Has the sparkle of free flowing days with no deadlines or carpooling marathons to manage, lost it’s shine? Is the abundance of unstructured time to manage for your kids and being with them 24/7 stressing you out? The lazy haze of summer can be a long awaited welcome for kids once the hustle of the school year comes to an end. It also can be a stressful time for us parents when we have scarcely had a moment to ourselves.
Summer Self Care Series
Today’s post will be the first in my series on Summer Self Care for Parents. I will cover a wide range of topics in this area and am open to covering anything on your minds, so if you have any ideas, please drop a comment and I’ll be sure to cover it!
White Knuckling a “Fun” Summer
It was only 2 years ago that I believed my job as a parent was to fill up my summer with as many trips to fun places that I could fit into our days and afford. This didn’t work very well since by the time school rolled around it literally took over a month to do what felt like to me, was get my energy back and only then get back into the swing of things. It took about a month to give myself what I needed in sleep, quality foods and time in solitude to feel fueled enough to continue doing what I was doing before school had been out.
All the while I was not my best mommy version. I was grumpier and more on edge than I would of liked during the last half of the summer. What good is going to fun places if I’m a party pooper of sorts and increasing anxiety in my family because I’m so stressed?
The Go With the Flow Mommy
I spent the next summer very passive and looking back at it now, allowed for much more then I would of liked or was healthy for our family. Dissolving into the go with the flow vibe that summer brought and leaving it up to chance as to whether we went on trips and did things, what time we slept and meal times led me to the same place as the previous years, grumpy and exhausted. One unstructured week turned into 2 then 3, taking with it my reserves of energy, patience and calm.
5 Tips for Sustainably Fun Summers
The sweet spot in the middle is the best place to be. I realized the only way to change these extreme approaches was to take the initiative in setting the tone and the structure for the summer. Again the sweet middle which meant not too structured and not to loose. It took trial and error to find it and I think each family has to find that for themselves. Save yourself the headache of using up 2 full summers to learn what I learned and simply read the rest of this post 🙂
Below are 5 changes I made that brought our family summers to the sweet middle road of balance between fun and rest and my needs and my family’s needs.
1)Keep Morning and Nighttime Routines
The most coveted treasure when making self care a priority as a parent is a schedule. Being able to predict when your child will be up, when they will fall asleep, what activities need your involvement and which ones do not, are foundational first steps in carving out time for yourself. Keeping routines however loose or tight are in my book, what makes or breaks a parent’s chance at uninterrupted self care time.
Keeping routines for waking and sleeping keep a rhythm in the summer that you can rely on and schedule around. So even if you have a simple routine of waking, washing up, dressing and breakfast and for the evening after dinner shower and straight to bed, the regularity acts as an anchor of calm even if what you do in the day every day is very different.
On particularly long days, time for yourself to wind down from the day before bed, if even for just 15 minutes, quickly comes to be a revered sanity saver.
Your Worth The Earlier Wake Time!
Yes, being able to predict when your child will wake to schedule self care time for yourself, means needing to wake up a little earlier than your kids. Know this, even if you wake up early enough to just savor your favorite caffeinated drink in uninterrupted silence, it will pay off in dividends when you notice how much calmer and centered you are throughout the day. Your entire family will be better for you having given yourself that time.
Well Slept Child= Nicer Child
This on top of the fact that even when our kids are happily enjoying their summer and are tempted to stay up and “not miss out on any of the fun” their bodies still need quality sleep. They will also be more enjoyable to be around having that consistent sleep schedule.
Even one hour spent planning can improve your whole summer. Doing a little research of fun and local events in your area, brings focus in the midst of the summer loosey goosey-ness.
There’s usually free parenting magazines in libraries that show you what festivals, free concerts, exhibits and carnivals are happening in your area. You can also google fun summer events in whatever zip code you’re in. Once you find them make sure to mark them on your calendar so they’re in plain site for you and the rest of the family.
Break Up The Funk
If there is some sibling crankiness lurking from having been with each other every waking hour, having a fun and novel event to look forward to can break up the funk, not to mention that experiencing a new environment is a refreshing self care treat for the whole family.
3)Balanced Rest and Go Schedules
Once you have the dates of fun local events locked into your calendar you can try a great concept from Shawn Fink abundant Mama, from her Summer Sanity podcast episode 69 you can check out here. Her fabulous tip consists of deliberately making a balance between having what she calls, savoring slow days (where the family is at home most, if not all day) and the fun and go days (where they are traveling places throughout the day).
Fun Trips Can Be Exhausting
Trips to fun places is one of the highlights of summer. That said the packing and preparing, the driving through traffic, the lines, the navigating through packed public spaces, the unpacking when you get home can all be exhausting. Having too many traveling days strung together can overtax you pretty quickly, especially if you’re a sensitive mom like myself. Intentionally spacing out those outside trip days with rest days creates the time to unwind, recharge, connect and process the fun that was had. Having that rhythm between restful and action packed activities is another great way to sustainably maintain levels of calm and flow in the family throughout the summer.
4)Easy, Accessible and Nourishing Fuel
A hot day at a packed public festival can be frazzling for me and loads of fun for my extroverted son and husband, yet sipping a cold, healthy refreshing drink that I loooove, while snacking on yummy snacks and knowing that an easy and satisfying dinner awaits at home makes it exponentially more enjoyable.
All Cooking Done at Once
The ability to have refreshing drinks and snacks ready to take when we’re out the door has only been consistently possible because I’m big on bulk food preparation. I have found that clean, nourishing and satisfying meals prevents 50 percent of tantrums and complications. Once that is out of the way the week is a whole lot more enjoyable.
I usually spend my Sundays preparing the following 5 things. For things that can be frozen I might even make enough to last 2 week stretches.
- Sweet wheat based pancakes with cinnamon, chia seeds, eggs and vanilla,
- Savory pancakes (chickpea flour batter with diced jalapenos, onions and fresh cilantro with salsa as a dressing yum!)
- Smoothie bags (fruit, nuts and greens in quart sized freezer bags)
- Ice cream pops made of coconut milk, frozen bananas and strawberries,
- Protein rich cocoa and oatmeal cookies
- Gallon sized batches of tea. I will slow cook mine while I sleep with loads of hibiscus as the base with sugar cane cubes. I’ll store it in the fridge in the morning and sip it throughout the day. According to my mood I will add different things to it like mint, lemongrass, black tea or green tea and lime.
- Herbed ice cubes. I’ll include lemon grass, mint or hibiscus with lime juice and honey and throw them in my water bottles before I head out the door.
- Slow cooked beans or lentils of all kinds with veggies. I’ll have them along with a salad and serving of rice.
- Salad marinade: I will cut up a bunch of onions, carrots, cucumbers, olives and tomatoes and throw them in a container with lemon juice, salt and olive oil. I’ll shake the container really well and have it ready in the fridge for the week. When hungry, the flavors will have marinated and taste fantastic when I toss them on a bed of salad greens.
5)Engage in Self Care and Connect With Loved Ones
Self care doesn’t need to be only in solitude. Fun projects that require working with your hands is an excellent way to engage in the kind of self care that takes you out of your head and brings you in the moment. When your child is immersed with say, a drawing, you can sit next to them and join them by pulling out some paper and flexing your own drawing skills. Even better, make it a fun family activity on the days you’re all at home.
Many sweet memories have been made when I have made stuff alongside my son and the air is thick with the buzz of minds engrossed in what their doing. Aside from losing track of time it’s a beautiful way to connect and make memories.
What have been positive summer game changers for you?
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