08/16/2012 01:59 pm ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

7 Guilt-free Ways I'm Slacking Off This Summer

Written by Meagan Francis for

If you're like me, perhaps you start off the summer strong -- energetic, motivated, and disciplined -- only to start wilting in the heat by the end of July. I used to consider my perennial "August lazies" a parental failing, but I'm starting to believe that fizzling out near the end of the summer allows me to embrace September with more pep in my step.

At any rate, I figure my lounging around on the job for a few weeks isn't going to do any long-term damage, and have decided to cut myself a ton of end-of-summer slack.

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In that light, here are 7 things I refuse to feel guilty about this August:

1. I allow video game marathons. I usually start out idealistic in June, shutting down screens and arranging lots of park and pool days. But by early August, hot weather and activity fatigue start setting in, and some of that early-summer energy wears off. I'm not above letting the boys while away a hot afternoon or two in front of the XBox. Everything in moderation; I figure we'll balance it out with camping weekends and nature strolls when the weather cooperates, and soon enough they'll be too busy with school to zone out to Minecraft for hours on end.

2. I make the kids do lots of chores. Kids home all day = more mess than during the school year, plus tons of energy in need of release. I deal by handing out housecleaning chores left and right. At the end of the day, the living areas look pretty tidy and none of my kids can say they didn't learn how to run a vacuum cleaner or wash the dishes.

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3. I kick them out. Not literally, of course! When the above-mentioned video game marathons start to offend my motherly sensibilities, I give the bigger kids a five-minute warning, shut it all down and make them vacate the premises. I've been known to say things like "I don't care where you go, but you can't stay here," and "Bored, huh? There's a car that could use washing in the driveway..."If I really need silence, I con the oldest ones into taking little siblings to the park... with a promise of popsicles if they're gone for at least 45 minutes.

4. I serve up hot dogs for dinner ... sometimes more than once a week. No, they aren't exactly the height of nutrition, but there's just nothing easier than serving up a hot dog (no plates needed!) on a lazy summer evening. To keep the guilt factor to a minimum, I supplement generously with fruits and veggies and buy the nitrate-free dogs when they're on sale.

5. I let my kids be quitters. Normally I encourage my boys to follow through with their commitments, but I also think life is too short to spend a summer doing something you aren't really into. If my kids were playing a team sport and their teammates were really counting on them, I'd probably make them see it through, but I'm more flexible about clubs and day camps.

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6. I consider matching socks completely optional. The same goes for matching clothes. And I've been known to dress the boys in tomorrow's clothes before bed ... who says clean shorts and a t-shirt can't double as pajamas?

7. I don't make the boys read or study over the summer. I know, I know, kids lose their learning over the summer, and we're supposed to make them read great books and recite multiplication tables so they don't fall behind. But I guess I've never seen a small step backward to be a huge tragedy for most kids -- in my experience they gear back up pretty quickly, and who's to say that the break doesn't help refuel their bodies and brains in a vital way? The funny thing is that even without my forcing the issue, my kids still learn and read all summer long: my 8-year-old son has been on a Mad Libs kick, helping him understand the difference between adjectives, verbs and nouns. My oldest son has been watching back-to-back documentaries on the History Channel. And my 12-year-old son reads constantly, though his summer tastes run toward vampires and zombies. Hey, I figure my reading and learning habits change over the summer -- so why shouldn't my kids', too?


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