How to Let Go of the Perfect Summer
by Amy Carroll
When our kids were little, my husband was still teaching, so he had the summers off. That meant that not only did I plan my summer and the boys’ summer, I had a very long honey-do list for my honey too. Lists are the way I roll, after all. My perfect summer was perfectly scripted, and the details left off paper were in techno-color format in my head.
There was a list of day trips we’d take.
There was a list of times we could visit the pool around naps.
There was a list of friends we’d cook out with.
There was a list of children to invite for playdates.
There was a loooooong list of projects to do on our fixer-upper.
Unfortunately, all those ideas and DIY dreams didn’t leave us looking as cute and lovey-dovey as Chip and Joanna. In fact, my summer lists were really a symptom of my unrealistic expectations, and in the end, they damaged my relationships more than enhancing summer fun.
I’d find myself…
…yelling instead of joining in the spontaneous unplanned fun.
Pouting behind a polite smile when the crowd didn’t want to do things the way I had prearranged.
Feeling let-down when the project ran behind schedule and over-budget.
It’s July, so has it happened? Have all your well-laid summer plans fallen apart yet? Or are you still holding them together with the strength of every fiber in your body?
If you’re facing August in a mid-summer slump, I understand. I’ve been in your flip flops–dreaming of kids going back to school and the husband going back to work. Wishing that my summer dreams had come true but facing reality with disappointment.
But now my boys are men, and my husband works a corporate job with limited vacation. My changed circumstances and a little age have given me a new perspective. How I wish I could go encourage my younger self to loosen her grip on the lists, to lower her expectations, and to prioritize people over projects. How I wish I could help her live the joyful summer that she worked so hard to achieve.
I’m excited that I get to write to you today, because I want to share some questions that have rocked this reforming perfectionist’s soul as the years have gone by. I believe that they’re questions that can revitalize the rest of your summer with the joy that you intended all along. Use these questions to evaluate those items on your “Perfect Summer” list.
Who is this really for?
When I look back at my young-mom days, I see lots of things that I did that created the façade of perfection rather than serving the family I love deeply. For every item on our list, we need to ask questions like, “Is this truly for my child, or is it for the approval of the moms around me?” “Is this for my husband, or simply to create the illusion of a happy marriage?” “Is this really for me, or am I just trying to please my friends?”
On the surface, I had a lot of good things on my list that appeared to be for me and my family, but the underlying motive was wrong. That was the main cause of my mid-summer funk.
What does it create?
Some of what my lists created was fun and healthy(I wasn’t completely wretched!), but some of what I created was exhaustion, frustration, and discord. We need to examine the outcomes of our summer expectations to see what they’re creating. We’re not going to be able to create joy, rest, and love without exception, but it’s a worthy end-game goal.
Does this time-sucker reflect my heart’s priorities?
Several years ago, one of my pastors led me through an eye-opening exercise. He had a group of us write down our life’s priorities in order. Then had had us write the activities that take our time in order from most time to least. Finally, he asked us if our lists matched up.
Gracious. An exercise like that makes a woman think. How about you? Does the way you’re spending your time this summer match your priorities? (This one’s a big challenge for me, so know we’re on this journey together!)
Let’s steal a hippy phrase and make this the summer of love. The summer of joy. The best imperfect summer we’ve ever had– by lowering our expectations, asking the right questions, and prioritizing the people around us. Happy summer, y’all!
Amy Carroll is the author of Breaking Up with Perfect and a speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She lives in NC with her husband and a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner.
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