By guest blogger Jennifer Angel (find out more about Jennifer at www.thejenniferangel.com). Jennifer did an amazing Periscope broadcast on this subject and I asked her to write it down for you because these are some great tips on how to avoid the momguilt. You guys know I'm all about ending the guilt and shame associated with motherhood, and Jennifer has some super smart ways for us to do it!
Summer is here! Are you excited? Are you already thinking of all the fun things you can do? Or perhaps your kids have told you what they WANT to do. Do they want to go camping, go to the beach, see all the action movies that will come out, or do they long for days of sleeping in and staying up late? I bet they welcome the slower pace of summer compared to the hectic days during the school year.
What about you? Do you have the next 12 weeks already planned or are you still figuring out what to do?
When you have kids and you’re a working mom, whether you work from home or commute to work, summertime can be a challenge. When you work from home, you’re probably already wondering how you’re gonna be able to work with the kids around? How will you have a distraction-free zone so you can get stuff done? And if you work full-time outside the home, you’re probably already feeling guilty that you can’t take the summer off to be with your kids because you can’t afford not to work. Sadly, it’s a fact that most households across the country are counting on two paychecks to survive. So for most, not working is not an option.
So what can you do? How do you balance being a working mom and giving your kids the best summer ever? Below I share with you 3 tips to help you avoid having mommy guilt this summer.
Tip #1 - Plan ahead
Whatever situation you’re in, can we all agree that summer can get really expensive? When you consider the cost of full time daycare, it’s like paying for another car or a mortgage, depending on how many kids you have. If you need child care this summer, start looking at your options NOW.
Will your kids go to daycare or summer camp? Or will you hire a summer babysitter? Compare the cost and enrichment advantages of each one.
Some parents prefer taking their kids to daycare vs. a babysitter. Daycare is typically more expensive, but it’s more structured. They have activities carefully planned for the children. You kids will get more social experiences and learn new skills. This is great as it helps avoid the brain drain that typically happens during summer.
If you go the babysitter route, your kids’ experiences will depend on who you get. Look up Care.com or Craigslist for summer nanny postings. Make sure the person you getunderstands the importance of safety around children and they are sensitive to needs of your kids. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. They might know of a responsible teenagers or college kid looking for a summer job.
Summer camps provide kids opportunity to make new friends and learn new skills. If you choose to send them to a resident camp, assuming they are old enough, this is a great way for them to learn independence. If you or your child is not yet comfortable of there are so many day camps available to choose from. Just remember that they fill up fast so check availability right away. You also need to make sure it’s a program your kid will want to go. A football camp sounds exciting, until your kids decide that playing every day under the sun is more than they can take. If they decide to not continue, you might not get a refund. Ask about financial assistance, payment plans and sibling discounts for camps. Look into your local YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts camps as well, even if you are not a member. It’s not a requirement to be a member to sign up for their camps; you might just have to pay a little bit more.
Do you have relatives that help with childcare? If grandma and grandpa are able to and willing to have them for a few days or weeks, that will help tremendously. My mom and my mother-in-law are both retired and they live no more than 30 minutes away. They offered to watch the kids for part of this summer. We are very grateful for that. Not only does it help us financially, but it’s an enriching opportunity for the kids to spend time with them. So see if that’s an option for you.
Do you have vacation time you can use? Can you and your husband alternate taking a week off to be with the kids?
Look into all your options now and see what your budget can accommodate. Maybe you’ll be doing a little bit of everything so your kids get different experiences. Plan it now. You won’t be as stressed out if you know exactly what, where and when your kids will be in the three months.
Tip#2 - Get creative
Get creative with childcare
What if you can’t afford to take them to daycare? What else can you do? Can you get a group of other working parents and form a coop where you can take alternate vacation days each week to watch all the kids? Can you find a stay-at-home mom who has a child that is friends with your child and who is open to taking in your child and willing to make extra money for it? Can you adjust your work schedule - go in earlier so you finish earlier and have the kids in daycare for less hours? Can you get your boss to allow you to work from home a couple of days each week just for the summer? If you are very good at what you do and your boss trusts you to get the job done, he might agree.
Before you go ask, be prepared with a plan that shows you will get things done working from home. How will you access information you need, do you need to print from home and do you have a printer setup at home? What days will you work from home? make sure those are days you don’t have scheduled meetings in the office. When you have a clear plan that shows you thought things through, it helps your boss to make a positive decision and give you what you want.
Get creative with summer activities
Since days are longer, why not plan a dinner picnic at the park? Especially if your kids spent the day with a babysitter, they welcome the time to be with you.
If you’re using vacation days you have available through work, do something on a weekday, like visit a museum or an amusement park. You avoid the weekend crowd and get more out of the day.
Have a staycation. One thing to remember – for staycations to work, you need to avoid the temptation to get stuff done at home. Have fun activities planned for you and your kids. What fun things can you do at home?
- Setup a backyard carnival. Do face painting, setup a slip and slide, play ring toss.
- Camp in the backyard. Make s’mores. Who doesn’t love s’mores?
- Learn stargazing – with warm and clear nights, summer is the perfect time to watch the stars. Print out a star chart and see how many you can find.
- Bake some treats.
- Paint the sidewalk with chalk
- Plant a garden
- Make a fortress out of cardboards. When the movie Cars first came out, when it came out on DVD, I brought home these big shipping boxes from work and had the kids decorate them. They painted them, drew on them, decorated them with ribbons and used paper plates as wheels. They got really creative. Then that night, each kid got on their “car” to watch the movie. It was simple and it was so much fun!
A staycation doesn’t mean to just stay home. I bet there are interesting places close by and you can make a day trip out of them without spending a lot of money.
- Visit a national park and help your kids earn a junior ranger badge.
- Bring pails and shovels and hit the beach.
Our family loves to drive and we are fortunate to be close to Highway 1, which is every traveler’s dream drive. Our favorite thing to do is to drive out super early, sometimes loading sleeping kids in the car, so we can get the most out of the day. We pack breakfast and enjoy it with a view of the Pacific Ocean. We’ve gone to oyster farms, watched hot air balloons go up in the air, hugged giant redwoods, spent the afternoon buried in sand. We pack lunch and snacks so they’re not very expensive trips.
Tip #3 – Be present
Last but not the least, be present. What does it mean to be present? When you are with your kids, be there 100%. Pay attention to them, listen and engage with them, share in the experience. Don’t be there yet you’re on the phone browsing Facebook or Instagram, or texting your friends and clients. Your kids will know when you’re there but not really there. Put the phone away. Better yet, turn it off.
If an out of town family vacation is on your plan, leave thoughts of work behind. Enjoy each other’s company without distraction about what’s happening at work. Turn off work email on your phone.
If you’re having a staycation, give yourself permission to spend more quality time with your kids instead of getting caught up with household chores. Plan activities your kids will enjoy and participate in the fun.
If weekends are the only time you can be with them, maybe do laundry or grocery shopping on Friday and leave the weekend free to do something fun. Or do all chores one weekend and have the next weekend free.
If you have to post vacation photos in social media, post it quick then get out of social media. Don’t be the mom who’s on her phone the whole time watching other people having fun and missing out on her own experience. Better yet, turn off the phone and post pictures later. Make the time you spend with your kids count.
If you do these 3 things – planning ahead, getting creative and being present - your kids will remember the quality time you had and have memorable experiences this coming summer. They will remember the fun times because you were there. That summer with the car boxes, that was years ago but they still remember it. In fact they were asking if we can do that again. I think we just might add that to our summer bucket list.
Whether you invest a lot of money to go on vacation or have a staycation, what matters most, what your kids will remember the most is YOU being there, being present and enjoying the experience with them. THAT is what makes summer memorable. And if you can do that, there is no need to feel guilty, because you would have given them the best summer ever! Have fun and avoid the momguilt!
ennifer is a mom and entrepreneur. She helps moms find balance between career and family life. You can get more from her at www.thejenniferangel.com. Here's an except from her website: