Long summer breaks can be a bag of mixed emotions. On the one hand there's sweet freedom from early morning starts, rushing and routines. Eating breakfast in your PJ's. Lunch and dinner whenever anyone's hungry. Letting the kids live in the same swim suit for days on end. Hey - it saves on laundry.
On the flip-side, you're on full-time mama duty. Your normal daily schedule is thrown totally out of whack and you're missing that vital me time. One day morphs into another and after a while you've completely lost the plot.
All of these idyllic notions at the start of summer about picnics in the park and making banana pancakes for breakfast fade away in a blur of wet towels all over the house, kids glued to screens and serving up frozen pizzas for lunch. And dinner.
A few years ago I decided not to let my summer feel like a roller coaster ride of fun and frenzy. I used a notebook to create a game plan for creating my best summer yet.
I made a list of the things I have to do over the summer (like provide meals for my family even on hot, sweaty days) and another list of things I want to do.
And it worked! Getting clear from the start paid off. I felt more in control of my summer and could guide things in the right direction. It's become an annual ritual and summers keep getting better and better.
Here are 3 Steps to Creating Your Best Summer Yet:
1. Get clear about what you want.
Grab a notebook and write down your ideal outcome. Get a really clear vision in your mind of the ideal summer you'd like to create.
If you already know some of the plans you have, friends or family you'll see, trips you're taking or work you need to keep up with - include these in your vision. Write down how you want each part to pan out.
Next, include your ideal scenario for having some me time to keep you sane. Get a picture in your mind of the kinds of things would feel really good. What could you do if you had ten beautifully free minutes to yourself? What about half an hour?
Most importantly, ask yourself: How do I want to feel this summer? Relaxed, easy going, connected, playful, lighthearted, loving... Write down any words that describe how you'd love to feel.
2. Share with your family.
You're all in this together. Share your vision for summer and ask what they want out of it. What kinds of things would they enjoy doing? How do they want to feel?
You can only support each others expectations when you know what they are. They might want the same things as you, or it could be different. There'll be more family harmony if there's clarity from the beginning, with room for compromises and going with the flow of course.
3. Make a game plan.
This is the final, vital step. All of those great ideas will remain ideas without an action plan. What can you do to make the vision come true?
If you want more help around the house - set up a chores schedule and make it happen. Summer is a good time to create a fresh rewards chart. Hang up some clear, written rules so everyone knows what's expected. It'll save you from endless nagging. Just calmly refer to the rules - and follow through on the consequences. This doesn't mean punishment - they simply don't earn whatever you've agreed upon. Ice creams, screens and late bedtimes are earned in our house.
You'll have a lot more sibling harmony if you spend some one-on-one time with each child too. That can mean cuddled up together reading a book, playing a game, having them as your helper as you fold laundry, cook or water the garden together. Make it feel special for them to get you to themselves no matter what you're doing.
If you work, set up some clear working hours so you can be super productive during that time, and switch off completely when that time's up.
I've got something to make it super easy for you to create your Dream Vision of summer and make a great game plan. I'm now giving away my Summer Strategy Kit. It's packed with 26 worksheets and charts to help you plot out your Best Summer Yet.
Click here to get yours here today. Your summer sanity depends on it.
A little bit of planning now means more time for kicking back and enjoying later. Happy Summer!
Kelly Pietrangeli helps mothers see life beyond the laundry pile so they can take charge of their own happiness. Her website and blog, Project Me for Busy Mothers, has a global following of women who want to bring out their best selves more often.
Follow Project Me on Facebook
HuffPost Parents offers a daily dose of personal stories, helpful advice and comedic takes on what it’s like to raise kids today. Learn more