Balancing Work and Summer Schedules

If you’re a working parent of school-age children, summer can really throw a curveball into family schedules. Your work schedule and professional responsibilities haven’t changed, for the most part, but now you have kids’ schedules (or lack thereof) to merge into an already busy calendar. How does it all work? Can it work?

We’ve now reached that point of summer where you’ve either found a rhythm that works for your family, or you’re hanging on by a thread, white-knuckling it each new day to keep all the balls in the air. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, I can relate. This summer especially, with two elementary-age boys with the energy level of Labrador puppies, our family has had to quickly adjust both our schedules and expectations.

My husband and I each run rapidly growing businesses, working from separate but adjacent home offices. And when summer break hit, we instantly received two more little energetic bodies in our space who have needs all their own. Giving the kids the structure of summer camps and activities to keep them occupied meant adding a whole new level of coordination to our schedules. It took some pre-planning and constant adjusting, but I can say we’ve hit a pretty good stride. What are the biggest secrets to success for a smooth, but also enjoyable summer schedule? Keep reading for my go-to advice for anyone in a similar life raft!

Get real about priorities.

I absolutely love the summer season, so it’s tempting to want to pack as much as I can into these months. But balance hinges on having a good recognition of priorities. The same is true for my family, especially my children. There are countless activities to keep them “busy” this summer from sports and summer camps to community events and get-togethers. However, I have to be sure I maintain time a regular work schedule that is adequate for accomplishing my clients’ needs. I’m not trying to automate or offload my work all summer – I love what I do! Instead, I’ve chosen a modified work schedule of Monday-Thursday for scheduling client calls and dedicated work time. Fridays are flexible and most days I can wrap up by 3pm. This works for me, and it allows for priorities to be met – both work and play. My kids have structured activities that keep them occupied during my work time, and outside of that I prioritize joining them in spontaneous summer activities. 

Be selective with what you say yes (and no) to.

It’s a good and bad issue to have – our local area has so many activities for kids in the summer. So many! We could easily send our kids to various summer camps, a new one each week. And although my sons think each camp sounds “so cool” and like something they must do, I know that won’t work for us. First, it gets expensive! A weeklong day camp, especially if it’s sports-related, can be $250+ for one child! If that was every week it would be wholly unnecessary. Leading up to summer, we consider all the options and pick the right level of involvement for our kids. There are certain camps that are fully worth the investment. And then there are other forms of free recreation like an informal drop-off camp at our local parks, playing with neighbors, and also learning how to play at home independently. Again, it comes down to balance. We selectively say no to many options and invitations all summer long. Some are easy decisions, while others are hard. This also helps our kids understand early on that saying yes to something is always saying no to something else. You have to choose wisely!

Set boundaries.

Ah, boundaries! Yes, even the relaxed summer months need boundaries as well. This ties in with knowing your priorities and using boundaries to defend them. I have boundaries for my work time as well as my family time. I have boundaries for how much running around I do for the kids and when they need to get settled and find activities to do at home. Everyone’s boundaries will look different, just as everyone’s priorities will look different. What’s most important is being intentional about envisioning what’s going to work for you. What’s realistic and sustainable? What’s the type of summer experience you want to create? Get real about answering these questions, the sooner the better.

Schedule free time.

This is the most important piece. Schedule free time just like you would schedule any other obligation. Make sure it gets a place on your calendar so that you’re not tempted to overload your schedule. It’s a placeholder and one that will make a huge difference in the flow of your summer if you can honor this free time and use it intentionally. I like to keep about 2 hours every afternoon free of work calls and meetings. Often this time block is when the kids are out at their respective activities as well. This gives me breathing room to use the time however it best fits my day. Sometimes it’s best used for work projects. Other times it’s when I get out for a walk, sit in the sun, or take a nap. The days will fill up as much as you allow them to. And we all need free time built into our day. My kids are no different. They have many structured activities throughout the summer, but also much free time. This is time to play spontaneously, sleep in a little longer, or have an evening to play with friends outside of sports. Free time is truly where the summer “magic” takes place!

Embrace the season!

And finally, embrace that like anything else, summer is merely a season. It will come and go and by fall your family’s schedule will look different once again. These are fleeting months and ones that should be an equal balance of enjoyment and productivity. choose the level of activity and “chaos” that’s right for your family – and you personally. And then be sure to be intentional about enjoying the season for what it brings.

What’s your tried-and-true method for balancing work and summer schedules? Let’s start a conversation!

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