Surviving Summer: How Your Tribe Can Help

I think most moms have a love/hate relationship with summer. Sunshine at the pool, vacations, and family time. It’s wonderful when the kids are out of school and the house is full, warm, and loud. But what about our lives? Our work and personal responsibilities have not changed. But instead of having the hours between 8 and 4 to get-stuff-done, we have the added responsibility of the fun, enrichment and entertainment of the growing hearts and minds of our kiddos 24/7. I have far from perfected the summer work/life equation, but in my years of trying and failing, trying and almost succeeding, and trying again (and again), I’ve realized the one thing that makes it all easier is relying on your tribe.

girls playing summer

Asking for help isn’t easy. PMS (perfect mom syndrome) is real (thanks society!), but it isn’t possible. So let’s let that one go, shall we? New society mantra: “We can have it all. Just not all at one time.” Now that we have that covered, we can be open to being honest with ourselves and each other, and comfortable with asking for help.

Lean on your tribe and let your tribe lean on you. I call it “reaching out and reaching back”. You would be there if someone asked, right? You recognize the reach out and you reach back. Your tribe is there to do the same for you. Summer is the perfect time to ask for the help, support, or affirmation when you need it. Here are some “Surviving Summer Tribe Tips” to help you reach out to your tribe:

1. Play-date swaps

Sometimes asking for help is easier when we know we can reciprocate. The “I’ll scratch your back if you busy calendar to do listscratch mine” mind-set is easy to get our heads and hearts around. Have a meeting or desperately need some time to yourself? Make an arrangement with a good friend in the same boat. She takes the kids for a few hours, a few days in a row, or a whole week, and you return the favor. I have a friend who can work from home and so can I. Our projects and “intense times” flex, so we are able to look at our calendars and say, “Hey, I have a busy week in June. Would you be able to take the kids that day (days, week) if I can take them for a day (days, week) in July?” We have dubbed it “Cousin Camp”. The kids love it, and so do we!

2. Work/Play-date together

Go to one another’s house, let the kids play and each of you relax (together or separately), or get some work done. So much of our lives revolves around our kids, so the likelihood that you have found a “kindred spirit mom”, who you like and your kids like to play together, is pretty high. If you’re lucky, they are also a person who doesn’t care if your laundry is done or your floors are vacuumed. The beauty of women together is that we intuit what one another need. There have been times when both my girlfriend and I are heads down at the dining room table and working away when one of the kids comes in. Depending on intensity and deadlines, one of us will get up and take care of things while the other gets-stuff-done. It’s a beautiful thing in every way.

3. Share the struggle

women laughingSummer is hot enough without wearing your stress jacket everywhere you go! You have to learn how to take it off. It’s important to share your frustrations and built up stress with your tribe and not insulate it. That’s why girlfriend dates are so important. Whether it’s for dinner, getting pedicures, grabbing coffee, sitting on the couch with a bottle of wine, or just a phone call (yes, those still exist), find time with your tribe. See each other, hear each other, feel each other. Take solace in your friends with similar struggles and obstacles. Validate each other’s frustrations, and share your own strategies. Take off that damn stress jacket and cool down.

4. Say “yes” to you

I will never stop saying this. Saying “yes” to you is the best gift you can give to others. Schedule time for yourself this summer. relax sleep rejuvenateIt’s rare that you have free time, so when you do have it, use it for rejuvenation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shut the door behind the kids only to turn around to my quiet house to… fold laundry, do dishes, or pay bills. What!? No. Stop it. This will not give you the energy cushion your need to get over the summer hump. When you find free time, use it for you. Get to that yoga class, paint your toenails, go for a run, or (gasp!) take a nap. You heard me ladies: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO NAP. Do whatever is going to refill your cup, not continue to empty it.

Are we perfect mothers? No. Never will be. And that’s okay! “Balance” is a myth if it’s summer or not, and while we do love the family time, vacations, and oddly comforting chaos of summer, it’s okay to admit that it’s hard and we kind of hate it too. Luckily, if we reach out to our tribes, they will be there. And when they reach back we will tribe it right back to them!

Can you relate? Have you figured out some ways to take care of yourself this summer? Comment and share with THE tribe!

Not Just Today – Reaching out, and reaching back on Memorial Day, and every day

I went to the grocery store yesterday and came back with more than groceries. I came back with the reminder that Memorial Day is not just a day, it’s every day for those who have lost a loved one to war, and that reaching out to connect with the stories of others every day is just as important to remember.

We make all kinds of assumptions about people as we breeze through our day to day routines. Especially at the grocery store. That mom with 4 kids is a “yeller”. That guy with the baggy pants is a “slacker”. That man with the tattoos is a “jerk”. That woman with the pristine suit is a “snob”. The reality is that we know nothing about anyone until we know their story. And we won’t know anyone’s story unless we reach out.

I say “reach out” instead of “ask” because it is a much more intricate dance than simply walking up to someone and saying, “So, what’s your story?” I mean, you could do that, but the reception and answer you get will not be the same as that which you’ll receive through simple conversation and an attitude of openness and curiosity. Learning to dance, to reach out, takes patience and courage. Patience is needed because it’s not a dance with actual steps, it’s tuning into the music (people) and going with the flow (conversation). Courage is needed because you’re taking a risk, and your invitation to dance will sometimes be rejected, and they may not reach back.

Often this dance starts with an assumption. We see someone across the room and make a quick assessment. Are they my “type”? Will I feel “comfortable”? Do I want to spend the “eternity” of a 3 minute song hand-in-hand with this person? In other words, it’s all about us, not really about them at all. Personally, on this day, I was seeking a checker above the age of 21 so that I wouldn’t have to wait for a supervisor to check out my wine. Assumption #1 – age. She was a young woman of Island decent. We live in a region with a large Marshallese population, so… Assumption #2 – ethnicity. She was sweet, her speech a little halted with an accent, and I initially thought I’d keep to myself because chatting might be difficult for me to understand her. Assumption #3 – value. I was happy that I set all of my “type”, “comfort”, and “eternity” questions aside and reached out. I was even more grateful when she accepted my invitation and reached back.

Being Memorial Day weekend, I asked the natural question of if they’d been busy. She said they had been earlier, but that things had slowed down. I continued and asked if she would be doing anything for the holiday, or if she was working. I made eye contact, I used her name, and commented that it was interesting and beautiful. She lit up and her story began. She was from Hawaii. Her family encouraged her to go away to college, but this was very far away. I related that I had family that lived there for a time, that it had been expensive to visit, and long amounts of time passed between seeing them. She continued that the next day, Memorial Day, would be hard for her mother who’d lost two brothers and her father in the Pearl Harbor bombings. She told me, “It is not just this day, it’s every day that she thinks about them. Tomorrow will just be harder because she will go and look at their names in the water. She always cries so much on that day.” Every assumption I came to the check out line with washed away. We were just two women who knew what is was to be far from family, who loved our mothers and hated to see them hurt, and, although I’d not lost anyone to war, we both have family that served our country, and family that misses them. “It’s hard to be away from loved ones. Both miles and years.” I said. “Yes.” She said. Then we just smiled at each other. Our transaction – our 3 minute song – was over and our dance was done. “Thank you and have a good day.” She smiled brightly and waved. “Thank you, and don’t work too hard.” I said. I felt warm, and whispered another little “thank you” under my breath for the courage to reach out, and her willingness to reach back. There is nothing like a good dance.

Days like today, Memorial Day, remind us to pause, reflect, and when reaching out is made a little easier because the likelihood of others reaching back in the spirit of the day is greater, and our discomfort is lessened. But just as my lovely Hawiian checker friend said, “It is not just this day, it’s every day that she thinks about them.” And it’s every day that we should reach out.

“The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.” – Thucydides