Summer’s here. In all of its hot glory.
The good news is that summer is fun. The bad news is that the very things that kids love about summer (the lack of structure, later bedtimes and impromptu adventures) are the very things that can make mothers crazy. I’ve developed some tips and tricks (read: coping mechanisms) for surviving these twelve weeks and I thought I’d share.
Here are the top ones making a difference in my happiness and sanity.
#1 I make the kids get in the car before me.
Loading feisty children into a car is enough to undo me. There’s something about being in the small, confined space of a car, hearing them bicker in stereo that makes me regret even owning a car. This point may seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me: you can’t hear them fussing and fighting if you’re not in the car with them. So, now I tell the kids to go get in the car and put on their seatbelts while I load my teacup (or wineglass, depending on the time of day) into the dishwasher and grab my bag. It’s magical. Giving them a two-minute head start changes everything. By the time I open my car door and climb in, they’ve worked through whatever needed working through and I didn’t have to bear witness. #Winning.
#2 I’ve started getting up 30 minutes earlier.
I know, I know, we all need (and deserve) as much sleep as possible. But you know what’s even better than sleep? Thirty minutes of uninterrupted solitude. Thirty minutes to wake up before anyone asks for a snack, a ride or a last-minute playdate. Getting up 30 minutes earlier has been a game changer for me. It’s my quiet time and I do what I want to do, whether that’s meditating, reading or write hand-written notes to people. Yes, it’s tough to get up when I know I could keep sleeping, but I find those 30 minutes alone to be even more energizing than sleep. Hell, sometimes I just sit on a chair in my family room and stare out the window for 30 minutes.
#3 I talk about peaks and pits.
At the end of each day, my 7-year-old daughter and I discuss the “peaks and pits”—the highs and the lows—of our days. It’s a wonderful way to get information out of a child who’s prone to respond with a robotic “OK” every time you ask her how her day was. During our peaks and pits conversations, I’ve learned about all the boys who have crushes on Layla, her distaste for her summer math work and her love for diving competitions in the pool with neighborhood friends. The best part is that she always asks me to go first and analyzing my own day this way serves as a daily reminder of what really matters.
#4 I run errands during the workday.
Back when I was living a life of performing, perfecting and pleasing, I would never take time out of the workday for personal errands. My, how things have changed. Now I would never take time away from my family for a Saturday haircut when I can sneak away from work at lunch to get it done. A quick trip to the store to buy a birthday present? Check. A thrift shop drop-off of outgrown kids clothes? Check. I can catch up on work at night when the kids are asleep, but I can’t get a rain check for those summer Saturdays around the pool.
#5 I pre-plan exercise time.
Yoga and meditation are important to me and my sanity, but it can be hard to make time for either when meetings and the kids’ activities crowd my calendar. I’m happy to say that I have a new technique that works like a charm. Since my world revolves around my calendar and my calendar can get kinda crazy, I block out time for yoga classes and meditation two months in advance using Outlook. In other words, I block and protect time for exercise (mental and physical) on a calendar that’s a blank slate. So as invitations to meetings—whether they’re from colleagues or the kids’ summer camp—start flooding my inbox, I’ve got the big rocks in the jar and all the little pebbles fill in the empty spaces around them. Not making the time to take care of myself is no longer an excuse.
#6 I use Uber when drinking.
When Uber came to town, my husband promptly announced that there was “officially no excuse for drinking and driving.” And he’s right. Now whenever we go out and know that we’ll be drinking, we take Uber rather than driving. This weekend we went to a friend’s house across town and it only cost $12 to get there and $12 to get back. It saved time, energy and spared us the endless debate over whose turn it was to be the designated driver. Well worth $24 in my opinion.
#7 I get pedicures. Regularly.
Nothing says I’m relaxed like freshly painted toes. I pay $32 for a mani/pedi combo once every couple of weeks. It’s like a mini-vacation: 90 minutes of someone taking care of me for a change! And I don’t let summer childcare challenges get in the way. Sometimes my daughter joins in the fun by getting one, too, and my son is more than happy to relax in one of the massage chairs, watching a movie on the iPad.
#8 I sell my clothes.
I received some sound wardrobe advice from two friends a few years back. They told me the key to an easier morning is a closet that’s built on the “quality, not quantity” philosophy. And I listened. As often as the seasons change, I curate my closet and take things I no longer love to Clementine, a local consignment shop. The best part is that I can get either cash or store credit. This weekend I freshened up my summer wardrobe with a gorgeous jumpsuit, a sequin top and a pair of white jeans. And the tab was zero dollars and zero cents, because I had a credit from last summer’s clothes. What’s not to love?
#9 I cook bacon in the oven.
I know this seems inconsequential, but cooking can be a real chore, and finding ways to make it easier go a long way in my house. Cooking bacon on the stove is a nightmare: there’s hot grease popping all over your knuckles, more bacon drippings than bacon and the constant worry that a small child will burn himself on the handle. It’s a hot mess.
Making bacon in the oven means less mess and less stress, and isn’t that what summer’s all about? (See cooking instructions here.)
So there you have it. From my newfound sanity to yours.
Life isn’t always easy but there are always things we can do to lighten our load, if only a little.