Summer is in full swing, along with it, the promises of the hottest season: longer days, weekends in the pool, family vacations, and the chaotic break in the school-year routine for working parents. The change in pace can create difficulties for all parents, no matter your work situation. The new hustle can easily lead to feeling overwhelmed as you juggle being a productive worker with being a present parent.
If you’re feeling stretched thin, you’re not alone. But one key factor that can work wonders in helping working parents better navigate the summertime: flexibility.
Working flexibility in all areas of your life in the summer can not only help you be more successful at work, but it can also ensure you get time with your children. Plus, you’ll feel truly refreshed, so you can face the busy fall season rejuvenated.
Here are six ways to make flexibility your driving force this summer.
#1: Talk to Your Employer
This will set the foundation for everything else, so if you haven’t already done so, schedule time with your supervisor to discuss your situation. Whether you want to leave early to pick up your kids at camp or work staggered hours at home that correspond with nap and bedtimes, it’s important to be on the same page, so everyone knows what to expect.
Nervous about how to approach the conversation? The best way is to begin with a plan—ask for specifics instead of having a vague chat to explore possibilities. Keep the discussion professional, but remember that your boss is a person outside of work, too, and will likely appreciate your honesty and trust in them. Tell them how you envision your summer work days, including your plan to tackle all of your work. Most of all, tell them that your word of the summer is flexibility—and that just as they’re willing to work with you, you’ll be there for them when they need you.
#2: Talk to Your Kids
While it’s essential to have an honest conversation with your employer, discussing your job and your plans for your summer workdays with your kids is equally important. Let them know what times you’ll be dedicated to working. Explain that you’re excited to spend time with them over the summer but that your job is also an integral part of your life. If you work from home, set up a routine for when you’re working so your kids know not to disturb you—close your office door, put on your headphones, or set a timer, so they know you’re busy with dedicated focus time.
You can also set expectations with your kids, so they get used to the summer routine. If your kids are old enough to entertain themselves quietly, designate a do-not-disturb time for a couple of hours in the morning with a promise to go to the pool for an extended lunch. Communication can make everyone feel better and more organized.
#3: Expect the Unexpected
Set expectations and be ready for things to go awry. Remember the summer mantra—flexibility—and repeat it to yourself, breathe, and roll with the flux. Unexpected meetings, last-minute projects, and sick kids can and will happen. But preparing yourself for those eventualities and making peace with them will result in much less stress.
Your boss and kids already know you’re doing your best, so embrace the chaos and know this time will pass. Take the sick day. Reschedule the playdate. Do what’s best for you and your family.
#4: Enlist Help
Kids of different ages require varying levels of care, yet they will all have needs during the summer. Don’t be afraid to ask for and enlist help. If you need a nanny or babysitter to come for a few hours a day to watch your younger children, arrange for it. If money is tight, consider a neighborhood babysitting co-op or ask family to help if they can. Work with your partner or spouse to devise a plan; for example, rearrange your work schedules so you can alternate work and care for your children.
Older kids may need rides to camps or extracurricular activities. Create a rideshare schedule with other parents so you get more uninterrupted time to work and more time to spend with your kids when they get home.
#5: Make PTO Work for You
If you have accrued PTO, now is the time to take it. Create your own Summer Fridays, take a working vacation to someplace beautiful, or take time off to be truly present with your family. Depending on your company’s policies, you could also make taking half-days a regular thing to ensure you can make the most of the summer break.
#6: Take Care of Yourself
While this is listed last, it may be beneficial to consider it the unspoken foundational rule because you can’t take care of anyone or anything else unless you take care of yourself. Parenting is one of the most challenging roles you will have in your life, and the realities of that can come into complete focus when routine goes out the window. While you want to give your all to your job and kids, remember that you are a person with needs, too, and acknowledging that is an essential step in avoiding burnout.
While self-care can certainly include treating yourself to indulgences, ensure you take care of the basics first: get enough rest, eat nourishing food, and create space for mental and physical well-being. Most of all, give yourself grace. Remember that superwoman and superman don’t exist, and celebrate that you’re doing your best.
Before you know it, summer will end and you’ll return to the school year routine. You may even miss the chaos because once you adopt a mindset of flexibility, you’ll realize that you can tackle anything that comes your way.
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