Summer is supposed to be a “carefree” time, but for most working moms, there’s nothing carefree about the crunch of kid activities, organizing childcare, vacation-planning, and—before you know it—getting ready for school to start again. This is the reality of “mom summer,” but “mom summer” doesn’t have to be a bummer!
At times, “mom summers” felt overwhelming to me, but over the years, I learned how to manage those months in a way that allowed me to worry less and enjoy—dare I say, even savor—the summer season. You can enjoy your “mom summer” too! Here are some ways to savor the rest of your summer.
Don’t panic because it’s July, and you’ve run out of ideas: Planning ahead is great, but what if plans got changed or didn’t work out? Don’t worry!
How about some downtime so kids get a chance to learn how to play and be happy by themselves? I think a little dose of boredom is good for kids. Growing up, my siblings and I spent a lot of time playing and imagining on our own, and I remember it as some of our most innovative, creative time. I think back to when we would spend hot summer days building hay mazes in the barn, or undertaking ambitious building or sewing projects. When my parents stepped back, we learned to solve problems on our own and to plan our own time.
Camp Grandma or Camp Aunt Suzy: Until they passed away a few years ago, my parents operated a farm in Central Oregon, and once my kids were old enough, I tried to give them opportunities to work on the farm during the summer. My oldest son, Christian, stayed with them for at least four summers growing up, and the other kids spent time working there as well. It was a gift to me to have a safe and empowering experience to offer my kids, and the hard work (and beautiful summer weather) was a gift for the kids as well. Not everyone has a farm in the family, but most of us have family or good friends who would be happy to help take care of your kids and offer them new experiences during the summer. Be willing to think outside of the usual “summer camp” box when it comes to planning your kids’ time.
Take a mini-retreat. As long as you’re in the planning phase, be sure to build in some time in mid-summer just for you. After navigating the end-of-school rush and the busy launch of summer, July is a great time for working moms to take a deep breath. It’s time to recharge and realign as you embark on the second half of your year.
Whether it’s a full weekend away or just a few precious hours, be mindful about giving yourself a chance to step away from work and family for a bit. Spend some of your down time in quiet prayer and reflection, and spend some time doing something fun that energizes you. You’ll be surprised how refreshing even a mini getaway can be.
Recharge your marriage: As if navigating the end of school and start of summer wasn’t hectic enough, May and June are prime time for weddings, showers, and other big events that can tend to clog up schedules and make it hard to connect with your spouse. In order to combat that tendency to disengage, Chris and I make it a priority to plan at least one vacation alone every summer. Whether you’re able to take a trip, or just block time for a local stay-cation, planning time alone with your spouse should be your first priority.
Keep up with the Big 4: Sleep, Eat, Exercise, and Pray. Summer nights tend to be late and long, but morning comes at the same time every day, so be sure you’re getting consistent rest. I’m naturally an early riser, so I try to make sure that I’m in bed by 10:00 every night (okay, sometimes earlier), even in the summer when I’m often tempted to stay up with Chris or my (now grown-up) kids. Keeping my body on a regular schedule is crucial for me to stay healthy and mentally fit.
Similarly, I always start my day with exercise because it’s a huge stress reliever and an energizing force. It’s also just plain good for you. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that you have to get up and run a marathon every morning or spend hours at the gym. Research shows that walking even as little as 73 minutes a week (a little over 10 minutes a day) can reduce stress, lower risk of disease, and increase energy levels.
You also need to give your body good food. I love dessert as much as the next girl, maybe more if we’re being honest, and I don’t deny myself the occasional sweet treat. I do, however, try to avoid getting too much sugar, and I aim for fresh foods with plenty of nutrients. Sometimes this is not convenient. Sometimes it even feels selfish, but I know that in order to give my best to my work and family and to serve God with my utmost, I have to give my body the fuel it needs.
Finally, pray. Pray every day, especially when you feel your spirits or your energy lagging. I read a great Bible study the other day based on Romans 8:11, it encouraged me to confidently look to God for true rejuvenation: “And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his spirit who lives in you,” (NIV). That verse is a great reminder of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
Ask someone to pray with you and for you. One day a few weeks ago, after a stressful morning taking my daughter Annie to physical therapy and contacting doctors and medical clinics to schedule various appointments for her, I had to rush to make it to an important lunch meeting, knowing that afterwards I would be scrambling to get some work done for a tight deadline. When Annie and I made it home from her appointments, I knew I only had a few minutes to spare, but I wasn’t in the right place mentally or physically to give my best to the rest of my day. I asked Annie to pray for me. We bowed our heads with our arms wrapped tight around each other, and as we prayed, I felt my shoulders relax, along with the tightness in my stomach. I was able to leave for lunch feeling ready and supported, knowing that the Lord would carry me through my weakness, and He did.
God can carry you too, no matter what your life—or your summer—has in store.