Being a working mom in the summer is hard. For many of us, we feel more stretched too thin than normal. We are juggling different schedules for our kids, the desire to be at the pool and not at work, and meet the needs of our families during this special season.
In honor of summer officially kicking off last week, I wanted to share five strategies I use to keep guilt from overtaking my mind regarding my idealized summer clashing with my working mom reality.
Make a summer bucket list: Each summer we make a summer bucket list of what we want to enjoy that summer. We define summer as the end of May (when school ends) through the first day of fall in September. It is filled with mostly simple activities like water balloons, movie nights and trips to the public library. This summer we have already checked off a library puppet show, a fossil hunt (right along the side of a main road in my city), a movie night (Incredibles!) and multiple dips to the pool. Creating an annual bucket list is always a reminder that my kids don't define summer in extravagant terms and I don't need to hold myself to some crazy idealistic standard.
“Do” summer in the off hours: I've learned that just because I work 40 hours a week, doesn't mean I don't have a summer with my family. It just means that I have to enjoy the best parts of summer with them in the off hours of work. Ideas for enjoying longs days include early morning walks, evening trips to the pool and weekend getaways. In my family, my kids participate in multiple camps every summer and that is something they look forward to doing while I am at work. They play and have fun experiences, then, in the evenings, we do our thing as a family.
Take some time off: Summer is the perfect time to take a day – or a week – off! Did you know that 54% of employees don't use all their time off each year? Take advantage of your children's flexible schedules to get some quality time together. Plan a staycation and enjoy your city or plan some time away. Be sure to involve your children in the planning. Ask them what sounds fun and, if you are planning a vacation, show them websites and let them help select some activities to enjoy together.
Share your feelings with your spouse or a close friend: If you do have feelings of guilt creep in, don't let those feelings stay bottled up inside. Instead, talk with someone else. Sometimes the assurance from someone else that you are a great mom, that he or she has felt that way too, etc. can be all you need to stop letting guilt eat away at you.
Give your kids the gift of your attention: When you are with your kids, give them your undivided attention. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Put down your phone and close your laptop. Breathe in the scent of their heads and kiss them as often as they will let you. This quality time – even if it is just a few moments before you leave for the day – will really be meaningful to your kids and to you. You will have those moments to carry you through when you start to feel guilty.
How do you overcome working mom guilt in the summer?
Are you a working mom? Find encouragement and strategies for navigating your journey in my forthcoming new book, Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive. Preorder it now so it comes straight to your door as soon as its available.