It’s always so fun for me to watch the posts that come across my Facebook newsfeed as summer approaches. Tired moms eagerly anticipating Summer break, much as I do, but before even a month has passed they grow weary of the challenge of having their children home 24/7. My first thought is always, welcome to my world, Momma!! But then I remember that they’re not used to my life. They haven’t spent day in and day out, all year long with their little ones at home, so I try to cut them a little slack.
See, as a homeschool mom I have had the task of attending to my children from sunup to sundown, and while I made that decision intentionally and wholeheartedly, I won’t lie and say that every day is full of rainbows and unicorns. And while I’d never desire anything other than spending the quality time educating my girls at home, it can be exhausting and exasperating. I can only imagine if you’re not used to it!
As a parent who spends most waking hours with my kids I have been able to work through a lot of the issues that may abound if left to their own devices. So I thought I’d pass along a few tips to my Mommy friends who aren’t as accustomed as I am to having your kids staring you in the face while you’re trying to read a book with lamentations of “I’m so bored!”
1. Don’t bust the budget on expensive snacks. It’s so easy to get excited at the grocery store, especially when summertime rolls around. You’ll have wonderful intentions, great recipe and snack ideas brought to you by the likes of Pinterest, and a desire to feed your adoring offspring the treats they enjoy. My advice is don’t. Just don’t.
Realize that they will eat it all before you even pull into the driveway, most likely. And even if they do leave a box of Cheez-its behind buried underneath the Charmin, they won’t last long. You see, a strange thing happens when children are home. Their stomachs grow even faster than the Grinch’s heart after he almost stole Christmas, and they will eat you out of house and home. There’s no breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s just a constant grazing at the Homestead Buffet. So you might as well save your cash for more toilet paper. Cause seriously, the more they eat, the more they poop. Be ready for a full-out food orgy followed by a commode-clogging exodus. You’ll see then why the fruit snacks ran out so quickly; they don’t chew them. Too much? I just thought you’d want to be warned.
Be prepared for many, many requests for snacks, followed by petitions for popsicles, and finally whining wails that there’s nothing to eat in the house. As a homeschooling mom I probably spend more on groceries than our curriculum, mortgage, and car payment combined. Kids gotta eat, and boy do they ever! They’ll eat Great Value Peanut Butter on Saltines and bag cereal if they’re hungry; trust me.
2. Keep your lips zipped! No doubt you have grand plans for summertime. Well, keep it to yourself! You know what will ruin the harmony of a lovely day? Your children asking for the umpteenth time, “when are we going ________?!” If being home with my girls year round has taught me anything it’s that it’s best to spring stuff last minute, otherwise I never hear the end of it. I feel sorry for public school teachers having to send home permission slips in advance! When we do a field trip or fun day out I learned I can’t even tell them about it the day before. And Heaven help you if you have to cancel. There’s no way out if you’re just not feeling the fun park on a Friday. Nope, you’ve sealed the deal in blood by giving advance notice. So just don’t. Trust me. Keep it a surprise as long as you can for sanity sake. Or you can tell them about the Disney trip now and hear every day until July, “but Mom, that’s gonna take forever!”
3. Don’t pull out the big guns all at once! I get it. You’re excited for time off with the kiddos. Waterpark, picnic, pool, and the beach! Then what? You would be surprised how quickly children can tire of the everyday mundane. While parents love nothing more than a day doing nothing, kids, not so much. You’ll be tempted to have all your fun activities right away, but if you don’t want to be breaking up fights every five minutes the last two weeks of July then you might want to space out the fun.
And then there’s this little tidbit. You may feel like it’s your job to come up with stuff to entertain them and places to go. You’re not! You’re not an activity director; you’re the parent. You’re job is to lead, guide, and love, but not be their imagination. That’s totally up to them. Give them the freedom to do so. If you’re always creating things for them to do then they won’t be able to self-entertain. When I was a little kid I was an only child, and I didn’t ever stay in a neighborhood long enough to make friends. I didn’t even have any toys at one point in my childhood, around age five. I had a tape recorder, but no bedroom of my own. So I’d lock myself into the bathroom and record made-up songs. While I don’t expect my girls to live in a motel without their dolls like I did, I do expect them to use their imagination and have fun without a full agenda of activities that cost us money. If you can teach your children to have fun without constantly going and doing then you’ll all have a great Summer break. A real break.
I hope that everyone can enjoy their children being home this Summer, that you won’t be ready to pull your hair out before it’s over, and that you can cherish the time with your kids. While homeschooling is challenging and having my children around all the time is tiring, I also can’t imagine any other way. They’re only in my home and care for so long, and my goal is to savor and enjoy it as much as possible. I pray the same for you. Best wishes!
This article originally appeared at BrieGowen.com.