3 Steps to Balancing Work + Family Fun in Summer - by Erin Ammons for MotherHustle
“The pressure to connect, enjoy and let loose this season should not feel like another task on our to-do lists.”

There’s a lot of chatter about work-life balance as a mom today. While I think pursuing more balance is important, I also think reaching perfect balance is nearly impossible. It’s more of an ebb-and-flow of priorities.

Summer brings its own unique set of challenges when it comes to balancing work and fun. If you’re like me, you might still get excited about the idea of “Summer Vacation” and remember long days at the pool and playing flashlight tag until the streetlights came on. Summer brings out that inner kid in many of us, and we want to make those memories with our kids, too. But, we’re the moms now. We’re busy paying bills, running errands and meeting deadlines. Don’t we deserve some fun this season, too? Um, yes please!

Here, we’ll discuss a handful of steps that can help create more balance for your own family this summer. But, before we dive in, it’s worth taking some time to discuss mindset.

How we approach summer and what expectations we place on ourselves will strongly influence our overall contentment.

We tend to put a ton of pressure on summer, right? I know you’ve seen those quotes and articles reminding us that we only have “18 summers with our kids,” and we need to “make them count!” Of course I see the truth in this, but sometimes those reminders send me into a panic. Maybe you can relate?

The pressure to connect, enjoy and let loose this season should not feel like another task on our to-do lists.

When we set unattainable expectations for summer, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Consider what might take precedent for you during this season. It might not be the summer to launch a new online course, write a book proposal or start that kitchen renovation. How do you want to feel come September? If you power through summer at the same speed, you might enter Fall feeling exhausted and bitter. Speaking from personal experience here. Hello, burnout!

So, let’s embrace a mindset of flexibility. I know my A-Type friends are squirming in their seats, but hear me out. To allow for fun and connection, we can foster a mindset of flexibility.

Want to stay an extra hour at the pool?

Great!

Last minute weekend trip to the beach?

Let’s do it!

But we can’t have this easy breezy reaction when we’re feeling guilty, overwhelmed and completely unstructured. Yep, you read that right. We actually need more structure to become flexible. Let me explain.

Step #1: Finding a Focus

Chat with each member of your family and allow everyone to pick a must-do or focus goal. What is the ONE thing they want to do this summer? It could be simple like learn to play chess or clean out the garage. There will be plenty we all want to do, but try to focus on that one, important thing. The goal that come September will help you feel successful.

Work with your kids to make sure their expectations are in the right place. You might not be able to go to Lego Land this summer, so direct their goal on what they can realistically accomplish. I found that tempering my kids’ summer “bucket list” has helped us focus on what matters most.

Does your spouse really want to travel or have a big project at work? Communicate together to make sure your goals as a couple compliment one another. If you’re both going in opposite directions this summer, finding fun and flexibility will be even more challenging.

Step #2: Schedule It

Time to work on your summer calendar. I suggest having one just for the family. It helps my kids when they can see what’s coming next. If it causes you additional pressure, don’t spend too much time making it pretty. Just print it and place it in a spot everyone can see. Ours is currently on a clipboard in the kitchen.

Go ahead and fill in the big stuff first. Vacations, family visits, camp weeks, and concerts all take precedent. If nothing big is scheduled yet, then maybe choose a weekend away or a trip to the local zoo. Fill those big windows of time first.

Review your focus goals from each family member and if it applies, work it into the calendar. Or, make a note to schedule it at a later time. My goal for the summer is to have “writing days” worked in. I am writing this article on one of those pre-planned days when my husband can be home with our kids. Seeing this day on the calendar was such a motivator!

Step #3: Weekly Workflow

Now that you’ve structured your big calendar, let’s look at your weekly workflow. There are a couple of ways to do this. Depending on your personality, age of kids and goals it will look different for every family.

I’m certainly more of a B-Type personality, but my family still needs structure. I work primarily from home, and striking that balance has been my focus. I have assigned activities to different days of the week. Mondays and Tuesdays will be heavier work days for me, so we typically won’t schedule a big outing. Wednesdays and Thursdays will be more flexible, with afternoon outings worked in. Fridays, I’ll aim to be completely off. I find this workflow helps prioritize my work responsibilities and allow for lots of flexibility.

If you work outside of the home, this will look very different for your family! Consider your pockets of time and how you can best use those to create more flexibility for everyone. If this means hiring a housecleaner or a yard service business, then make that happen. Schedule a dinner delivery service or utilize Amazon Prime. If you need more time, consider hiring out those responsibilities you want to skip this summer. This opens you up for more fun and time spent making memories!

Next, consider how can you structure your days to best serve you. Getting up early before my husband goes to work is how I’m thriving in this season. This may mean 5 a.m. wake ups for awhile as I work toward a deadline. Most of my better brainstorming and creative work happens early. In the afternoon, I can answer emails, edit, and have the freedom to be interrupted if the kids and I make other plans.

Early mornings help my mindset, because if I’ve already had work time then I feel less guilt when we head out to the pool in the afternoon. If I don’t get this time, I struggle with being present for my girls. When I’m constantly thinking about that unanswered email, how can I enjoy our time and be the Mom I want to be? Creating this structure allows for those flexible moments where I can choose fun, guilt-free.

Bonus Step: Shut It Down

If you find yourself struggling with FOMO or comparison this summer, can I suggest a social media detox? If seeing a friend’s vacation pictures in your newsfeed triggers some negative self-talk, then maybe it’s time for a break.

Delete the apps, power down the laptop and focus on the people in front of you.

It’s shocking how much better I feel when I stay offline, even for a day or two.

Summer is a beautiful time to be with our kids and make memories. It can also come with lofty expectations and a side of guilt. How we manage goals, schedule our calendar and day-to-day determines where we spend our time. When we choose to make connection the focus instead, we set the tone for family fun!

Take the time to plan and prepare, so you can joyfully answer “YES!” when your kid asks for an extra hour at the pool or a weekend of camping.

You can do this, momma. Happy summer-ing!


Erin Ammons is an ENFP married to a very patient ISTJ. She’s the mom of two spirited little girls and the owner of Erin Ammons Photography. Most days, she can be found photographing families around Hampton Roads, Virginia and secretly vacuuming up Legos. She loves fresh journals, bookmarks and cherry Twizzlers. Follow her on Instagram at ErinAmmons.

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