Leadership Blog

How I Made the Best of a Messy Summer for Working Moms

Summer is a time to take a family vacation, enjoy sunny days, and lounge by your neighborhood pool. It’s a time to relax — at least it has been in years past.

Sadly, 2020 has been quite different.

Everyone in the world is just trying to live their “new normal.” After all, almost none of us has navigated a global pandemic before. I’ll admit, as a working mom I’ve found it difficult — but not for the reasons I would’ve expected.

Ask any working mom, and she’ll tell you that summers feel like a full-time job during a normal year: Get the kids what they need for camp. Keep them entertained during the day. Try not to stress too much if you miss something. Did my kid just ask me what’s for lunch again? How am I already running late to the office?

But 2020 started throwing curveballs at us much earlier than the summer months. The biggest curveball it threw at me was the day I noticed how much COVID-19 and self-isolation was affecting my children’s mental health.

It was summer, but we couldn’t take our regular vacation. It was summer, but we couldn’t go to our neighborhood pool. It was summer, but they couldn’t spend days at friends’ houses. The limitations on activities and social interactions truly started to impact their psyches and mental health — it was devastating to me.

So, like any working mom, I penciled in some time on my Google calendar between Zoom meetings to brainstorm summer activities we could safely do.

Here’s how my family made the best of summer 2020:

1. We got creative.
When my older daughter first told me she wanted to paint all of our Jenga blocks, I was a little confused. Then she explained that she and her friends in the neighborhood wanted to paint Jenga blocks at their homes to plan socially distanced activities throughout the summer.

A blue Jenga block meant a socially distanced picnic, a purple block meant outdoor movie night, and so on. Each kid took a turn pulling a Jenga block — whichever block made the tower fall over, that was their activity for the day.

2. We took a family walk every night.
Early in the summer, my family found that getting out of the house and taking a walk around the neighborhood was not only good for our physical health but also beneficial for our mental wellness.

Getting away from social media and the news gave us the chance to connect as a family and enjoy the true perks of summer (for us in Chicago, that’s near-perfect temperatures, bright green grass, and light breezes). When we started to get bored with our daily walks, we spiced it up a bit and incorporated scavenger hunts, bubbles, and even made a playlist for dancing during our strolls.

3. We went on a road trip to the great outdoors.
My family chose to take a road trip to South Dakota. We stocked up on hand sanitizer and masks, and we set off to have an adventure. South Dakota has plenty to offer when it comes to outdoor activities, and it’s certainly not the only state with a lot of hidden gems to enjoy while social distancing.

4. We embraced (and encourage) getting outside.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted the importance of physical activity for young bodies and minds, but isolation is pretty bad for people of all ages. Armed with this information, I researched camps in my area and decided to let my daughters attend an outdoor camp.

The camps my girls went to provided a lot of outdoor time, meaning plenty of fresh air and a lower risk of exposure. For our family, it was a win-win situation: My kids were safe at a camp with several coronavirus precautions in place, and they had the opportunity to feel like normal kids again for a few days.

Although this year has felt different for my family — and I’m sure for yours, too — it has allowed me to get creative in all facets of my life. At first, that was mastering the art of getting myself and my kids to our Zoom calls on time.

In the summer, it meant thinking outside the box to make sure my kids could have the best summer possible. In the process, I’ve found that this time — while challenging — has given me the chance to connect with my kids in brand new ways.

And maybe that’s what summer is all about.