Friday, July 15, 2011

The Working Mom's Guide to Summer Survival

Summer vacation: hooray!....and ugh. When my stay-at-home mom friends talk about how great summer is because there is no schedule and they can just relax, I smile and nod but inside I'm a mess of mom guilt. When I think summer I think, "How am I going to get my work done?" I don't want the kids to have to sit around and "be good" while I work and their friends go to the beach but realistically, I run two small businesses that both tend toward the "when it rains it pours" variety. And while I am beyond grateful to be able to work two jobs that I love at home, I've had to make a few adjustments in my schedule to make a day at the beach, or even an impromptu 3-hour game of Monopoly, a priority.

Janet's Summer Time Management Tips
The crockpot is your friend.
Chili and spaghetti are two kid favorites that are easy to make in the crockpot. Start them in the morning before the kids get up and you can cross dinner off your to-do list.

5-minute family clean up. You all know that picking up the house is an endless chore, but family clean up time has done wonders for my sanity. Once a day (usually after dinner) I delegate the rooms (little guy and Dad in the living room, the two big kids in the family room, and I'll take the downstairs bathroom and kitchen counters) and set the oven timer for 5 minutes. When I yell "Go!" we all put away stuff as fast as we can and stop the moment the buzzer sounds. OK, so I do it as fast as I can and everyone else takes their sweet time. Still, by the end of 5 minutes, the mail is usually sorted, bathroom mirror is wiped down, and most stuff has been thrown in closets (that's a project for another day), and we can relax in a semi-clean living area.

Get up early/go to bed late.
Believe you me, I have tried every alternative before resorting to this. I am neither a night owl nor an early bird--I like to go to bed early and sleep late but that's not really working for me lately. I have started setting the alarm clock to ring at least two hours before the first kid gets up in order to get a jump start on work so when little Mr. Sleepyhead stumbles downstairs, climbs onto my lap, and says, "HHHHHHello Mom" with his terrible morning breath, I am genuinely happy to greet him.

Move the computer out of your main living area. When I bought a laptop, I got into the bad habit of bringing it down to the kitchen so I could check my email every 45 seconds to see if I got an order from my Etsy shop. This has turned into a borderline obsession, so I moved my computer back upstairs into the office. When the kids get up, I set it to hibernate and then don't check it again until after lunch, when I let the kids play a video game or watch a TV show for an hour or so while I reply to emails and work a little. After Vince comes home from work, I disappear for a little while again to check emails and work some more, and then get the rest of the day's work done when the kids are asleep.

Lunches. If you read this blog regularly, you've heard me complain about feeding children in the summer, children who are never hungry at the same time and never want the same thing. I was longing for the days when I would pack a lunch and send them out the door, and not having to think about food for the next 6 hours, when a bolt of lightning struck. Why can't I pack lunches in the summer as well? So the night before, I do the regular chips/sandwich/fruit thing and label the bags with their names. When they're hungry, I direct them to the frig and I'm done. Summer gives us some good options, like packing a salad for Elise who's a vegetarian and gets pretty sick of cheese and crackers during the school year. I can even box up leftovers that wouldn't last half a day in a backpack, and if I have to warm them up in the microwave, it's a piece of cake.

Prioritize the work. I've gone from a really well organized planner (December birthday party--check!) to working under a "what needs to be done today" mentality, which very often turns into "what needed to be done today but I can technically get away with doing tomorrow." It is a little Scarlett O'Hara but it's just until fall, right?

If I said these tips have made my summer completely carefree I'd be lying, but incorporating them has given me some sense of control over the day, which helps my attitude, which helps my patience level, which results in me being a nicer mom with happier kids.


  1. I LOVE the 5 minute clean-up idea and packing lunches is nothing short of BRILLIANT.

  2. I love this! I have the laptop in the kitchen and am always checking it, and you've heard me complain about it sucking away my time. I was just thinking this morning that I should move it upstairs, especially since the battery only lasts about 30 minutes unplugged. :)

  3. I always feel so guilty but summer is my least favorite time of year. With 4 and no funds the fighting goes thru the roof! ... and mine all have gigantic appetites so they are TRYING to get in the food every 5 minutes. I've put them on a schedual of snacks at 10 and 2 otherwise the kitchen is closed but for drinks. I too live the "early late schedual out of necessity. Some great ideas but I can't wait for their schedual to start back up then I can have one too! Eek.

  4. I don't have kids, but this sounds like a good plan to me! I think not having the laptop around all the time is a good idea; those emails can wait a couple of hours, and you won't feel like you're being pulled in so many directions at once and can focus on kid time. Five-minute clean-up time is ambitious. I'm not sure I actually do anything in a five-minute time frame. Haha.

  5. I love these ideas! I think it's a good idea to move the computer out of the main living area! It's so easy to come up with stuff that needs to get done on the computer if it's sitting right there.

  6. Sounds like you're doing a great job of juggling it all and keeping your priorities straight--not easy! Good job!

  7. Wow... I can only imagine what it's like having to keep up on so many fronts.
    You have described it so vividly, though!
    Rock on, heroine, rock on.

  8. Gosh, I don't have any kids, but I love the 5 Minute Clean-up idea. Might have to try this with my fiance and roommate.

  9. A lot of great logic in your plan. The crockpot is a good idea and is useful all year long. I also love your 5 minute clean up plan as it gets the whole family involved and though it may not leave the house squeaky clean a little tidying up is better than none at all and certainly beats having mommy do everything. :)

  10. I was always so glad when school got out for the summer, and oh so happy when it started back up again! My 4 kids kept me on the run all the time.

    A great crockpot meal that I do now, even though the kids are grown, is chicken tacos. Boneless skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot with taco seasoning. Easy peasy, and we love chicken tacos...your veggie girl can do a veggie taco :)