Every mom needs a solo summer staycation

Mothering is all over the news today - whether it's controversy about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, custody battles or working outside the home, it's undeniable that moms are under a lot of scrutiny. One strategy I've used to keep centered as I raise two kids and teach middle school is the summer staycation.

My summer staycation is solo - no kids or husband allowed. Each year they go for a week long summer family ski camp, minus me. I build up to it each year, keeping a to-do list of all those big projects I can't seem to get around to while juggling my job, dinner, dishes, laundry and sports activities. Sometimes the list involves a big project - painting a room, re-doing the garden, or cleaning the carpets - and sometimes it's a week of ticking off the myriad of organizing and tidying-up projects I've wanted to conquer since last August. Always it involves following a few simple rules to re-focus, re-group, and remember who I am.

Rule #1: Be prepared.

The key to a successful solo staycation is to have an idea of what I want to spend time doing. Keeping a list during the school year helps me remember those nagging projects that would simplify my life - cleaning out a memory chest, organizing the digital photos, or cleaning out the pantry, for example. Being prepared also sometimes involves scheduling some help - having a repair person come, or having a girlfriend spend an afternoon helping choose paint colors. Plus, checking off items on my list feels great!

Rule #2: Stay home.

For me, staying home for a staycation means spending time alone. So much of a mom's life involves serving others, so I take this time just for me. I try not to spend too much time socializing or shopping - I like to hunker down with a stack of magazines, some great novels, and the Oscar-winning movies I never saw, and just indulge myself. Staying home helps me focus on creating a happy home environment, and doesn't break my budget!

Rule #3: Plan each day.

I'm a natural planner - I like to accomplish tasks each day, and my staycation is no different. Without anyone else to take care of, my "me-time" is drastically increased (no dishes or laundry, and the house stays clean). The first day I tidy up like a crazy woman, leaving me hours of uninterrupted free time. Breaking down mornings and afternoons gives a little structure, and gets me off the lounge chair!

Rule #4: Create a welcome home celebration.

The key to repeated solo staycations is to ensure your loved ones know you missed them, and that you appreciate the time alone. Take the last day and cook a nice meal (with their favorite dessert), cut some fresh flowers, and update your Facebook status to elevate the excitement of their return. The smiles on their faces when they walk through the door will make you remember why you work so hard all year long!

Rule #5: Don't feel guilty.

Being a mom is easy - but being a great mom takes a huge amount of hard work. Don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself - you will reap the rewards tenfold by having a more centered, positive, cheerful outlook after having spent some time just for you.

Jennifer is a middle school English, Yearbook and AVID teacher and mom to a tween and a teen. When not teaching or mothering, Jennifer enjoys writing, blogging, volunteering, traveling, skiing and reading.