(NOTE: I want to preface this post by saying that, obviously, the upending of our summer plans is a problem that pales in comparison to the issues of racial injustice that we are all reckoning with. That said, I wrote this post, and want to share it, but I also want to acknowledge that it feels a bit wrong to me to be writing about anything but racism and racial justice in this moment.)

As I write this, my kids are 1 week away from summer vacation. Meaning that I’m one week away from a summer that will be unlike any we’ve ever had.

Typically, our summer plans are squared away by February, because that’s when you need to have registered for summer camp here in San Francisco. Just a few months ago it was the end of February and I was looking ahead to a glorious summer. My kids were going to be away for 6 whole weeks (2 weeks with each set of grandparents and 2 weeks of sleep-away camp). My husband and I had even planned a no-kids trip of our own during one of those 2 week stretches. The rest of the summer was going to be filled in with day camps and a bit of unstructured time for the kids, and work for the adults.

We had a plan. A good plan. A summer we were all looking forward to.

Then came March, and we all know what happened next.

As of now, of course, we’ve cancelled all our flights. And while that sleep-away camp still hasn’t technically cancelled, we decided we don’t feel safe sending the kids anyway.

Now, I’m looking at 10 weeks of “what are we going to do?” time. We’re making plans as we get new information. But all those plans are tentative. Who knows what will happen next.

And I’m betting that you’re in a similar boat. You had things you were looking forward to this summer and they just aren’t a possibility now. (And perhaps all your priorities have been upended by recent events.)

No use dwelling on what could have been. Let’s look to the future and make the best of it.

Tips for taking advantage of the summer even when you can’t leave your house:

  • Take a staycation. Just because you can’t go anywhere doesn’t mean you don’t need time off. Taking time off to disconnect helps prevent burnout and makes us more productive and creative.
    • If it feels weird to just laze around your house and you’d rather spend your free time making an impact, considering volunteering in your community, protesting police brutality, or simply spending some time to educate yourself around issues of racial justice. (If you choose the latter, here’s a list of books to get you started.)
  • Take off some long weekends. If it feels “wasting your PTO” to take a whole week off and spend it at home, take a few days off here and there. Give your brain a chance to spread out mentally.
  • Set up any outdoor space you have to be as relaxing as possible. Get a hammock! Eat dinner outside! Even if all you’ve got is a fire escape, enjoy the summer weather outside as much as you can.

Tips for making it work in a world without childcare or summer camp:

  • Plan like your life depends on it. Make a schedule so your kids know what to expect
    • Babies/Little kids
      • Work in shifts. If you’ve got a partner/co-parent, break the day into shifts so you can both get some head’s down, uninterrupted work done.
      • When you’re the one on call, expect to get less done, and work on the stuff that doesn’t require as much of your brain.
    • Big kids
      • Create a daily schedule with their help. Make the schedule visual so that they can see when you are in meetings and not to be disturbed.
      • Plan to spend 5 minutes getting them set up with an activity before you spend an hour or so working. Repeat.
      • Set them up for success by making sure they know the plan, what they are expected and able to do and, just for good measure, put healthy snacks at their height so you don’t have to hear “I’m hungry” 30 times a day.
    • Tweens/Teens
      • Get them involved and give them agency. Agree on a set of activities and options for them to spend time on and let them create their own schedules within some basic parameters. (I.e. at least 1 hour of outdoor activity, no more than 2 hours of video games, etc.)
      • Give them a big project – maybe it’ll be up to them to cook dinner a few times a week. Or maybe they want to use Duolingo to learn a new language. Help them with their own time management skills by helping them define a timeline for their projects.
      • Encourage them to start an anti-racist book club or an anti-racist movie club with their friends. Depending on the age, perhaps you can facilitate the discussions with them.
  • Ease up on the screen time restrictions. Because really? We’re all gonna need it.
  • Download my “Working Parents Coronavirus Quarantine Survival Guide

This may not be the summer of our dreams. It may not be the summer that we’d planned for. But summer is upon us. Let’s make the best of it.