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It was the summer we had just had baby number three, a son, Garrison. Since he was born in late April, I knew the summer months might be a little “hairy.” I remember heaving my three little kids into the pediatrician. Sweet baby boy wouldn’t quit screaming after each feeding. The girls wouldn’t quit fighting, and I was exhausted physically and emotionally. I was clearly feeling out of control — trying to quietly snap my girls back into compliance, and as I thought about the summer months ahead, I felt a dread I’d never felt before!

Well, after the doctor looked at me with complete pity — I knew there had to be another way! If you are feeling overwhelmed with this summer, here are a few things I wish I would have done more of during the insane times:

Be kind to yourself and set realistic expectations!

If you’ve just had a baby or maybe it is just a crazy life season — don’t waste your time casting judgement on yourself. Be good to yourself, let it be okay that you don’t have it all figured out. Evaluate the expectations of yourself, are they a bit “over-the-top” for your circumstances? This season will pass. It is not how it will be forever.

Give your kids extra understanding!

If you have just added to your family or your summer routine hasn’t found its groove yet, your kids may be reacting to it. Give them lots of grace if their behavior changes — stay consistent with discipline, but keep in mind they may feel as off of their game as you do. This will not last forever either.

Get a plastic bin of surprises!

I remember during that summer, I purchased a bin of art supplies. I pulled it out when I was nursing the baby or could tell we needed a change of pace. I would go to the dollar bin and replenish it over and over again. Instant delight would emerge, and I wish I would have used it a whole lot more!

Let it be okay to just stay home!

So often we put pressure on ourselves to go, go and go to this play group, swimming lessons or park date. Sometimes I forgot — especially during the summer months — it is okay to just stay home. Throwing a blow-up pool in the backyard brought lots of excitement to my little ones, and it was much easier for me to relax in the confined comfort of my own home.

Erin Smalley is the mom to three girls, ages 6, 16, and 19, and one son, age 12. Erin was a labor and delivery nurse and then returned to school to earn a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Although Erin thought she had sent her last child off to kindergarten, she and her husband, Greg, were blessed with their youngest child through the gift of adoption. She works very part-time at Focus on the Family in the Marriage and Family Division, while attempting to balance life at home with four kids. She has co-authored three books, her favorite being, Grown-Up Girlfriends—Real Friends in the Real World. You can reach Erin at or

What is your best tip for enjoying the summer when you are feeling overwhelmed?