I have a love-hate relationship with summer: I’m a mom. After fifteen summers with kids, I’ve got some encouragement for you moms that suddenly find themselves with kids of all ages at home all the time.
This season with a reputation for being fun, warm, and easy-going, is also filled with the stress of changing nearly everything about how my home and family operate for 2.5 months—and then putting it all back together again. Super fun.
It’s hard for me to fully embrace the “school’s out!” joy when my summer babysitter sends me a DM about getting another job just three weeks before the kids are out of school. Only another mom would fully get the extent to which that little message blew up my summer. But with an open mind and a little wisdom from the Bible, I’m getting a little better at summer every year. I figure by the time my last kid leaves home, I’ll have it perfected. (And then they’ll all start coming back again!?)
Before you email me telling me, “there’s dads out there taking care of kids too,”—believe me, I know there are! And I love it. Read on in solidarity and with my full appreciation for you. I say “moms” in an article like this because I know the reality—validated by all kinds of research—is that most moms still shoulder much more of the organization of home and family care no matter their job status.
We all see the same Country Time Lemonade commercials in our minds where kids happily giggle and swing, having picturesque summertime fun. Not only isn’t that how summer ever happens, but these images remind me that the day is coming when my kids are going to ask to sell lemonade on my street corner right in the middle of a Zoom meeting.
I will feel like a terrible mom saying no to such a sweet request, especially when they tell me they’re “raising money for the poor.” So instead, I will try not to cuss while I force open the legs of my card table after dragging it down the street. I definitely won’t be able to convince them that in the wake of a pandemic, no one’s going to buy their homemade lemonade and brownies made without gloves and a sneeze-guard. They’re just gonna have to learn that one the hard way. So I set up the table. And summer here we come.
So, here are my top 5 ways to survive and thrive this summer:
1. Decide what you need and say so. Many moms I know operate out of a mindset of scarcity when it comes to their own needs. I love that moms are looking to give their kids all that they can. BUT you are a human being with legitimate needs! You cannot be constantly deprived and be in a healthy place for your family.
If you need an hour to work out three times a week, say that! If you need to be undisturbed from 10-11am, say that. If you need your kid to find rides home from basketball practice because that’s when your meeting with your boss is, then say exactly what you need. Put your own needs on par with theirs when you’re looking at summer plans. I’ve found when my kids know I need something; they actually try to help me!
Let’s not operate out of scarcity. Let’s not operate as a victim to our circumstances. Articulate your needs, then you always have the option of setting them aside for the good of others just like Philippians 2:4 says; “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” If you set your needs aside this summer, do it joyfully to serve your family or your home—not because you’re pretending you don’t have any.
2. Make a plan, and add margin. You need a rhythm by which the majority of days are lived. Summer feels more open, which can be chaotic, so a little structure is important for everyone’s sanity. Decide on a basic daily rhythm that works for you. Mine have varied widely from hour-by-hour nap schedules to general principles about what-must-happen-before-what. Even if you’re a super-planner, know your structure is going to be helpful about 60% of the time. It’s totally worth the pre-planning, but it can trip you up if you’re thinking “the plan” is for 100% of the time. It’s not—the other 40% of the time, it won’t work at all. That’s where the margin comes in. I highly recommend that part of your plan is specifically set apart as unaccounted-for time: margin.
In the book of Proverbs, we see wisdom is found somewhere in the tension between our plans and God’s plans. So we need some margin to welcome God into the summer with us!
- Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
- The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Can you make your weekly meeting 45 minutes instead of an hour? Can you get the sitter to stay an extra hour? Can you please—for the love—NOT plan everything back to back, assuming you’re going to hit all the green lights on the way? A legit part of my summer calendar says “margin,” and it’s because God is going to want to do some things I can’t plan for right now. I know I need to pray, breathe, walk slower, linger longer for a chat, make extra phone calls to arrange things with the kids, finish the game we’re playing over breakfast, and enjoy them being home more.
How can you specifically plan margin into your summer for your circumstances?
3. Put your kids to work. Your kids can do waaaaaaaaay more than you are likely requiring of them. If they dirty it, have them clean it (dishes, car, living room, etc.). When more people are at home using more things, then more work needs to be done—by them. We don’t pay for chores that are about the maintenance of common household stuff that they use. We do offer small payments for extra chores (clean out my pantry, get my GoodWill donation organized). Pay or don’t pay—that’s up to you. But make ‘em work!
In Proverbs 31, there’s a lengthy poem about a woman/wife/mother, and I promise you she didn’t do this while holding down a desk job at home during a pandemic with kids peering over the edge of her monitor wondering when their next feeding is and expecting a magical childhood.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
Her kids were working, too. Guaranteed. And yes, the ones that couldn’t work yet likely had the benefit of living in a multi-generational home where there was built-in support and other adults who cared for them. So that’s why I say:
4. Get help. No one’s coming to award you a medal on August 31 for doing it all yourself. Parents, neighbors, friends, babysitters, summer camps, etc. This Proverbs 31 woman is a wise manager of the resources at her disposal to accomplish much more than she can do on her own. Get. Help. Summer is the time to call in the favors. Make the awkward asks. Hire the kid down the street. Partner in a new way with your spouse. Have your oldest kid drive the others around for you. Whatever. Don’t try summer alone.
5. Budget for a few extras. Summer is expensive, so I understand if you need to put a pin in this one until next summer. But I want you to be able to be the mom who says yes a little more to enjoy the little things of summer as they present themselves. I know sometimes that means an extra ten bucks!
Yes, you can have the slushy. Yes, we can drive to the park that costs $8 to park. Yes, the babysitter can take you to that one fun place I always say no to going.
I’m usually the budget-conscious, plan-keeper in my household, and then I watch their eyes light up when my husband gets them a $3 ice cream, and I’m annoyed I wasn’t the one who said yes. Summer feels like a time for grace, and God is a lavish grace-giver.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” -\ John 1:16.
Sometimes grace comes in the form of a Snowie in the parking lot at TJ Maxx. Be that mom this summer.
Moms, summer isn’t easy. I’m in there with you. We’re not only going to get through it, but we’re also going to enjoy it. ( Right?!! ) I’ll check back on you on September 1. Good luck.