Summertime Management for Writing Moms
Posted by Dani Wade Jun 8 2010, 12:01 am in juggling real life, time management, writer's advice
It’s that time of the year again, when kids are out of school, the days are long and warm, and afternoons by the pool are the norm. I wish!!! In actuality, the kids are out of school, the fighting has commenced, and I’m struggling to write and work with two children underfoot. Afternoons by the pool are few and far between, and I find myself wishing I had the money to hire a nanny.
Unlike a lot of moms, I dread the summer holidays from school. Not because I don’t love my children, but because now I must accomplish everything I did during the school year, only now I must stop every 20 minutes to mediate the newest argument or answer endless questions about a video game I’ve never played. Sound familiar? I’ve been brainstorming some solutions that I hope will keep me (and you) sane while we try to continue writing this summer.
1. Set up a daily schedule.
I know, this is summertime, why do we want a schedule, but trust me, having one just might save your sanity. I’m not talking about a super rigid, watching-every-second-on-the-clock type schedule, but a more fluid style that allows for flexibility within the parameters. This will allow the kids to know what’s coming up, and not wake up looking at a full day with nothing to do (boredom) and searching for ways to fill the hours (mischief).
For instance, I joined a gym during the school year, so this summer we’ll be trecking there every day. That gives me a set time to get up and get everyone ready to leave the house, instead of hours of television before noon. I’m planning to encourage the kids to play outside in the cooler mornings (which they enjoy, so that shouldn’t be too hard), then allow television and video games in the heat of the afternoon (sorry, I’m not one of those moms who keeps ultra-close tabs on how long her kids watch television every day). I’ve maintained a ‘siesta’ of sorts since my kids were babies. Though they’ve outgrown naps, I still require us all to lay in the bed and read for an hour every afternoon. Not only does that get some summer reading in, but we all get a break from each other for a while (and Mommy gets a few minutes of peace and quiet).
2. Day Camps/Lessons
Keeping the kids from getting bored is a big problem during the summer. Not because I think kids should be entertained 24/7, but because too many days of boredom in a row leads to endless fighting between siblings (something I hate with a passion). One help for that is summer activities. I can’t afford for mine to go all summer, but I try to schedule something here and there for us to do outside of the house. A couple of summers they took a week’s worth of swim lessons, one summer it was a week of soccer camp, my daughter usually goes to a week of day camp with Girl Scouts, that type of thing. The local library offers summer reading activities. There is also a local Science Museum for kids that offers morning classes on different fun science projects and activities. One every couple of weeks gives them something interesting to look forward to. And gives me a morning to write without interruption.
3. Free Activities Away from Home
Speaking of writing time, I’ve learned from the time my kids were born to make use of every opportunity I had. I get lazy about that during the school year, but the lesson is driven back home in the summertime. Another way to combine writing time with entertaining the kids is to find places that will occupy them, get them out of the house, where I can sit on the sidelines and write. If you have a local park, that’s always a good one. We don’t have one nearby, but there is one about 30 minutes away, so I try to make the occasional trip over there for something different. It has only 1 entry/exit, so I station myself nearby and send the kids off to play while I hit the laptop for a bit. Chuck E Cheeses or McDonalds play places work for smaller kids (I’ve learned to tune out the noise, for the most part). Older kids could be let loose at the mall or movie theater while you chill at the food court or coffee shop with a notebook. And bookstores are great for all ages.
4. Babysitting on a Budget
I’d dearly love to have a babysitter several days a week during the summer, but it just isn’t affordable or practical. Instead, I’ve gotten creative to find ways around it. For instance, my sister and I Kid Swap during the summer. Every Thursday, 1 of us takes both of our kids from 9:30am to 4:30pm, giving the other one a full day to themselves. The next week, we swap. Thus every other week, I’m free for a day, my kids get other children to play with, and it doesn’t cost either of us anything. And I find my kids are actually easier to handle on the days we have company, because they have someone to occupy them besides me.
Another option would be to pool your resources. This summer, several of us are planning to meet at one house and hire a babysitter to keep all the children (4-6) for the day while we hightail it to a local bookstore to hunker down with our laptops. We already meet like this while the kids are in school (we call it Write Out) and know it can be productive. It also motivates us to write at other times during the week and we want to keep our productivity from slacking during the summer. This requires us to only find 1 sitter, and she gets paid handsomely for watching over kids who are basically playing together. It’s a win-win.
5. That’s What Grandparents Are For
It just so happens that this will be the first year that both my children will spend a week with my family several states away. My daughter has gone for several years now, but my son is only just now old enough. This is wonderful, and I’m indebted to my mother for offering, but I realize it isn’t an option for everyone. Grandparents are wonderful, but not always willing to take on this big a task.
That doesn’t mean getting their help is totally out of the question. We also have grandparents who live in town, and while they can’t keep my children for a week because of living arrangements, they can have them over. Consider asking grandparents if they could keep the children one day a week, or if they could plan 2 mini-vacations during the summer where the children spend 2-3 days with them. Scheduled ahead of time instead of last minute planning will allow you to place these strategically where they would be the most help, and give your children the chance to spend some true quality time with grandparents. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
These are just some options to help make your summer (and mine) a bit easier on the whole family, and friendly to your writing goals. But my biggest advice (to you and to me) is to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that might come your way. That unexpected call from a friend inviting the kids over for the afternoon could put you 10 pages ahead of your summer goals. Also, keep a running total of your progress on a calendar. This will keep you aware of how much you are writing/not writing, and you will get to the end of the summer with some great things accomplished, instead of wondering where all the time went.
Do you have any suggestions for Summer Kid Patrol? Or keeping the kids from fighting, because I could always use the help!