Thanks to my partnership with McDonald’s, I now know the perfect term for the time from Memorial Day to Labor Day: the 90 Days of Summer. For those working at the Golden Arches, these days present challenges that are specific to the changes that the warmer weather brings: vacations, tourists and kids out of school. For those of you with children, these days present unique challenges to you as well.
The summer requires some shifts in your work/life balance. One, you may have to change how you manage your workload as you hopefully take some days off for family vacations. Another, you must find ways to keep your children engaged and productive since they are out of school, whether it be by sending them to day camps, letting them run around the neighborhood, or visiting with a grandparent.
I know from personal experience it can be difficult to get your children excited about anything other than staying up late on screens and sleeping in, so I thought I share some of the tips and tricks that the Zimmerman house has found helpful to maximize our 90 Days.
- STRUCTURE: Even though every single child would deny it, they all need and actually want structure. My wife Elle has created a weekly chore chart with things like: walk the dog, do the laundry, tidy your room. If every one of their boxes are checked at the end of the week, they earn a little bonus (maybe in the form of a trip to our local ice cream parlor). If not, they will lose some electronics time or won’t be able to have that sleepover that they wanted.
- ELECTRONICS: Speaking of electronics, the best way to avoid a daily argument over the use of cell phones, computer games, xbox, playstations, etc. is to set a daily limit. This way the kids know exactly how much time they have and they can make their own choices on what screen they spend that time on. As a bonus, you save yourself the energy lost from a daily negotiation.
- QUALITY TIME: While days spent at friends and at week-long camps are engaging and productive, if you want your children to remember the summer for quality time with you, take advantage of the extra sunlight in the evening. After your commute home, sit in your car for a few extra moments and say out loud: “I’m about to do the most important work of my day.” The next three and a half hours you spend excited about summer and present with your children will make all the difference in their summer.I also recommend you bring them with you to work, not just for one day, but for a whole business trip. This summer, I’m speaking in Denver at the National Leadership Academy for high schoolers. I’m bringing my daughter so she can participate in the conference but I’m also bringing my younger son so he and I can spend my free time exploring the city.When you take your child with you on a business trip, I encourage you to stay an extra day after the meetings are over. This allows you to both discover what they learned being at work with you and to spend quality time with them relaxing at the pool or seeing the city’s sights. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn about their perspectives and experiences. I’ve been doing this for years and my children have become my favorite travel companions.
- BOREDOM: As you’re planning a productive summer for your kids, don’t forget the value of having 2-3 weeks that have absolutely zero planned activities. Between school, homework and extracurriculars, most children today are so scheduled during the school year, it’s ridiculous! Give them some time to lay in the grass and look at the clouds. Make them figure out what to do to fill their time without electronics–it’s good for them. There is value in building a blanket fort with your sister or spending 3 hours playing Monopoly. Children need the downtime to stimulate their natural creativity. Be willing to join them and encourage them to understand they don’t need to be stimulated every second of every day.
I want you to think of the 90 Days of Summer the same way I tell parents to think of their first family trip to Disney World: you’re not on vacation, only the kids are. You will be walking in the heat, pushing a stroller with an overstimulated, tired, grumpy child, feeling that this misery will never end. But, though it may seem like an eternity while you’re in the middle of it, remember: It is only 90 days and there is an end in sight. You only have to be a superstar parent for 90 days for your kids to have an amazing summer!
One last thought–my oldest son Noah will be a junior this year, which means I only get two more 90 Days of Summer before he moves off to college. It goes fast. Enjoy your summer and you will be truly Living the Dream.
What are some of the things you do to navigate this change in your work life balance? What trips have you taken your kids on and what have you learned about them? Comment below with your stories and questions!