Moms with mental illness: we need a summer survival guide. At first, the lazy days of summer seem like a Godsend to the routine-weary mom. But sooner than we can run out of Otter Pops, the kids are screaming and hitting each other and complaining that they’re bored. If I’m not careful, this mama’s losing her cork before we even light the sparklers for the fourth of July. Here is a summer survival plan for all of us moms with mental illness who need a little extra help to survive so much family togetherness this summer.
Moms with Mental Illness: Plan Out Your Summer Survival Guide Early
- Make a plan for the entire summer. Recently, my husband and I pulled out the calendar and looked at our summer. We took into account every birthday, business trip, wedding, and holiday. We decided when he would take time off from work, and what we wanted to do with that time. We scheduled a camping trip to take with the boys, and a week off with each other (Bipolar and Vacation Planning). Now, when I picture my summer, I don’t see a vast landscape of endless days, I see blocks of time in between vacations and holidays that the kids and I can look forward to. I see a much more manageable summer
- Make a daily routine for your summer survival guide. This summer, I am going to have to work at home. I am already talking to the boys about the morning routine for summer. They will be able to sleep in in the mornings, eat breakfast, and watch TV until 8:30 in the morning. Then, they will be expected to get dressed, do homework, and complete their jobs. In the meantime, I will work and (hopefully) work out. When all of our tasks are completed, around 10 a.m., it will be playtime. We will have friends over or go do something fun. At 1:30 p.m., we will wind down into rest time. They can read or rest until 3:00 in the afternoon. I can work or rest, depending on how I’m feeling during that time. We all function better when we know what to expect in our days (Summer Fun Has its Limits).
- Moms with mental illness: make a weekly routine for the summer. Having set playdates and activities gives the kids something to look forward to and helps me organize my week. Monday is our catch-up day after fun summer weekends. We stay close to home, do laundry, and clean the house. I love to have one day a week when we open up our backyard to my girlfriends and their kids. Fridays are “Field trip Fridays,” and we go to a different place every week: zoos, beaches, museums, etc.. We may even have a library day this summer. Whatever your routine might be, knowing ahead of time what to expect from the week helps maintain mental stability (Stability in Bipolar Disorder Requires Routine).
- Keep a few ideas in your back pocket for when you get desperate. If you get stuck working on a project or just desperately need some alone time, keeping some back-pocket options might just keep your kids from dying of boredom and you from getting overwhelmed. My kids love going to kid gyms that offer half-day, drop-in summer camps. At $30/kid, it’s a lot cheaper and easier than committing to a whole week of day camp. I have also traded kids with a friend so each of us have an afternoon off. Our kids play with each other and stay busy, so double the kids seems like half the work. Vacation Bible School is another low-cost, safe option to keep the kids busy. My kids attended two vacation Bible school camps last year, and those weeks proved to be my saving grace through the hectic summer months.
- Take care of your mental illness by planning for your own summer fun. With all of the glorious lack of routine during summer, I tend to fall into the trap of forgetting to take care of myself. The endless freedom starts to suffocate me, and I easily fall into depression. If I’m not careful, I can go a whole week without getting out of the house. Making a date with girlfriends after the kids go to bed can be just the ticket out of my house and to feeling better. Also, making a point to take a walk or work in the garden everyday helps me to feel like I’m not a prisoner in my own house.
Moms with Mental Illness: Do More than Just Survive this Summer
Planning out your entire summer might seem a bit like overkill (Why Planning Ahead with Bipolar is Tough). But I’d rather overplan than feel overwhelmed all summer long. Maybe with a little extra planning, I can actually take care of myself and enjoy my family this summer. I might not be able to control my mental illness, but I can do everything in my power to enjoy this summer with my family.