by Cassi Clausen, Open School staff and co-founder
August 24, 2017
I don’t know about you, but my summer has been bipolar. In the beginning I was so excited for all the family time: the stuff I would do with the kids, the sleeping in, the pajama days, the vacation away from the “grind.” And those things have been great, but they have also been hard. Because for me, like for many parents, when my kids are out of school they are with me. ALL. THE. TIME.
Of course I love my kids. I mean, I started a school for my kids. If that’s not proof of love I don’t know what is. But during the summer, the long days of just being together, which by anyone’s guess would have been idyllic, have become LOOOOOONG days of JUST being together.
How does that happen? How do days of nothing, days of rest and relaxation, become draining? Well, here are a few of the things I’ve been doing wrong.
The days where nothing is planned are really days without intention. I’m not saying I should have a goal for each day, but rather, if I’m going to have nothing planned, it needs to be for a good reason. Like, “I’m choosing to not plan anything at all so that I can be present and dive into whatever comes up with a big YES!” If my kids say, “Let’s go swimming,” I will say, “YES,” and then we can strategize about how to make it work.
Lack of intention with kids means I’m not actually present with them. I have my little agenda. I have chores, emails, and things I want to watch on TV. So, we spend a day together, but not together. Just occupying the same space. And in the end, no one’s needs are met, and everyone is tired and whiny because we haven’t connected, we haven’t recharged. We’re just on each other’s nerves.
Self-care is preached at us (or is it just me?) ad nauseum. Put on your own oxygen mask first, yada yada yada. But seriously! This is important for parents. So many of us don’t know how to care for ourselves.
Next time, try this tactic. Think about how you would care for a child who’s at their wit’s end. What would you do? Probably give them some space, or see if they need food, water, sleep, or a quiet place to read, right? You, the parent, have the same needs.
But how do you get your needs met while children are climbing on you and pulling you in three directions? Here are some ideas:
I realize now, at the end of the summer, that my vision of relaxed days were all about being with my kids. I didn’t have a vision of how I would have some time for myself. So, I quickly became drained and frustrated.
Even though the schedule of the school year can feel relentless, its rhythm is important. During the summer we throw schedule out, for good reason. But that doesn’t mean we should lose our rhythm.
I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine about family rhythms. These are things we implement regularly to create balance. It’s not the same as having a weekly scheduled activity, though that can be integrated into a rhythm. Rhythms are more like protected periods of time with intention. Having a rhythm means that I have to say “no” to other things.
For example, every Friday night is our pizza and movie night. This means every Friday is blocked out in my schedule, and if something comes up, even if it sounds fun or is a good opportunity, I turn it down to honor the rhythm. Friday nights are sacred. That’s our time to make our pizzas and watch a movie together.
Rhythms may seem stressful at first, because they feel like adding to an already full schedule. But really it’s taking away. It’s about making sure there’s time built into our family life that is sacred, when no one has a to-do list or an agenda to accomplish.
Rhythms can also contribute to self-care — like waking up and meditating every morning, or having coffee with your spouse before you begin the day. Make it intentional, sacred, and regular, and it will be so much more fulfilling.
So, how about you? Has your summer been crazy like mine, or have you achieved a balance? Do you have any stories to share about self-care or rhythms you’ve created?