For the Mom Who Has a Complicated Relationship With Summer: 5 Lazy Tips to Keep You Sane and Happy


We finished school on June 1st. Yay! To celebrate, I’d planned to take the kids out for lunch to inaugurate Summer 2016, going so far as to shower, put on mascara, and wear non-yoga pants.

But within minutes of picking up the last child from school, they were already fighting about where to go for lunch. One child wanted a fro-yo extravaganza. Another wanted a kids meal. The third one wanted an array of lunch options, followed by dessert.

I just wanted some gratitude and a minivan sans strife.

After pulling into a random parking lot and facilitating peace negotiations, we decided on our local Chick-Fil-A where the line was as long as I’ve ever seen it. In the proceeding minutes, I made a number of idle threats to each of them while lamenting our less-than-ideal summer kickoff.

Food has a way of making people seem human again and within a few minutes, we were all laughing at our outside table, talking about plans for next couple of months.

The whole situation felt like a metaphor for summer — a rough transition, selfish clamoring, dashed ideals, and eventual {though short-lived} peace and goodwill.

Summer, you throw me for a loop every year. 


Here’s the thing about my mom self. Maybe you can relate. I crave order and routine but appreciate plenty of room for spontaneity. I need structure but don’t like too many rules. Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of list-y things to keep us sane during the summer. Few of them had any staying power, probably because I, as the resident grown-up, am required to enforce the standards I create and sometimes I choose to take a nap instead.

So consider this “The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Summer Sanity.” These are the loose ideas that have worked for us as well as a few things I’m hoping to try this year.

1. Incentives are your best friend.

mr. lake and raft

For you and for them. Because I work and write from home, I’m planning to wake up early and get my stuff done during the morning hours, while also keeping kids busy-ish with a few jobs around the house, reading books, walking the dog, etc. {Even as I type this, it sounds a bit like a pipe dream but one can hope.}

If we all finish our work, we get to go swimming, watch movies, play video games, stop at QT for slushies, etc. Work before play helps establish a loose routine, gets the work done, and rewards all of us at the same time.

2. Don’t freak out about screen time.


My boys last summer, gathered ’round ye olde iPod, memorizing raps.

Your kids will not die or get considerably more stupid by having extra screen time during the summer months. I often wish I was raising kids in the days before screens existed but we don’t get to choose our moments in history. For better or for worse, it’s 2016.

At our house, we have TVs, Netflix, and a Playstation. And my older two have personal devices. Even though we try to limit their access, we still have screens aplenty and I’m sure their brains aren’t awesome for it. At the same time, I have fond childhood memories of watching the same movies over and over again, playing Frogger on our Atari 5200, and watching murder mysteries with my mom. I still love movies and TV dramas. Story, whether in book-form, audio-form, or screen-form, enriches my life and provides a much-needed timeout while I do laundry or take time to unwind. I daresay it does the same for my kids.

3. Let the summer lists do the bossing.

Years ago, I got tired of “Mom, I’m bored!” and “Mom, can I have a snack?” every 15 minutes. So I made lists and put them on the fridge. They took all of five minutes to make.

Let the Snack List Do the Bossing: The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Keeping Kids Fed

“Mom, What Can I Do?” The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Supervising Children

It wasn’t a perfect system but it helped. Obviously the details need revision each summer because my teenage kids are no longer interested in the things their 6-year-old selves enjoyed. Nor do they eat Go-gurts. It’s the concept that matters. Kids need helpful reminders and you need a break from “Mom!” every five minutes.


4. Make a SIMPLE Summer bucket list.

squinting girls

As in, each kid picks one or two realistic things. This gives you some loose goals without feeling like a failure by the end of the summer because you didn’t cross off all the things on your list. Some of ours are:

  • Visit a local fun park for mini-golf, go-karts, etc.
  • See Finding Dory together.
  • Tour a local historic / scenic place we’ve never visited.
  • {With my older two kids} Summer binge-watch a couple of Netflix series.


5. Keep a list of what you do.

writing boy

A piece of notebook paper + a pen + a magnet + the front of your refrigerator = a written record of what you actually do this summer. Consider it a gift for your end-of-summer self, consolation that summer was better than it felt like on the days when the kids won’t stop fighting and it’s 1,000 degrees outside.

I’ve finished plenty of summers feeling like a loser mom who didn’t give my kids enough meaningful experiences / spend enough quality time with them. This summer I’m keeping a list and writing down everything from movies we watched and books we read to places we traveled and friends who visited.


During the school year, summer always sounds like one extended vacation. But the truth is, our selfishness, idealism, and daily work don’t go on vacation. This means that summer can feel like a long hot season of dashed expectations.

I can’t solve all your summer probs or mine. But sometimes a few simple hacks or a change in mindset can go a long way in making things more realistically awesome for everyone involved.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to receive your own life this summer. Because sometimes it feels like everyone is vacationing in Belize while you’re stuck at home with a rubbermaid container as a swimming pool in your driveway.

What are your favorite summer sanity-savers?

rubbermaid pool


I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox a couple of times a week.


{P.S. I’ll be hanging out on Instagram this summer. Join me?}


  1. Emily Miller says

    Love this! Especially the bucket list and keeping the list of what we do. Also, I’m about to cry at that pic of Tabi in the driveway ‘pool’. How is she almost 5?!?!?!


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