In my last post, https://desiretoinspire.life/avoiding-summer-vacation-blues/, I promised to share some ideas on how to build a legacy of stress free summer fun with your kids while still enjoying some time for yourself. My mother had the right idea. She loved to spend time with me, my sister and brother. She also wanted to instill in each of us the value of learning how to work and save money.
We lived in the country on five acres. She enjoyed taking care of her many flowerbeds and her vegetable garden. After breakfast and an hour of watching cartoons on T.V., we would all go outside with her and help weed and pick out rocks (which seemed to magically grow faster than the weeds). When the weeding was finally under control, the lawn needed mowing, sapling Alder trees needed to be chopped down, cows needed to be fed and manure needed to be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and spread in the field (my least favorite job).
After helping her, she would fix us lunch and we were free to play. She was a good basketball player and took great pleasure at beating me in games of h-o-r-s-e (she was the master of the, back to the basket, toss the ball behind you and over your head, shot). On rainy days, she would teach us card games and play Monopoly with us. After dinner, we helped her with the dishes and then the evening was her time to relax (Dad was often available for a card game after dinner).
Once a week, we were paid an allowance for our services. We put 1/2 into our savings and we could keep 1/2 to spend on whatever we wanted.
As each of us grew older we picked strawberries for farmers within bicycle riding distance. Sometimes my mother would wrap a bandana around her head, drive to the strawberry field in the early afternoon, and help us fill our flats until it was time to go. Our bicycles were shoved in the trunk and she would drive us home. One time, she brought our dog, Fluffy, to the strawberry field and left him in the car while she helped us. Unfortunately, Fluffy wasn’t too keen on being locked up in the car and proceeded to show his displeasure by ripping both the front and back seats to shreds.
Okay….Let’s transition from my visit down memory lane and jump ahead fifty-years. My how things have changed:
- 49% of mothers didn’t have a job outside the home in 1967. Stay-at-home mothers hit an all time low at 29% in 1999 but has steadily risen to 39% in 2015.
- Another fun fact: From six men who identified themselves as truly stay-at-home fathers during the 1970’s http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/08/stay-at-home-dads_n_7234214.html rose to 1.9 million in 2015. Many of these men became stay-at-home fathers due to unemployment, sickness of a spouse, retirement, etc. but 20% made the choice to give up their careers to raise their children.
- Interestingly even though most mothers had more time at home fifty-plus years ago statistics say that the modern mother and father spend more time with their children.
I believe because of the vast quantity of parenting material made readily available on the internet and social media over the past 35 years, parents are much more in tune with the needs of their children’s and their own needs. All this information has created its own problem….FALSE GUILT.
Many working mothers still feel guilty about having to leave their children with others. Some try to make up for it by spending their way out of guilt. They smother their children with every kind of indulgence hoping gifts and entertainment will quiet the self-condemnation they feel. Others will pour every spare minute they have into their children, while neglecting their own needs and the needs of their husband. This often leads to either burnout or resentment.
Stay-at-home mothers may also suffer from feelings of guilt. They naturally have more time on their hands. They often use this time with friends, for community service, hobbies and with their spouse. Even though they spend time with their children, they wonder if the time spent was enough or if it was regarded as “quality time”.
Even fathers can fall into this trap. How do I know? Because the sharp teeth of this trap had clamped onto my leg one too many times as a young father. You see…. my father drove a milk truck for a living. Cows are notorious for not taking days off from giving milk. That meant my father didn’t take many days off when I was young.
He tried his best to spend time with his kids, but he was often too tired to spend as much time as we all wanted from him. When I became a father, I made an inner vow. No matter what job I had, I would always make myself available to my children….no matter how tired I was.
My first mistake was making a noble but silly vow like that. The second was actually trying to keep it. I often failed and then felt guilty. It’s crazy to feel bad about something you didn’t do.
So all of this is a lead up to how you can avoid the summer time blues. Here are 10 things you can do to make this summer memorable for you and your kids.
- STOP FEELING GUILTY! Enough said.
- No matter what age they are, teach them how to help you with the daily household chores. No one is going to call the CPS on you for developing in them a good work ethic. I know….I know; It’s easier just to do it yourself. Well it is at first, for sure. But don’t underestimate them. Start out with one task and when they master that, give them another. Like my Mother did, offer them an incentive they will value more than the work.
- Organize your week ahead of time. Include your kids in this and not only will they learn valuable planning skills but they will take ownership in the activities (including daily chores). Unplanned things are bound to throw a monkey wrench into your detailed plans from time to time but again, use these as teachable moments to instill in them flexibility and to come up with creative solutions.
- Plan a special summer vacation with your children. Planning a vacation often times is just as much fun as the vacation itself. Young children don’t need much extra prodding to get excited….including your teenagers in the process is critical. I have video footage of us packing our mini-van for a much-needed vacation; well, at least to my wife and I it was much-needed. My two daughters were not too thrilled about hijacking them to a place they never heard of and were not shy about sharing their feelings at the crack of dawn.
- If you can’t afford a big summer vacation, give your kids day-trip options they can choose from. Make sure they leave their cell phones at home, bring a picnic lunch or find a restaurant you have never eaten at and make memories at a local park or beach.
- Arrange time for your kids to play with their school friends. Many children really miss their schoolmates. Have a sleepover. Put up a tent in the back yard, barbecue some hot dogs, make some smors, tell a ghost story and take pictures for show and tell once school starts back up.
- Be creative. Make a movie. Let your kids write a script, pull out your Halloween garb, help them build a simple set and record their epic adventure.
- Encourage them to read. Offer an incentive for reading a set amount of books throughout the summer.
- Encourage them to learn a new sport. Give them swimming, tennis, golf, or martial arts lessons. Teach them favorite sport or hobby.
- And finally….fill the kid’s pool, put on some sun screen, pour yourself some ice tea, grab that neglected novel and relax. You deserve it.
You might also enjoy reading Cheryl Butler’s article on enjoying your summer vacation with your kids at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/parenting/school-age/how-to-enjoy-summer-vacation-without-losing-your-mind-part-1