Embracing Non-Productivity

Summer is almost here, and like many parents, I’m scrambling to squeeze as many productive hours into each day as possible before school ends.

Last summer, I struggled to balance my role as a mom and writer. I was migrating this blog over to its current home on WordPress, working on submitting my writing to more publications, training for a half marathon, and most importantly, trying to keep my kids entertained (or at least alive).

On the surface, you could say I succeeded. My daughters participated in a few half-day nature camps and we also had regular babysitters, so I used these blocks of time to chip away at projects. There were swim lessons and play dates and excursions to the beach and the ice cream parlor. Our daily routine was relatively free and unstructured – exactly as one’s summer should be.

But I was so focused on being productive and checking items off my list that I never felt fully present in the moment. When I was with my kids, I thought about everything I still needed to get done. When I was writing, I often felt too rushed to immerse myself in the task at hand.

For some reason, I felt compelled to produce a tangible, respectable body of work over the summer, even though our family’s schedule was dramatically different. I wonder now why I didn’t adjust my expectations. What exactly was I hoping to prove?

Looking back, I’ve realized that my approach last summer didn’t work for me. It also wasn’t ideal for my kids, because they didn’t get the best of me. They got the distracted, rushed version of me.

So this summer, I’m going to employ a different strategy. I’ve signed my kids up for two, week-long, full-day camps, and I plan to treat those days similarly to school days and get as much done as possible. But other than those two weeks, for the most part, my kids will be hanging with me, and I’ll be trying to embrace the concept of non-productivity.

What does this mean?

It means that I’m going to recognize and appreciate that getting to spend these next few months with my kids is a gift.

It means my writing output will be much lower, and my pipeline will likely dry up. And that’s okay.

It also means there will be more opportunities for us to share, together, the activities that make summer so special. Trips to the beach and the pool. Spontaneous ice cream parties and water balloon fights. Building fairy houses in the backyard and practicing our biking skills in the neighborhood.

I love this post from my friend Meg about how to get the most out of summer with your kids. Her approach and ideas are spot on, and I plan to use her tips extensively in the coming months!

As long as I have the right attitude, this summer could be pretty sweet.

If I can keep my kids from bickering, that is. 🙂

~ ~ ~