Summer is often a favorite time of the year for military spouses. Those of us who are already doing it all, though, need to understand that summer can secretly feel super stressful. In the summer months, I’m balancing my business obligations with the kids’ summer sports, swimming, and the still needed “me time” to be my best self.
The good news? With a solid summer plan in place, I promise you’ll be able to lean into the chaos, schedule effectively, and hopefully even carve out a little time for yourself.
Step One: Clear the decks
I like to start my summer plan with clearing the decks. This means removing anything from my house that isn’t helping me move towards better health, more wealth, or closer relationships. I try to do this each season, but I find that it’s super important before summer starts. With all the spring cleaning articles out there, you should already be motivated to get started!
Here’s how I clear the deck (before my kids’ school year ends and they’re underfoot):
- I walk around the house and identify what I can get rid of so that my physical space feels ready to relax in,
- clean out their backpacks,
- get their art projects turned into lifelong keepsakes (using online services),
- organize their summer clothing so that we can focus on having fun once school is out.
I often begin my life coaching sessions by asking clients to clear out physical clutter so that we can focus on what really matters. I always ask, “What would you do next if your house were in perfect order?” and then we play around with their answer. Getting rid of things clears our minds and frees up energy to channel into more important tasks. I just love the concept of letting go and being open to what’s next. I have countless examples of clients who made giant leaps in life after cleaning out their homes.
In a recent coaching session with a military spouse, we chatted about decluttering strategies before her upcoming PCS (permanent change of station). I suggested she start by choosing one area of her home to tackle and prepare first. Day one was designated for purging and day two was for organizing. We landed on the topic of “mystery cords,” and I couldn’t help but laugh and admit that I still have a drawer full of them. It was a proud moment when I heard her utter the words, “You know what, I’m just going to throw mine out!” She was clearly mentally prepared for her upcoming move. But more than that, there was something so freeing in her voice that screamed, “I’m telling the universe that I’m ready for a new chapter in my life.” Her excitement was contagious!
Even if you aren’t making any big changes this summer, as you declutter and get ready for the season, pay attention to any stuck energy or mental drains that you can let go of. Purge your house and mind and make the conscious decision to just enjoy your summer months.
Step Two: Create a summer vision board
This is something new that I recently started doing in my own household. We turned our kitchen bulletin board into a summer vision board adorned with amusement park brochures, birthday party invites, and a trip to my mom’s beach house – with the dates all marked off on the calendar. Seeing these plans on the calendar gave me something to look forward to as I raced from seeing clients to tennis lessons to baseball games all spring long.
Creating a visual plan gives you a sense of what is to come and allows you to both embrace the moment while having something fun to look forward to. Consider having some dinner discussions about what you might like to do as a family this summer, especially if you’re facing an upcoming deployment, planning a getaway with friends or visiting extended family. It could be a healthy distraction.
Even if you don’t end up doing everything on your vision board, it’s fun to look at the colorful brochures and ideas. I find that my kids don’t even choose expensive outings. They’re happy with a trip to Rita’s Italian Ice and playing tennis at the park. When we find pockets of free time (like a cancelled summer baseball game), we look at the board for ideas and end up taking a trip to the library or a museum. Without a plan, the kids stay inside playing video games in the basement for too long.
Planning as a family helps keep everyone active and motivated all summer long. Consider clearing your bulletin board or buying a white board to start your family’s summer wish list. Make sure to post it in a visible area that sparks motivation.
Step Three: Create a weekly plan
Visions are great to keep our motivation levels high, but we also need an actual plan. While I use my iPhone to keep track of my schedule during the rest of the year, I personally keep my summer schedule in a good old paper organizer. I need to visually see when the kids have baseball, swimming, and camp – and figure out how I will fit work in with them at home more hours each day.
When mapping out your weekly plan for the intense summer months, use whatever works for you – whether it’s a schedule on your smartphone, a wall calendar, or a paper planner like mine. The bottom line is that if you don’t plan things out, the summer will take control of you instead of you taking control of the summer.
Planning things out ahead of time makes it much easier to enjoy the “days off” purposefully. While scheduling leisure time may seem counterintuitive, it’s essential to make sure that “fun” actually makes it into the plan. I’ve asked military spouses who have tried it both ways, and having a plan always wins! Check out the sample summer plan that I posted on my blog.
Step Four: Decide on a daily routine
My friend Kim, a military spouse and stay-at-home mom, decided to create a daily schedule for her kids and post it on the white board in her kitchen. It looked like day camp, but she swears that scheduling snack time at 10 am and cooking dinner/kids’ video game time at 4 pm works for her family – and helps her keep their meals and her sanity intact.
I love this tip! Think about the type of schedule that will best serve your family. If your husband is home, do you have ten minutes to connect over a cup of coffee before the kids are up? Can you schedule a family dinner hour that works? My husband and I tend to divide and conquer over the summer. So, I’ll feed three kids while he takes our fourth to summer baseball (on those days I make sure to give my baseball star a little extra snuggle time).
Some spouses swear by theme days such as “car washing day” or “change the sheets day” or “other laundry day” to keep things sane. It’s also a good idea to schedule some (secret) quiet time too. Depending on your kids’ ages, they can use this down time to quietly play, read, or just rest (without the TV on!).
The idea here is to create a daily routine that’s particularly useful during the summer months when our energy is shifted and we generally need a little more time being than doing. Figure out what works best for you and your family and then write it down so everyone’s on the same page.
Step Five: Try incorporating some tech-free time
I lost my iPhone two summers ago in Martha’s Vineyard and it was a wonderful experience. This might sound crazy, but I liked not being so attached to it. Of course I got a new phone eventually, but after this experience I committed to leaving my cell phone in my car when watching my kids’ games, going to the park, or enjoying family time in the evening. I even keep a basket in my kitchen designated for the family’s electronics. This practice helps me be in the moment – and when I do have some down time without my phone in hand, I end up just reading rather than scrolling on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest or texting fairly meaningless stuff to friends and family.
I really like the idea of logging off, and it’s an especially healthy practice for children who are more plugged in these days than ever before. If you can’t do a whole week in the summer, consider instituting “no-media Mondays” or “no-media mornings” so that you can free your family’s creative minds rather than being on constant information overload. By following these tips, you’ll naturally nurture success while instilling an overall sense of balance to you and your kids’ life.
Step Six: Keep carving out “me time”
With the kids home from school, whether you work or not, the vibe around your home is bound to change. And as nice as it is to have the kids home, there’s less quiet time for you. Make sure to plan for that.
As a busy military spouse, how are you going to commit to daily “me time” to keep your sanity?
This time for yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be something as easy as committing to a daily facial regime. Or renting a funny movie and popping some popcorn. It could even involve stretching, meditation, or just a walk around the neighborhood.
For me, there’s nothing like waking up a few minutes before the kiddos, sipping my tea, and opening up my journal to reflect on my gratitude and listen to the birds chirping. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, reminds me to pay attention to the beauty of the world that constantly surrounds me. I take a moment to recognize this pleasant reality each morning by writing in my journal, regularly going on artist dates, and paying more attention to the positive details of life.
“Me time” is as much a mindset as it is an activity. It could be something as small as noticing the bunny in my yard, which my daughter brought to my attention. This simple recognition helped me bear witness to my own self-worth and all of the things in my environment worth being grateful for. By nurturing gratitude, our moods are easily uplifted. We also begin to vibrate success in terms of entrepreneurship, motherhood, marriage, and friendship.
How are you spending your summer?
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with fun, inexpensive summer activity ideas that I can share with other military spouses on my blog (be sure to include your name, branch of service, and your military spouse business if you have one). I’ll include them in my blog post on summer activity ideas.
Need more help creating structure this summer? Check out my free report on the Fear of Missing Summer for more tips on how to plan out your summer season with ease. Happy Summer!