How to balance family and work over the summer?
I know this is hard whether you work from or in the home or your kids are in care and you work outside the home.
Either way it’s a difficult balance!
I wanted to talk about some strategies we can use so that we don’t burn out and we actually get to make some memories with our kids!
Do you ever feel like you have to choose between work and family time in the summer?
As a parent of young children, you know how precious and fleeting these moments are.
You want to enjoy the summer with your kids, but you also have responsibilities and deadlines at work. So how can you balance both without feeling guilty or stressed?
As a Mom who runs a company from home, I’ve definitely dealt with this, and I have some insights to share with you.
I learned how to balance work and family time in the summer (and how you can too) by following some simple strategies and principles.
I’ll show you how to create a summer schedule that works for you and your family, how to set boundaries and expectations with your boss and coworkers, how to make the most of your quality time with your kids, and how to have some fun and relaxation for yourself too!
Let me help you have a relaxing and peaceful summer vacation with your kids, without sacrificing your work performance or your sanity!
Start with setting up your summer routine or schedule.
Having a routine or schedule is extremely important in the summer for a few reasons:
First: Have a schedule that helps you and your kids manage your time, prioritize important tasks, and maintain predictability.
I can’t tell you how many parents come to me complaining about how their children function really well during the school year, whether they’re in school, daycare, or at home, but then summer comes and everything seems to fall apart.
It’s generally because during the school year again whether your children are in school or not- there tends to be outside demands that we plan our lives around, and they tend to be pretty predictable.
The structure of our routine is pretty set.
Mondays we do these things, Tuesdays we have this activity, etc.
Then summer comes and everything changes!
Daycares often change their hours or combine rooms because they have fewer children in care over the summer, or they change their routine to take better advantage of the good weather.
Schools are obviously closed so kids are either at home with looser routines or they’re in daycamps that change every week.
Kids who’ve been home year round their activities have changed or shut down for the summer.
They’re expected to spend more time outside.
No matter what, the structure they’ve relied on to get them through the dark days of winter…is disrupted in some way.
While as adults that isn’t a big issue, for kids it can be terrifying.
Routines provide predictability, and predictability helps children use less energy just trying to keep up, so they’re able to stay regulated longer, which means they’re better behaved.
Your kids need to know when you’ll be working and when you’ll be available to them. They need to know when they’re expected to play independently and when there’s special activities or outings planne and when you’re running errands with them.
By “know” I don’t necessarily mean like a time stamp.
They don’t need to know that you’re leaving for the grocery store at 1:45 and it’ll take an hour.
They just need to know what the order of events will be.
First we’re going to eat lunch, then we’re going to take a nap, and when you wake up from your nap we’re going to the grocery store, then you can play till Daddy gets home.
This helps them budget their energy and it helps prevent them from making their own plan.
Kids like to have a plot again, because it provides predictability.
If they don’t know what’s going to happen in their day, they will plan for their best case scenario.
Today we’re going to spend all day at the beach, and then Mom and Dad will take me for pizza, and then I can stay up late watching Number Blocks or whatever.
Then when reality doesn’t match their plan, that they’ve budgeted their energy for, that’s where we see meltdowns.
By letting them know what the plan is, we keep everyone on the same page and we give them the information they need to budget their energy.
This also helps us set boundaries.
We have the predictability of knowing, okay, they’re going to be playing from after breakfast till about 11:30 when I take lunch.
I can plan my work day or household responsibilities around it. It also gives me a chance to look at any deadlines or projects and see- can I actually accomplish them in the time I’ve planned to have available?
If not, how can I rearrange our routine so that I don’t become overwhelmed or unemployed?
That might mean working after they go to bed for a bit or like, for me, I looked at my summer plans and realized that there’s a week my husband will be gone and I have a workshop to promote that week, which means I need to dedicate more time to work.
That let’s me know that that was a good week to put my kids in day camp so I’d have more head space to focus.
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My favourite way to plan a summer routine is visuals.
I like to use individual visuals on a strip of velcro on the wall, and every night before I go to bed I set it up for our next day.
When my kids wake up, our day is right in front of them and they can see right away what the plan is.
This also allows me to make the day predictable without it having to be static.
I work from home. My kids are home most of the summer.
This summer they’ll be in daycamp for one week, at sleepaway camp for one week, and at my Mom’s for one week.
The other 5 weeks of summer, they’re with me.
This means not every day is going to look the same but with visuals, that’s okay!
If something changes, I call them over and point out what needs to change and why, and then show them how it’s changing.
As the day goes along, we pull off visuals that represent tasks or activities that are done so after breakfast I remove the icon for breakfast.
The next item on our to-do list is always at the front of the line.
At the beginning of summer I also sit down with my kids and make what I call our bucket list, so we sit down and brainstorm ideas of what we’d like to do this summer, like go to the beach, go to a water park, spend time at our cottage, visit friends, visit the cave system near us, go to the county fair, have a nerf fight- whatever it is that would make their summer feel special.
Then I make visuals for those things, and I put them on a little velcro board I’ve made from a dollar store cookie sheet. And as we do those things, as I schedule them into our days, they come off the board, go on the schedule, and then are put away when they’re complete so my kids can see very concretely what they wanted to do is happening.
What about setting boundaries with your boss or coworkers?
Whether you work in the home, from home, or out of the home- maintaining open communication with your coworkers and employer is really important.
Again, predictability makes everyone feel safe.
The nice thing about having your daily routine or weekly schedule set up, is that it allows you to communicate that with your boss or coworkers so they know when you’ll be available, and when you won’t.
If you work outside the home, that may be having a conversation about when your kids have to be dropped off and picked up from care.
If that is changing from your typical school year routine.
If you need to be able to work different schedules on certain days or some work from home flex time.
If you work from home that may mean explaining that while during the year you typically take your lunch from noon to 1, during the summer you’ll be taking it from 11 to noon because your kids eat earlier.
Or maybe certain days you’ll be taking a break to drop them at an activity or a playdate and making that time up on other days or at other times.
For me, as a work from home parent who works for myself, I communicate to my team that during the summer I am off duty at 4pm for the most part.
I check in with my clients but I’m not available for anything administrative unless it’s a real emergency.
I also tend to work earlier during the summer because during the school year my husband takes my kids to school in the morning and I sleep later, but during the summer he goes to work and leaves the kids here so I’m up earlier and therefore my work hours shift.
Keeping the communication open helps you to prioritize what projects and tasks really need to get done during your work hours, it builds respect and trust with your work team, and it helps avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and resentment.
Making sure everyone is on the same page can really gain you respect, maintain your reputation, and keep your performance level secure.
When you do have family time scheduled in, your can be present and take full advantage of it.
Putting the phone away and really engaging with your family when it’s family time can strengthen your bond, and meet everyone’s needs.
Thich means when you’re at work you’re not fretting over not being engaged with your kids.
When it comes to kids it’s really quality over quantity.
They’d much rather go for a half-day trip to the zoo and have you in it with them, than go for the full day and have you distracted on your phone with them the whole time.
Spending time with your kids doesn’t have to be all trips to the zoo and beach though those are a tonne of fun and I highly recommend working them into your summer somewhere!
I like to schedule in book time with my boys after breakfast, before I get to work, I sit down and read just one chapter of a novel to them.
This makes sure they’re getting in reading time, we have a common story we’re all following so we have something to talk about which can be difficult when you’re together all the time.
It gives us some co-regulation time so we start our day off feeling bonded and calm.
I also schedule in swim time with my kids.
My oldest son is an avid swimmer, and I really enjoy it and so does my younger one.
I schedule in swim time in the afternoon to give the sun a chance to heat the water.
For that hour I shut everything down and we play in the water together. I do laps. We do diving competitions.
Sometimes I literally just sit on the deck and video them doing crazy jumps.
On days that it pours rain I schedule in a movie break and we all snuggle up and eat popcorn together.
While those big activities are great, they don’t have to, and shouldn’t, be the bulk of your summer.
By scheduling them in and having them visually represented to your kids, they’re much less likely to bust into your office like the Kool-Aide man and interrupt a work call.
They’re much less likely to be whiny and sad during the week when you drop them off at camp, because they know they’ll have you on the weekend.
Remember to take photos or get souvenirs of activities together!
Finally, don’t forget to schedule in some time for you too.
Put your oxygen mask on first is a cliche because it’s true: if we’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and pulled in a million directions- so too will our kids.
When we make sure our tank is filled, it allows us to remain calm, which means our kids will feel safer and more independent as well.
One way I do this is by scheduling in “Mommy tea time.” This is time I put on our schedule morning, afternoon, and evening. And it’s just 30 minutes for me to sit and drink my tea hot.
Often I journal or read or play solitaire during this time too because I may be 35 but I’ve got big 90 year old energy sometimes.
That 30 minutes to just sit and drink tea is so important for my mental health and because my kids can see it’s play time on their schedule.
I know I’ll get that 30 minutes uninterrupted….for the most part.
On the weekends when my husband is home I schedule in Mommy pool time where I can just put on my suit and float around without worrying about any kids jumping on me or splashing me.
I try to coincide it with them doing something with Dad.
It doesn’t have to be big things, small consistent things are far more important but schedule in you days!
Just like kid outings this isn’t going to be the bulk of your summer.
The Wednesday that my kids are in daycamp I’m going to the spa with my bestie for a few hours.
They’re attending with their best friend and best friend’s Dad offered to do pick up and drop off on the Wednesday which gives me a bit more breathing room.
The week they’re at overnight camp I’m going to our cottage all by myself to just spend a few days with myself.
The week they’re at my Mom’s my husband and I are going on a wee road trip for 3 or 4 days.
Taking this time for yourself not only is good for self-regulation, but it models self-care for our kids.
It shows them that taking time for themselves helps us cope with stress and that it’s not selfish!
Balancing work and family time in the summer is not impossible if you follow some simple strategies and principles.
By creating a summer schedule, setting boundaries and expectations at work, making the most of your quality time with your kids, and having some fun and relaxation for yourself too, you can have a relaxing and peaceful summer vacation with your kids, without sacrificing your work performance or your sanity.
I hope these tips and insights have helped you see how I balanced work and family time in the summer (and how you can too)!
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