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Erin Stewart: 5 tips for moms to survive and enjoy summer

I always start the summer with lofty goals. We make a summer bucket list with all the fun activities we are going to do before September rolls in. I buy bubbles by the trunkload and fantasize about the glory of days without strict schedules and time to just enjoy my children.

Roughly 20 days in, however, my idyllic summer fantasy has devolved into my kids watching TV just so I can get a few minutes of head space that isn’t filled with complaints of boredom and squabbles over ridiculous minutiae like who sprayed whom first with the garden hose.

So, yes, summer is definitely a double-edged sword. I love it because of the freedom and time with my kids, but those are also the reasons why summer can be a challenge for moms.

To keep my sanity each summer, I adhere to a few simple summer guidelines. These tips are nothing groundbreaking, but they keep us all from turning on each other like we are living on a reality show that tests how many times I can answer the question “What are we doing today?”

1. Keep a schedule. Don’t get me wrong here, I love the schedule-free feel of not having to get up and get kids to school and lessons. But let’s face it — kids need structure (and so do moms). We all need some sort of loosely knit schedule to define our days and break up the hours. In our house, this means we have certain tasks we finish before we play. This includes finishing the daily brain work, piano practice and chores. Getting these out of the way early frees up the rest of our day for fun and starts the day in a much more orderly way.

2. Make their brains work. Yes, I am that mom who makes her kids do workbooks over the summer. My mother did it with me, and I’ll never forget the memories of working on my handwriting during a vacation while other kids were out playing on the beach. Those kids may have built a sandcastle, but I mastered my cursive P! OK, so I kind of hated the workbooks, but I still make my kids do them each summer along with a daily dose of reading and writing. They can read anything for 20 minutes and write anything that involves a pen and a paper. By the end of the summer, they earn a prize if they’ve done their reading, writing and workbook for 50 days.

3. Look forward to something for you. Moms are usually last on the priority list, but summer can feel long and daunting if there is nothing on the calendar that you are looking forward to doing. Whether it’s a girls’ trip or time to work on a skill you enjoy, make sure you get time, too. For me, this came in the form of a weeklong writing conference this year. I took a whole week to focus on something I love and talk to other adults. I came home validated, refreshed and ready to jump back into summer with my kids.

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4. Play with your kids. Put on the bathing suit. Run through the sprinkler. Don't just supervise your children's summer fun; be part of it. Get in the memory, Mom!

5. Remember: You are not a camp director. This is perhaps the most important summer survival tip. The first few summers of being a mother, I might as well have blown a whistle and handed out merit badges. I thought it was my job to entertain my children and jam the summer months full of memories and exciting experiences. By midsummer, I was burned out and ready for school to start.

Now, I don’t take on that responsibility. Kids are going to enjoy summer without me stalking Pinterest for activities and themed mommy day camps. The best summer fun is unplanned: running through sprinklers, staying up late, sleeping in, making forts in the backyard, eating way too many s’mores and even more Popsicles.

Most importantly, summer is the time to reconnect with my kids without lofty goals or Pinterest-worthy memories. There will be moments of total mayhem, but these days will be over before I know it. School will be back in session, and I’ll give anything for one more run through the sprinkler or one more shared Popsicle on the back porch.

The days may feel long, but the summer is short. Soak it up.

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Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.

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