Every year I think I’m prepared for summer, and every year I’m… not. As I was reading Jennifer Senior’s book All Joy and No Fun last week, I think I hit on part of the reason why. The book (which is great, by the way – I hope to do a review soon) starts with a section on autonomy. Senior argues that one of the toughest adjustments for new parents is giving up the control they’ve come to enjoy over their lives and their time.
And I realized that summer is, each year, a little like becoming a parent all over again. After a stretch of mostly organizing my own time, I have to readjust my schedule to make room for another person, meeting Doodlebug’s needs without losing myself in the process. And as I’ve already discussed, that was tough for me. Really tough. It’s not just the lack of routine that makes it hard, it’s also the loss of control.
I find myself falling back on some of the same strategies that got me through the baby days, especially Do the Most Important Thing First. When I have my precious two hours of writing time, I can’t let myself fall down an Internet rabbit hole or get distracted by laundry. I’m retraining myself to save those chores/rewards for times when I’m “on duty” with Doodlebug but she’s absorbed in her own play. Independent play = the new nap time!
Other strategies I relied on for staying sane, like Wear Her in the Sling While We Watch Lost, don’t work as well these days. And, while I love the fact that iDad and I both work at home now, it adds an extra layer of complexity to our schedule. Not only am I stressing that I’m not getting work done and that I’m not spending enough time with Doodlebug, now I’m also stressing that iDad isn’t getting enough work time.
Things will get both easier and more complicated as the summer goes on – so far we’ve been hanging out at home, letting Doodlebug decompress from the school year and squeezing in work time when we can. Coming up, though, we have camps and trips, some of which are of the grandparent variety (translation: sleepovers!). All that’s good, for Doodlebug and for our work schedules, but it’s a lot of changes in a short space of time. And we all know how well I do with that.
I do have one new strategy I plan to keep in place: my Notebook of Power. I am huge on lists – there is something so satisfying about finishing a task and then checking it off. I have even been known to write down jobs I’ve already finished just so I can mark them as done. (What? It’s something I accomplished! I should definitely get credit.)
So during the school year, every month I make a list of writing goals in my To Do notebook. Every week I make a list of tasks. And every day I write out 5-10 things I plan to do, including work and non-work items. In past summers I’ve let these lists slide, which means I lose that concrete proof that I’m getting things done. But this summer I’ve committed to sticking with my lists. Even if I don’t accomplish as much as I do during the school year (and I know I won’t), the summer won’t look like a giant black hole of wasted time when I flip through my notebook in September.
I know some of you guys have been in the summer trenches waaaay longer than we have – school got out crazy late here this year. How are things going at your house?