-ending to-do list at home and let yourself relax and truly enjoy Summer.