All across the country, families are either counting down the days until summer or just beginning their summer vacations. Pools are opening, kids are running around barefoot through sprinklers in their front yards, and those lazy summer days that we’ve been eagerly anticipating all year are upon us again.
But what about those of us who aren’t necessarily looking forward to summer?
As a divorced mom who is somewhat new to sharing 50/50 custody of my children, I dread summer because it means spending long, lonely weeks without my kids with me at home. While our custody schedule is the same during the school year as it is during the summer, school still provides so many opportunities (field trips, school assemblies, classroom parties, etc.) to see my kids during the weeks they spend with their dad. I have the added benefit of teaching at the same school that my kids attend, so I bump into them in the hallways on a regular basis throughout the year. However, now that summer is here, I know that my contact with them on “off weeks” will be limited to brief FaceTime calls and vacation photos that their dad shares with me.
Scrolling through social media and seeing all of the happy family photos and fun summer activities of my friends (along with hearing talk of “only nine more summers together!”) can really heighten a case of the summer blues. What I need to do is come up with a summer plan — a bucket list, of sorts — to keep myself busy and battle the summer blues. After all, having this much unstructured time to myself used to be the stuff of dreams, right?
I’ve broken my list into categories:
Reading and Listening
- Check off my TBR: I usually have a long running list of books that I’m just waiting for time to read, and summer is when I get the most titles checked off of my list. I’m a member of Book of the Month, and I also try to follow along with Reese Witherspoon’s monthly recommendations. Goodreads is always a great source as well!
- Self-Help: Summer is a great time for getting extra rest and renewing my mind with some self-help titles. My TBR tends to be full of fun fictional titles, but I try to make a goal of reading at least two or three non-fiction self-help titles as well. My church always offers a summer women’s Bible study, and that’s a great way to get to spend time with other women while also working on my heart. The title I’m about to dig into (I purchased both the book and accompanying workbook) is Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
- Find New Podcasts: I have a small list of podcasts that I rotate through regularly, but summer is a great time to get recommendations and search for new ones. I never used to be a big podcast person, but I’ve found that listening to a podcast while making dinner, doing chores, or taking a sunset walk down the greenway trail really helps to fill the silence when I’m hanging out all alone.
- Exercise Goals: I try to exercise regularly throughout the school year, but May Madness has really gotten me off track. I’m planning to use summer to dive back into my running routine and also find some ways to shake up my routine to keep things interesting. Instead of simply walking around my neighborhood, my flexible schedule will allow me to look up greenway trails I’ve never tried or perhaps even drive into the Smokies and take a hike.
- Try Something New: It wouldn’t be a bucket list if I didn’t challenge myself to try something I’ve never done before! Whether it’s taking salsa lessons, paddleboarding down the Tennessee River, ax-throwing, or running a 5K, I could probably find something brand new to try every month or even every other week!
Arts and Hobbies
- Get Artsy: If you’re like me, you may not ever know what to say when people ask you, “What are your hobbies?” Um…raising my kids is my hobby. Now that I have more time on my hands, I want to start exploring some artsy hobbies to see what I’m good at and what I enjoy. Who knows what I’ll uncover! Here are some of my ideas for starters:
- Check Out Some Museums: My two little guys do not seem to understand the phrase “inside voices.” So honestly, I tend to avoid taking them to museums with priceless artifacts or original works of art. If we do go to a museum, I am usually rushing through the exhibits, more worried about keeping my kids in check than reading the signs for each display. Now is my chance to check out some of the amazing historical sites and museums around Knoxville.
- Take in a Show: The Tennessee Theater has a great lineup this summer, and I’m going to make it a goal to either go to a play or a concert at some point during the next couple of months!
Work and Social
- Make Dinner Plans: Here is a rule that I’ve held fast to for quite some time: during weeks when my kids are with their dad, I make at least one dinner date plan with a friend (or two if I can swing it). That way I’m not eating dinner alone every single night, and I also get the chance to hang out with a friend and try the ever-growing list of new restaurants around Knoxville.
- Go On A Solo Vacation: This is something I’ve been curious to try for a while. I have one single friend who endlessly champions the idea of going on vacation alone, and her social media feed is full of selfies in exotic locations around the globe. While I probably won’t venture very far for my first solo vacation (which might be more of a quick weekend trip), I know there are plenty of destinations within driving distance of Knoxville to try.
- Professional Development: While this isn’t my most fun idea (saved the best for last!), time away from the kids is the best time for me to plan ahead for the upcoming school year or attend a professional development conference, either in-person or online. I rarely find the energy for “extra” work during the school year, so summer will be optimal for crossing this type of item off of my list! It’s so much easier to think and plan when the house is peaceful and quiet.
While extended time away from my children this summer does make me feel sad, summer will be a bit easier to face knowing that I have a plan. Whenever I find myself feeling down and wanting to just stay inside in my pajamas all day watching Netflix, I can consult my list and push myself to try something new.