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Long summer vacations, a child with high expectations, and busy working parents – the perfect storm? This working mother shares her learnings from managing summer vacations over the years.
As a child, I used to eagerly wait for the summer vacations. As a mother, I dread it. Thinking about 6-8 weeks of no school days, the constant cries of “I am getting bored”, and the loads of work awaiting me at the office worries me. I feel guilty about perhaps not being able to create enough good summer vacation memories for my child. I reached out to other working parents to discuss this issue, and see what ways they have found to survive the challenge.
From my own experience and that of other working mothers I know, here are a few tricks to have a sane life (and thrive!) amidst school summer vacations, kids, and work.
Children start thinking about the summer vacations while preparing for their final examination. They look forward to it as unstructured ‘me time’ and expect it to be different from the rest of the year (and special too!). I ask for a list to gauge my child’s mind and her summer vacation fantasies. We divide the plan into ‘will do’ and ‘can do’ sections. And we mark activities to be taken care of by us or by her. To manage her summers, the first thing on my agenda as a working mother was to lower her expectations!
This summer, once the broad plan was chalked out, my daughter and I made a list of books, movies, games, IT activities, recipes, and art and craft activities that we would want to enjoy together. We selected some to be done as joint activities and others that my daughter could enjoy on her own while we were busy at work or with household chores. Mandala painting, crafts using props like shells, no-knot yarn crafts, ice-lolly sticks, and used bottles are her favourites for art and craft. This list automatically brought a smile on her face.
We spent some time to zero down on a library so that she could read the books she wants, and also get exposed to newer ones. We read book reviews from various online sources like goodreads, saffrontree, and kids book review , and we both feel that is good time spent together.Visual programming languages developed for children like Scratch or software like MS Paint, MS Office (Power Point, Excel, Word) are good resources to work with during the free time available in summer. We do spend a lot of time finding books to buy or discussing fashion and other stuff through online retail stores. This way, we spend time virtual window-shopping.
Most working mothers manage summer vacation as a team effort with extended families, friends, and day care facilities. I reach out to others for play dates. It needs some fine-tuning for my shy kid, but this is the best way to make her comfortable in new situations. School-going kids are used to spending time with each other, so a few hours of day care/summer camp or group activities keeps them happy. I accept offers from other parents with kids of a similar age like mine for chauffeuring to the swimming pool or the cinema.
A week or a long weekend at some place other than home gives a sense of break to the entire family. Also, being regular school and day care goers, kids of working parents sometimes yearn for a few days of staying at home. As a working mother, to manage the summer vacation, I opt for a few days of work from home or flexible timing to give the kid some ‘home time’, where they can spend time lying on the floor and staring at the roof!
As a working mother, weekends are my major gateways to manage summer vacations. We keep some summer weekends exclusively for the kid to decide what she wants to do and how. She takes the lead and we follow. It takes some self-control to not start suggesting alternatives but she takes great pride in planning breakfast, and other activities on her own. Mostly we end up painting together or cuddled up with each other talking about the many things going on in our lives.
The biggest challenge for working parents to manage during the summer vacation is to continue with the studies. It is hard, and needs lots of persuasion for my kid. This is work in progress for me. I try to find out interesting projects with mathematics or language as focus. Also books from another curriculum can be of help here.
As a working mother, I find summer vacation provides me some time to discuss with my child about our childhood, our mother tongue, home remedies ,and so on. I would definitely want to read to her from the Indian mythologies, Panchatantra and Jataka tales.
This balance is the main mantra for working mothers to manage summer vacation. I hated being a nagging mother. Then came my child’s toddler years and a nagging mother crept into my soul. I hate that nagging voice coming out of me but things don’t get done until I nag.This summer, I am working on finding a balance between nagging and hugging, by being more objective!
To add some fun to the daily routine, we try to add in some fun ways of communication like spelling out the instructions or by dumb charades. My child, lost in the TV and computer screen, can be reached through this and we get some quality laughing-out-loud time.
Finally, the biggest learning for me was to accept that I do give in to the demands of watching TV, reading on the computer screen, and video games more than normal – a summer vacation special.There are moments when we give in to frustration and chaos from the constant demands of a stubborn child deep in her vacation mood. There are days when we leave a crying child at the day care to go to work. She cries because there are no others of her age to play with. We give in to some days of junk eating also, to come out of the daily battles between work, summer vacation, and kid.
In those moments, I have learnt to take a deep sigh and console myself saying this also shall pass and soon, school will resume!
Pic credit: Woodleywonderworks (Used under a CC license)
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