Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How I can have a successful summer as a stay-at-home mom...next year

This summer was different than summers' past. I learned and grew a lot and the end results were fruitful, but the actual doing was quite messy and frustrating to me.

Each year my children grow more and more independent, and it means less and less control for me. It used to be my life and I took my kids around according to my will and pleasure. With our limited summer months together, I'm much more concerned about what's best for them, and planning our days around that. It needs to help us bond. It needs to strengthen their relationships with their siblings. There need to be moments of intentional training, and not all play your hearts out with no responsibilities.

1. One thing that is really important to me during the summer months is strengthening the bond between my children and our family. During the school year the time your kids spend with each other and you spend as a family is limited, so it's really important for me to feel like I've capitalized on family time and creating good relationships when we've got an abundance of time.

This means a lot of things to me:

-Lots of free play time, away from the tv, where my kids are actively playing with each other outside or with their toys

-Getting out of the house together as a family doing activities together

-Traveling together

-Keeping time where we are segmented in check, and to a minimum (camps, etc.)

-But YES, spending time apart. Sometimes growing good relationships means allowing time to not be constantly getting on each other's nerves!

2. I need to remember that while I do believe in being a 'best friends family' these are their siblings and not their spouses. They're going to need space sometimes. Hey, even I need space from my siblings sometimes too. Best friends doesn't mean 'never gets on my nerves.' Your best friend is someone you love being with... most of the time.

3. I also learned we need structure and plans, everyday or nearly everyday. Focus allows free time to be free-er, because your mind can rest knowing you are "done" with something else. Structure keeps you from totally trashing the house, because true free time for everyone would mean mom does what she wants, and the kids do what they want...which inevitably means a trail of messes all over the house and a frustrated Mom.

3. I learned that we need a good bucket list, and it would even be smart to plan it out on the calendar. Next year!

4. The older my kids get, the more strategic I need to be about what we do together. When they were little, I felt like they learned best by me stepping back. Letting them explore, decide, and experience things for themselves. However the older they get, the more I think I can be intentional about how I support them as they grow. More intentional books and carefully placed conversations. Teaching chores. Enforcing chores. Not going nuts as they whine and whine about new responsibilities, as they learn what work looks like, and how doing a job well done feels. All while also providing them a carefree childhood with lots of playing and imagining, but in a world that often feels unsafe to me. And sometimes even enforcing that playtime by overriding what a kid might think they want as their free time: time in front of the tv.

5. And this summer since I've discovered how much educating I need to do in the chores department, I've become more of an enforcer. And I hate it. And I've been doing a very grouchy job at it. And that's another thing I need to figure out, how to be firm without being grouchy. How to be loving, kind, and open when there's a task to be done. How to see the good in the kids, bring it out of them, and teach them, while also completing the task at hand.

6. I learned there is something that is not important-- entertaining your kids. We certainly had fun this summer, but I always thought about it in terms of our family relationships. Will this activity strengthen our relationships? or Will this activity enable us to be rejuvenated so we can enjoy spending time together again? 

7. One other thing I learned that is not important in the summer months-- having a clean house. This one.... ohhh how I was in for it this past summer! I had had my house under 'control' for a whole 9 months and I had just completely forgotten what it felt like to not be in control anymore. But now I realize this is part of the summer vacation package. The kids do not feel ownership over the house like you do, and it shows. Next summer I'll remember... this too shall pass.

This was definitely NOT as bad as it got, but I just remember snapping this photo as we were leaving the house feeling utterly defeated. I think this was even a day I had tried to keep some semblance of cleanliness, but in the midst of putting on shoes and getting the baby the bottle, by the time we left it already had the "lived in" look.

From a fun family hike we went on one morning

Here's hoping next summer means less grouchiness for me and success on the chore front!

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