This week has seen a dramatic decrease in the craziness of my family’s schedule. My daughter just finished up three weeks of full-day theater camp, culminating in six performances over th…ree days last week. My younger son had full-day Cub Scout camp last week. My older son was in band camp a little bit each day. This week, the only one in camp is the older one with band camp. It was difficult to get my own work done for my job (as a counselor) and my business (It Takes A Village Parent Coaching) during the time when my kids were all in camp, because I spent my days driving kids to and fro. Now that they are home, the issue is different but equally challenging; they are all home, which means less driving for me, but now I have three kids wandering around trying to find something (or someone) to occupy them.
A pocket of time magically opened up for me this afternoon, so instead of cleaning, paying the bills, or making dinner, I took a few minutes to sit down and reflect on just how challenging it can be to try to work from home during the summer. All the time I have while they are in school is well-organized to focus not only on my work and my business, but also the work of keeping our home running. Suddenly when summer comes, I have to still do all those things, but with very little time when they are all occupied doing something, anything really. And I do not allow unlimited access to screens (video games, phones, computer, tv, etc.) which creates an even bigger challenge as a mom to three children growing up in a very tech-driven society.
I am fortunate that our life situation does not require me to work full-time. We have worked very hard over the past few years to adopt a more minimalist, less consumer-driven lifestyle, which contributes to that ability. But even without me working full-time, there are still things that need to be attended to, especially as I try to get my parent coaching business kicked into high gear. Part of me wants to dive into my work and “hit the ground running” so to speak, especially after returning home from a very exciting PCI conference in Chicago at the end of June. However, as a mindful and conscious parent, I also want to spend the precious quality time with my kids while they are young so that I do not find myself regretting my choices years later. I cannot help but find myself wishing there were more hours in each day, especially during summer vacation from school.
In looking at the craziness that was our lives last week, I have decided to do a few things to help carve out time to attend to my work and my own self-care. If I want to be able to give so much of myself to others, I need to make sure my own bucket is full as well. At night, my husband and I like to catch up on the days’ events, or do something relaxing like watching a movie or Super Soul Sunday. However, starting this week, I am going to schedule one night a week after the kids go to bed to devote to working on my business. That will give me 2-3 hours of time I can focus without interruption. In addition, I schedule one or two calls a week with my colleague to do business-planning phone calls. These are usually scheduled early in the morning, just after I have fed my kids breakfast and before we dive into our activities for the day. One day a week, my mother-in-law comes over to watch my kids so that I can go to my counseling job. I have explained to my kids that the mornings will be spent, for the most part, at home, free from friends, engaging in what I call “mind-expanding” activities – which basically means screen-free, imaginative play, math worksheets, reading, building with Legos, making forts, etc. Afternoons, when we are home, are free for some screen-time and swimming and playing with friends. My kids are learning how to be quiet when I am on a work call and to give me that uninterrupted time. In return, when I am free later, I give them my uninterrupted time devoted to being with them in whatever activity with which we are engaged. For example, earlier this afternoon, after I finished up some work for the day, my 12-year-old wanted to play chess, so we spent an hour playing chess. My phone was beeping with messages, but I intentionally kept it away from me so that I could give him my undivided attention. While we were interacting, nothing got in the way. My two younger kids are playing at their friends’ house down the street. After chess, I agreed to some video game time for him (only Madden football and not the more violent video games which we do not even own). While he was playing that video game, I had the chance to sit down and write this.
I only managed to get to the gym once last week (during the school year I aim for four times a week, but I know that I have to be more flexible in the summer). So today, knowing I would not make it to the gym, I took my two younger kids out while my older son was in band camp and we took our dog on a long, hot walk. That gave all of us some much-needed exercise, and made us all feel better as a result.
Fitting life in, where I can, how I can.
That’s my mantra.
So that is what I finding this summer – I am continuing to practice being a conscious, mindful parent in the effort to give my kids the time and attention they deserve and at the same time honing my detective skills, as I creatively find small windows of time where I can get my “grown-up” work completed. Whenever I feel stressed, I realize that something is out of balance, and rather than giving in to the stress, I find a few precious moments to reflect and try to figure out where the lack of balance is occurring. It feels a lot like being a juggler and trying to keep many balls in the air this summer. But if I give myself permission to mess up when I do and just keep trying and adjusting consciously along the way, I find it to be a lot less difficult than in summers past.