Though it’s been a long time since I’ve been in school, every time the end of May comes around I start to get nostalgic for the long, lazy, unscheduled days of my childhood summer. As someone that now works in an office, summer mostly ends up being the same as any other part of the year. Still, I can’t help but to reminisce about days at the pool, day trips to the waterpark, and catching fireflies in the evening. Instead of lying in bed deciding between going to the pool or the beach on a Wednesday, I’m deciding which type of Lean Cuisine I’m going to eat in the cafeteria in between meetings.
As much as I enjoy working outside the home and like my job, I do sometimes miss the flexibility of a more open summer. Not only do I miss this for myself, but I regret that my daughter likely won’t get to have the same childhood experience that I had since she’s the kid of two full-time office working parents.
This year, instead of just going through summer as if it was any other time of the year, I am going to make a concerted effort to find ways to “take back summer” and enjoy the season. So far, I’ve found a few ways that have helped me to have a more laid-back summer:
1. Come up with a summer-only tradition.
When we’re free on a weekend evening in the summer, it’s always burger night at the Marshall house. We hang around outside and grill while our daughter plays with chalk or bubbles. It’s something we can only do when it’s warm enough outside, so it’s a tradition we can only look forward to in the summer and it makes the season feel a bit different than the others.
2. Take advantage of your PTO.
For years I was convinced that vacation time could only be used for going away on a vacation. Then, I discovered the relaxing magic of a staycation. I now look forward to using a few days off to enjoy lazy summer weekdays around home. I keep my daughter out of daycare for the day, and we’ll sleep in, watch some cartoons, and then head to the pool or go to the park. It’s also nice to have the 3- or 4-day workweek to look forward to.
Additionally, a lot of companies offer a summer hours option. If you’re not sure if your company offers this benefit or not, it’s worth looking into. It usually means compressing your workweek so that you can take an afternoon off.
3. Meet a fellow office dweller for a patio lunch or happy hour.
Getting up from your desk to enjoy the warmth and sunlight can make a huge impact on your mood, especially if you don’t have much access to sunlight during the day. Peel your eyes away from the spreadsheet and head outside for some food and conversation.
4. Stop and smell the roses.
Be a little looser with your schedule to recreate the feeling of unstructured summer days. Brake for a yard sale, stop for ice cream on the way home, or have an impromptu neighborhood grillout.
5. Eliminate as many tasks as possible.
Make your schedule as flexible as possible. Avoid overscheduling yourself. If you aren’t required to do summer dance camp, and no one is dying to be signed up, then skip it. Spend the extra free evening riding bikes. Find chores that you can skip as well. If you’re spending the extra time outside, then who really cares if your house is dirty anyway?!
6. Force yourself to MAKE TIME to enjoy summer on the weekdays.
This one can be hard. It’s easy to stick to the routine of going to work, taking care of things around the house, catching up on Netflix, and going to bed just to start it all over the next day. But there’s tons of time to sit around watching Netflix during the brutal winter months. During the summer, there’s plenty of fun as well as family-friendly weekday evening activities going on in the area. Try Monday nights at the Coralville Farmer’s Market. Wednesday night boasts live music on the 30hop rooftop or Main Street in Solon. Enjoy Thursday nights at Party in the Park, Geyers Oven pizza on the farm, or Another Episode outdoor binge watching.
After a long day it can be hard to get myself out of the house, but once I’m doing something I’m always glad I’m there. Doing fun things on weeknights was one of the key parts of a free childhood summer, and it’s something I appreciate being able to take advantage of when I can.