How to build a routine (Summer break edition)
Hello my dear friend !! Welcome back to yet another episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine podcast and a very warm welcome if you just found me. If this is the first episode you are listening to then I sincerely hope that you like this one and you stick around for more! I am so glad that you are spending a little time from your busy day listening to my podcast because I know your time is precious and you choosing to spend a little time listening to me definitely makes me very happy and humble at the same time. So, thank you again from the bottom of my heart!
By the way, tell me how’s your summer going? This summer is totally different from how we all spent our last summer, right? Things are opening up and kids are getting busy in various activities so are we. Last summer, we did not go anywhere except some small hikes and trails nearby but this summer I am sure you might have plans for the summer break trips right? How are you managing your work with kids being home? Is it easy? Is it difficult ? Do you have a set routine, even during summer break? Or your routine and schedule has gone for a toss and you are taking one day at a time? For me, the first few days of summer break were hard, mostly because of the guilt I felt. Kids are home and are excited for summer break but here I am working, non-stop. I was worried whether we would be able to do any fun activities with them or not? They wanted to sleep late, get up late and we wanted to get them to bed at the usual time and get them ready before we start our work for the day. It was a power struggle for the first few days but then, the planner in me started thinking and finally we found a way. Since then, it has been pretty smooth. We have found the balance between summer break fun and daily schedule. Today, I want to help you find that same routine with some very quick tips.
Fix your bedtime and wakeup time
The very first tip is to fix your bedtime and wake up time. It is summer break here in the USA. Days are longer ,kids want to play outside longer. They want to have a family game night every single day. They are excited to have friends over for playdates. They want to have lemonade stands, bake cookies, make popsicles, play water balloon fights, the list is long and to be honest sometimes, exhausting for a working parent. You are not one a summer break even though your kids are! You are stretching yourself thin to entertain them, and check the items off their summer Wishlist but what about you? Are you stressed? Are you able to actually enjoy these precious moments with your kids? If not, then it is time to rethink the way you are functioning. As I said, the first thing to do is fix your bedtime and wake up time. I know it will not be the same as that of school night. They definitely want to go to bed late and I totally understand but decide the time by consulting with them. IT could be 10, 10.30 based on your family dynamics but then bedtime is no later than that time. Same thing for wake up time. What’s your limit? Of course if your kids are older and can get ready themselves without your help, then wake up times can be flexible. Once you have boundaries to your day, you know how much time you really have in a day. Now you can start thinking about your schedule accordingly. Every family is different and everyone has a different schedule but when it comes to summer break, all goes loose and boundaries are shattered. I am all about taking it slow and enjoying these days but at the same time, I crave for some routine and some structure to my day. I know my kids and they too need at least some structure to their day. Even though it is not a very strict schedule, having some structure to the day helps them figure out what to expect. Having a fixed start and end of the day definitely helps to start and end the day at the right note, there are no power struggles anymore.
Focus on quality and not quantity
Next tip is to focus on quality and not quantity. I used to take this guilt trip every single summer break. I felt like a failure for not taking my kids to the splash pad that one afternoon with other moms. I felt like a failure for not making that watermelon slush on demand that one afternoon. I used to judge myself based on one incident, one failed attempt. This was the hardest thing that I struggled with every single summer break. Then slowly, I started reassuring myself that I am not a bad mom for not taking them to the pool in the afternoon because I have work to do but I can make it up to them by doing something else with them once my work is done. I love spending time with my kids, I look forward to it but my job doesn’t allow me to take a summer break and I know for sure that I am not alone. There are countless other moms who are in the same boat. But as I always say, you are doing the best you can and you are the best mom for your kids. So focus on quality rather than filling their day up with activities after activities. Do you know what we do during the beginning of the summer break? We have been doing this for the past few years now. We sit together as a family and write down a summer bucket list. It is the list of activities that my kids want to do during their summer break. The list is always long, fun and exciting. We pick one activity everyday and try to accomplish that. Of Course weekdays tend to be busy for us so we pick small activities, like eating homemade popsicles in the backyard or playing a game of uno before bedtime. Bigger and time consuming activities like beach day, hike or splash pads are often reserved for weekends. We have done so many fun activities over the years and I truly realized that these are things that kids remember. You don’t need to spend all your day entertaining them. It is important for them to get bored and find creative ways to get out of that boredom. It is important for you to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and making some compromises is part of parenthood. You need to go easier on yourself, it will be a much more enjoyable and fun experience for you as well as your kids. Stressed parents are never fun, right? If you set up some ground rules, I guarantee you that you will be better equipped not only to make this summer enjoyable for your kids but for you too.
Build your community
Third very important tip is to build your community. Summer camps are ridiculously expensive and most of the summer camps book out very early, they also tend to be half days or run till 3.00 in the afternoon so it is hard for a 9-5 working parent to manage with those camps. In addition to that now that most of us are still working from home, it adds an additional stress to your day because now the kids are around, all free and in their spirit with you bogged down with your work. That’s when the importance of community comes into the picture. You must have heard this quote a thousand times, “it takes a village to raise a kid”. But now, with the changing times and fast paced life, these villages are shrinking, gone are the days when the homes were filled with loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, being there for each other 24 by 7. Nuclear families are the current reality. But even those are becoming distant. For families like us, who live abroad, away from their immediate family, the problem is more serious. We have to work really hard to make sure our kids are really connected to their roots while accepting the new and fascinating culture that they experience here. But more about that in the next episode. I have a lot to say as an immigrant parent and our struggle, but now is not the time for that. In the context of the current episode, I just want to say it is even more difficult for families who really don’t have extended family support. Not having this support system makes the problem a notch severe for us. But this is not something, someone forced on us, it is by choice, at least in most cases, so I don’t think crying about it makes it easier, right? We have to find our own solution and our own path to navigate this situation. That’s when friends become your family, your circle is your support system. Find your circle, swap the playdates, take turns to do fun activities with kids. It is very important to find that community, the trusted circle
Let me take you to the past, try to remember the days when you were a kid. What was your summer break like? Remember the days, when the moment your exams were over, you used to pack your bags and get to your grandma's house for all that pampering, lots of mangos. Remember those dirty clothes while eating the mango, relishing it’s taste. Remember those days when you used to wait for kulphiwala bhaiya in the afternoon. The only time when you can have the delicious Rasna. Remember the afternoons that you spent reading your favorite books, comics just because it was too hot to go outside. Remember the very familiar and peculiar signal that you and your friends used to give to invite everyone to play outside. Remember gulping that cold water out of an earthen pot and then getting scolded by mom for drinking water too fast. Those endless rounds of cards with cousins. Remember, the fights with cousins over who won that round of carrom game. Remember, the evenings were spent playing antakshari and singing those songs as loudly as possible. These are the memories that you remember, not the one where your mom is working and not spending enough time with you. My mom and dad were doctors and were very busy working but I do not have even a single memory blaming them for not spending enough time with me. I have very fond memories of my mom, making panipuris at home after coming home from her clinic. I have very fond memories of my dad, just sitting with us in the balcony of our home, chatting about everything from the interesting stories of the surgery he did that day to Dilip Kumar’s old movies to his childhood memories of summer break and what not. That’s what I remember. I am sure your kids are going to remember the fun moments you spend with them even if those are not as many as you wish. They are going to remember how fun parents are even when you get to spend only evenings together. They are going to remember how hard you worked to balance the work and their needs. They are surely going to love you for that. So, don’t be too hard on yourself for not spending every waking minute entertaining your kids, doing activities with them rather focus on spending some quality time, be present when you are present, listen when they talk. Summer break is fun because you all are together. Summer break is fun because there are worry free emotions attached to it. In the end, it is only you who can give your children a happy mom who really loves life with all her might. Just give yourself some grace. Get rid of that guilt, when you are at one place, don’t feel guilty about not being at the other place. This is not applicable only for a working mom, I know even stay at home moms have tons of things to do and have their own struggles to cope up with summer scheduling. So, there is no way to separate and divide the mom bandwagon. Life is not easy for any one of us. It is our ability to keep on trying to be a better mom, a better person, a better employee makes us who we are. You are amazing only when you are tremendously successful. You are amazing even when you struggle, because you never gave up when you were struggling. Just remember, at the end of the day, if everyone feels love then you have done your job. You will have good days, bad days, stressful days, stress free days, busy days, slow days but it is your ability and self compassion that will make or break the relationships that you have. I understand that the struggle is real. The juggle is real. Summer break or not, we need a schedule, we need a routine , we need to lighten a bit, smile more, relax more and give ourselves grace more. Finally, As Amy Tenny said, “The world needs strong women. Ones who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely, both tender and fierce. Women of indomitable will”