I don’t know about you… but during the summer I harbor a fantasy.

I think that summer is supposed to be about long quiet days on the beach with my kids frolicking in the waves, bike rides, roller skating, and sitting under a tree reading a book.

Year after year, I have these delusions about having “free time in the summer”, when in reality I actually have LESS time to do these things.

In the summer—because they are not at school all day—my children require more of my attention, need rides to more places, and need more support to organize activities for themselves week after week, than during the school year.

It is easy during summer—a time of increased demands—for me to forget about taking care of myself.

However, I’ve gotten better at taking care of myself over the years by doing a few key things that I’d like to share with you:



I got inspired to consider playing more after I listened to Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. What emerged in her research is that wholehearted families “play”.

Now, I’m a pretty serious person (except when I’m teaching a roomful of preschoolers). I choose non-fiction over fiction and documentaries over comedies almost every time. So to think about “playing” or doing something non-productive is actually a stretch for me.

A few weeks ago, inspired by Dr. Brown’s research I started to do things differently. We were out for dinner at our local “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant and I asked each family member what was fun for them to do. We talked about things that were playful, things that cause us to loose our sense of time, and things that we’ll experience a flow state while doing.

I made a list (kind of a venn diagram) and compiled the few things that were fun for ALL of us to do. This was surprising because we found out that we all like doing pottery and backpacking (who knew?), being outside, reading, and watching movies.

The best part is that making this list changed what we planned for the summer. We made sure that we were doing things that were playful for all four of us (that includes me!).


Renew yourself

Besides doing playful things as a family, us parents need to recharge ourselves. What I hear over and over again from parents is “I want to ____ but I don’t have the time!”

Yes, finding time can be hard. So try this and let me know how it goes….

Choose one or more things that renew you (meditation, journaling, playing music, dancing, making art, writing, yoga, etc.) and commit to do it EVERY DAY… but don’t commit to how much time you will spend doing it!

Here’s why this works: There are little things in life that make a big difference—even if we do them for just a short period of time. Does taking a few meditative breaths make a difference before a big work presentation, or helping a screaming toddler? YES! Does doing “down dog” in the living room before starting your day or getting in the car at rush hour make things easier? Absolutely.

Sure, a 30-minute meditation is great, or a 60-minute workout is super, 90-minute art class is awesome. But don’t let those “ideals” prevent you from getting some of the wonderful benefits that come from doing these restorative things for 5 minutes or even 1 minute!

Said another way, “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good”.


Identify and Do “Mission Critical” Things

I’ve tried all sorts of different “to do” lists, calendars, reminders, and time management systems, but I keep coming back to this one that I’ve used consistently for 9 years!

I have a “To Do List”—it’s just a document that I keep on the desktop of my computer—that has 4 sections: things I NEED to get done this week, things I WANT to get done this week, things to do this MONTH, and things to do SOMEDAY. In each section is a column for Home, Work, and Personal things.

And guess what? On any given day there are only about 3 things that are Mission Critical – that I have to get done. Only 3!

Those other things—the things that I want to do this week, month, or someday—it’s great that I have them listed there because I can tell my brain to relax about them. It’s really helped me to prioritize, and conserve my time and energy for the things that I value the most while letting go of the other things that seem important but don’t actually need to get done.

Now that you’ve read my list, I’m curious about you…

How do you take care of yourself in the summer—or during any season?

What are the daily/weekly practices that you can’t live without?

Share them in the comments section. I’d love to see you there!

Here’s to summer renewal (or winter renewal, if you’re one of our friends in the Southern Hemi—we love you too!)

Watermelon, cherries, and peaches,
Cecilia Hilkey

Share via