Help Torie! I am nervous about summer! I’m a stay home mom and I WANT to be one of those chill moms who loves hanging out by the pool sipping lemonade. My kids are 5, 7 and 9 so I’ve done this enough times to know that I’m not a great summer-mom. I love the structure that the school year provides but I’m not good at creating a structure for myself at home.
I signed them up for swim lessons and some other activities but I’m nervous about not getting enough time by myself. My friends that love the slow-paced, lazy days of summer. The idea of it appeals to me but the reality is, I’ll probably be crazy by July. How can I make the most of my summer? -Stephanie
Parent Educator Answer: When you are nervous about summer
Summertime is important for the mental, emotional and physical health of children. There are two pass times that will optimize this quality time for kids: downtime and pursuing passions.
Children’s brains need the lazy, slow-paced days of summer to integrate learning, build relationships, and recalibrate to life without stress. It’s also a great time to discover and pursue passions that they might not have time for during the school year.
If your child loves baking, allowing her extra time to do get creative in the kitchen is a great use of summer.
Whether it’s building a hammock out of duct tape or learning to dive into the pool, giving kids time to choose activities freely increases the motivation parts of their brains.
Sorry kids, (and tired moms), the negative consequences of screen time on children’s physical, mental and emotional health are still outweighing any positive effects.
Find passions to pursue in the real world to maximize summer. TV and video games are too physiologically stressful to be considered downtime.
Life Coaching Answer: With the kids squared away, it’s time to talk about MOM.
Stephanie, you sound like a classic “obliger”. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book called The Four Tendencies which describes 4 different tendencies that come into play when someone wants to take change a habit.
The Obliger Mom
One tendency she calls, obliger. Obligers have an easy time meeting EXTERNAL expectations (we show up on time for appointments, we remember to attend Back to School nights, etc.) but we have a hard time with INTERNAL expectations (going to the gym, making time for ourselves, etc.)
You say you do well with the structure of school but are worried about getting enough time by yourself.
Other tendencies (Upholder and Questioner) have an easy time meeting INTERNAL expectations. Meaning, if they want to lay in the sun and read a book every day, they do it. If they want to work out, they head to the gym easily without any drama.
The problem for Obligers is the KIDS start to take on the role of “external expectations”.
It’s easy for us to obey the demands of others: “Mom, can you drive me to Sophie’s?” “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Mom, can we go to the pool today?”
It’s almost like we lose the ability to hear our own voice. We feel imprisoned by the demands of our kids. Waiting for them to be happy and satisfied before we can listen to our own voice.
Obliger moms have an especially hard time being home with kids all day.
Rather than wishing you were the kind of mom who can just chill and enjoy a slow-paced summer, learning to work with your natural tendency will make life much easier. Here are 4 tips to help obliger moms enjoy summer more.
4 Summer Tips for the Obliger Moms
- Recognize that waiting for your children to be happy and satisfied isn’t working. They will never push you out the door saying, “Go take care of yourself now, Mom!” If you want to feel better this summer, it’s going to have to come from your desire to give your kids a happy summer mommy.
- Start every day with a paper and pen, asking yourself “What would I LOVE to accomplish today?” “How do I want to feel while accomplishing these things?” “When I look back on my day before going to bed, what will I be most proud of?” Sit in the driver’s seat of your brain and tell it what to focus on.
- Build upon external expectations. Have a friend meet you at the gym. Tell your kids you have an appointment with your book at 3:00 and it’s their job to make sure you don’t miss it. Sign up for a class for YOURSELF. Make an appointment with a life coach.
- Use a timer as your external accountability. “I have 15 minutes to clean and then I get to relax.” or “I will drive you to your friend’s house if you’ll let me read for 30 minutes first.” The world benefits from obligers, but putting ourselves last has a cost to it. It’s time to prioritize your goals, dreams and desires, and show your kids the value of pursuing things that are important to you.
Supermom Kryptonite: Compare and despair.
It’s so easy to “compare and despair”. We go on Pinterest or Instagram and see other Moms so happy and creative, we think we should be different than we are. Everyone else appears to be having an easier time than us so we assume we should be different.
Instead, try thinking about adapting your life as a mom to your particular personality. If you like external expectations, sign up for classes and make appointments with friends and life coaches to help you work towards your goals.
If you are introverted and need extra time to be inside your own head, respect that and check into a hotel by yourself for 2 nights.
Take time every day to reflect on how things are going: What do you miss? What do you yearn for?
Motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all. The goal is to give your kids a happy, fulfilled mom. Make sure you are paying attention to who you are and what you want, rather than what everyone else is doing.
Supermom Power Boost – Read the book, The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
Understanding your tendency can help you have compassion for yourself and others. Compassion always feels good and boosts our energy.
If you get frustrated with yourself, “Why can’t I be more easy going?” or “Why is it so hard for me to break this bad habit?” this book will help answer your questions.
There’s no one tendency that’s better than another (although Gretchen Rubin says Obligers don’t tend to like being obligers, where the other tendencies enjoy themselves more).
I WISH this book had been required reading before marrying my “Rebel” husband. It would have saved me many years of frustration, trying to get him to do what I wanted him to do.
Raising a rebel child came with its own brand of craziness. Since all teenagers have a rebellious streak, I recommend reading how to motivate a rebel for anyone raising an adolescent.
Whether you are an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, or Upholder, understanding and ACCEPTING your tendency makes life easier and more fun.
We tend to project our expectations onto our family, thinking they should be more like us. When you identify your loved one’s tendencies, it’s easier to enjoy them for who they are.