“Mommy, this was the best day ever,” my 8-year old daughter announced in between bites of frozen custard.
It was our very first day of summer break, and we were making the most of it.
After an impromptu playdate at the park with two of my best friends and their flock of 5, we headed off to Culvers to spend the free lunch coupons my children earned at their End of School Awards Ceremony.
As I sat there, watching my children giggle and eat their frozen desert, I recognized that creating a memorable summer break for my children was going to require some effort on my part.
I love our school year schedule. I get 40+ hours of peace and quiet every week while my children attend school, and I passionately pursue my career goals during the day while focusing on the needs of my family each evening.
During the school year, I get to enjoy the best of both worlds…motherhood and career.
The thought of 103 consecutive days with my children makes me feel overwhelmed and apprehensive.
Balancing work and family is never easy, and for those of us who work from home and care for young children, it sometimes feels impossible.
You see, I have to make a major shift in my work schedule and my productivity expectations throughout the summer break in order to create space to love and serve my children.
I have been preparing my heart for this transition for well over a month, yet now that it is here, I’m afraid that I will fail.
I have to believe that I am not the only mom struggling with this right now, so I wanted to take some time to share my personal strategies for transitioning well.
This piece will include a mixture of practical advice and freeing spiritual truths that have helped transform my fear into hope.
We can succeed at creating a positive environment for our children to grow and thrive during the summer break without sacrificing our own sense of well-being in the process.
All that is required to accomplish this goal is a few simple strategies, a slight shift in expectation and a lot of prayer.
Here are three thought-provoking questions to help you prepare your heart for the summer months:
Who is your Master?
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24 NIV
When we allow our children or our work to become our master, we will quickly discover a constant need to choose one over the other.
This scenario plays out in one of two ways. We either spend our days
We either spend our days hushing our children and telling them “just one more minute” as we focus on achieving our work goals, or we set aside our work completely and allow ourselves to become a slave to our children’s wants and whims. Either way, it’s a losing proposition.
Either way, it’s a losing proposition.
The only way to properly establish a work/ family balance is to recognize that our only master is the Lord God and our true purpose is to serve Him alone. When we focus on honoring God with our time and our decisions, He gives us peace and directs our steps.
Whenever I lose sight of this important truth, I find myself distracted and discouraged.
I encourage you to take some time to make certain your heart isn’t divided and establish a habit of serving God in all that you do.
What is your Plan?
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV
I am a very structured person and place a high value on planning.
For the past five summers, a key element of my plan has been to do something fun with my kids 5 days a week while daddy is at work.
Each day has an event to look forward to, a set chunk of time that is focused on having fun and creating memories.
This strategy has served me well as it takes pressure off of the rest of the day.
This form of block scheduling has helped me set clear expectations and a solid routine for my children.
They give me the space that I need first thing in the morning to complete my work tasks for the day because they know that by 10:00am I am going to turn the computer off and do something fun with them.
They are excited when mom takes her afternoon rest because that is when they get to do their hour of computer time and they can’t wait for dad to come home because they know that our evenings are focused on family time.
I encourage you to prayerfully consider creating a summer routine that works for your family, just be sure to leave room for flexibility (it is summertime after all).
What is your Exit Strategy?
A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Proverbs 14:29 NIV
Endless days with our children in tow is bound to test a mother’s patience.
I believe that focusing our attention on serving God and having a routine in place will alleviate some of the pressure, but the truth of the matter is that we all need an exit strategy.
I am used to having 40 hours a week of peace and quiet, and during the summertime, that number dwindles to almost nothing.
That is why it is crucial for me to create an exit strategy for myself a few times a week.
We are blessed to live close to family and I am not above asking for help, especially during the summer.
Next time your patience is dwindling and your temper is rising, recognize that you are a limited resource and it’s time to do what you can to refresh and restore your soul.
I am so excited to make memories with my kids this summer.
I don’t mind backing off on my work schedule during the warmer months of the year because I know that I will be rested and refreshed to dive back in come fall.
That knowledge doesn’t make the transition any easier.
I have to be strategic and structured as I move from my winter routine to the lazy days of summer break.
I recognize that I will not always be successful at being the kind of mom my kids desire, but so long as I am focused on serving my True Master, I will be able to navigate the highs and lows this season holds.
And you will too!
Four days down, ninety-nine to go.
This article was originally published on May 23, 2016. Updated May 29, 2017.