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Moms are more than chauffeurs

As I was eating lunch along the counter at the nearby Food Cooperative, two moms were sitting in the stools beside me. “What are your plans for the afternoon?” one asked the other.

The woman sighed and began to list all the activities she had to get her kids to. The other woman nodded and rattled off her list, which included driving one kid to a town to the north and another kid to a town to the south.

“Is this what motherhood is about in the summer?” I later asked my German husband, Martin. “Just driving kids from one of their activities to another?”

“It doesn’t have to be, Katie.” he simply stated. And I agreed.

Your kids can have a spectacular summer without you chauffeuring them to activities. And you can have an incredible summer, too. Do it together.

FIMBY family camping trip
Photo by Renee Touglas

1. Choose a family activity instead of enrolling kids in another club.

Renee at FIMBY wrote an inspiring post on picking family sports. She writes, “The typical team sports schedule and philosophy seems to make certain assumptions about family life. You are willing to rush through supper (or “grab something on the way”) and regularly go separate ways as a family. And, if you are the parent, you’re willing to sacrifice a good part of your weekend to sit on the sidelines.”

What did her family do? They started hiking together. Then camping. Then backpacking. Next year, their family of five is hiking the Appalachian Trail together.

Photo by Katie Clemons

2. Keep a journal together.

Bond with your daughter on a new, deeper level by writing letters back and forth. Not only does it keep her inspired to practice her writing over the summer, but it also brings the two of you closer.

I recently made “My Mom and Me”, a mother-daughter journal at Gadanke. It’s a writing prompt book to help you and your daughter confide in one another, snap photographs of yourselves together, work though hard or scary things in her life, and reflect on everyday joy and kindness.

3. Spend time doing something fun with your child one-on-one.

Just type something like “mother-son date” into Google or Pinterest. You’ll find bloggers talking about all kinds of beautiful ideas. (This list for dads and daughters looks especially fun.) The hard part is making these dates a habit, especially, I think, when we call them “dates”. A date implies leaving the house and spending money. But you don’t have to do either.

One of my sister’s favorite mother-daughter activities actually happened when my brother and I were home. She and my mom would curl up on the couch or my sister’s bed and read together. They were both excited about the adventures of Mr. Poppers’s Penguins or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family; they didn’t need to schedule it on the calendar. It just happened.

Photo by Katie Clemons

4. Invite your child to join you at something you love.

What if we put our interests first, introduced them to our kids, then had a passion we could share for years? And that they could share with their siblings, too? I think we’ve all tried a lot of things because our parents introduced us to their passions. It can be a test of patience. Sure, things won’t be as efficient. Life with kids never is, right?!

Introduce your kids to something as huge as flying! Since we live in an airplane hangar, my husband is already eager to teach our kids how to fly gliders. Just look at how much fun this 9-year-old girl is having with her dad in the sky!

It can also be as simple as baking Saturday morning breakfast together. My sister-in-law recently wrote regarding her two year-old: “I invited E. to help me make muffins this morning. She loves to help! And then I found myself getting annoyed when she ‘messed it up.’ I think that is probably my biggest parenting challenge: being ok when things get messy and inconvenient.”

By the way, she added, “The muffins turned out great.”

How will you make this summer great? Not just for the kids, but for yourself, too?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Courtney

    My son is only 4, and I’m already recognizing that I need to nip the over-scheduling in the bud. I’ve taken the summer to cut back a bit, and his behavior did a 180. I would guess it’s because we can hang out together more.

  2. Victoria

    My eldest son and I run together. My middle child and I bike together, and my youngest and I go grocery shopping and play board games together. I agree it is so much better than running them to this and that and watching on the sidelines. We have a strict one “out of the home” activity at a time rule and in summer we choose to skip out all together.

  3. Danielle

    I can’t agree with this more! I stay home with my kids and run an in-home daycare so I need to get creative with our time to fight off the boredom. That said, we always seem to have a great time spending our summers together at home. My kids are finally at the age for team sports (I’ve been putting it off a while) and I’m dreading it! Watching all these parents run from place to place like it’s their job (after they’ve worked all day) makes me tired! I just don’t think I’m ready to give up our quiet evenings at home yet.

    • A Guest

      Unless your kids (or spouse) actually shows an interest in a team sport, you never really need to go there. I have no idea why families spend so much time and money playing sports like soccer and football that people seem to drop soon after college, unless the child truly loves it.

      If you feel the need for a sport, pick ones that can be enjoyed as a family without a team: golf, tennis, swimming, ice skating, skiing – the list is endless if you look for them. The best part is you can usually find instruction for all the kids at once (depending on age). The carting is then limited and efficient. (And no travel leagues needed – don’t even get me started!) Meanwhile they are learning skills for lifetime sports. You can even take up along with them and work it into your schedule, rather than work your schedule around a random team.

  4. Robyn

    I actually have a strong opinion regarding this topic. I definitely agree not to overbook/overschedule activities, it’s nothing more than a headache for everyone involved. I plan to have my kids find their own interests and stick to a strict “one activity per season” theme. I don’t have a problem driving/sitting and watching my kid do something they really enjoy doing. That brings everyone joy to watch.

    What I do not agree with is assuming that your kids are going to be mini likenesses of yourself and love everything you love to do. I grew up in a household where my activities were dictated to me, right down to the last detail, based on what my mom was interested in at the time. And when I rebelled in my teenage years and wanted to try other things, I was “given up on”. Children are individuals with their own individual interests. By all means, introduce them to your passions, but don’t expect them to share a lifetime of shared hobbies and interests with you!

    • Robyn

      Also, paired with this, Mommas need time to themselves too!!! Driving people from thing to thing can certainly breed burnout and resentment if you aren’t doing a single thing for yourself… either due to budget $ or time. take the time, ladies and you won’t resent your kids. 🙂

      • Robyn

        and the journals are CUTE btw! What a great idea!

        • Katie Clemons

          Oh thanks, Robyn. I started the business several years ago, and it’s been a wonderful way to help people celebrate themselves and their stories.

    • renee @ FIMBY

      What a good point your raise Robyn. Our children’s interests are quite different from my own and I find this very enriching.

  5. Mrs. Waste Not

    Good points here. Just remember just bc you overheard moms talking about their day of driving does not mean they don’t spend weekends hiking, biking, baking or reading with their kids. This does not have to be either/or.

    • Katie Clemons

      That’s very true! Quite often, I think that many team sports practice during the weekdays around here and have their games on weekends because they’re playing different communities. But that isn’t necessarily the case every time!

  6. Tammy

    Very good reminders! I only have one daughter but I still think that family activities (she’s 4 now and not in any sports/activities) are so much more conducive to family-togetherness.

  7. Esther

    We try to spend a lot of time together. At the park with friends, or at the beach just with ourselves.
    Plus, since it’s summer, it’s a craft free for all. They can paint, glue, gut and whatever else to the heart’s content. It’s pretty awesome.

  8. Hillary @ KidsCommunicate

    Thank you! I agree wholeheartedly, and when you’re working part-time on the side, life is already busy enough. I actually didn’t sign my girls up for any activities this summer. Gasp! We are spending our days hitting up the zoo, going to the park, and traveling to the beach.

  9. Sarah @ Fit Family Together

    It disturbs me tremendously that there’s this trend of to be a good parent you have to have your kids doing all kinds of activities. This is especially true when it comes to the whole discussion about childhood obesity – the solution has come in the form of getting kids to play soccer . . . what about the parents?

    Kids learn healthy habits from watching their parents and participating with them in activity. That’s why I created my blog on family fitness – to help families exercise more together.

    Your job as a parent IS to influence them and give them some models for how to live. And now’s your time to influence them and pass on skills and knowledge – whether it be w/ sports or muffin-making.

    Most importantly, you simply need to spend time together. It really doesn’t matter what the activity is just as long as you’re together.

    Kids don’t need a rash of social experiences – they need you. They need time to muse and explore. And they also thrive from having chores and planned family activities.

    We live in a strange world where parents feel they shouldn’t impose on their kids. In 18 short years, they’ll be on their own. They’ll have time enough to branch out then. I say, enjoy a summer of being a family with all the boredom, frustration, simple joys and amazing discoveries.

  10. Emily L. Moore

    Excellent post!

    I am not a mom, but I did grow up in a family that values family time together. We always made sure we did most or all of our activities together and that everyone got to pick an activity that they wanted to do, so no one felt left out. This gave us many wonderful memories of spending time together.

    And I will say that even though I’m not a kid anymore (I’m 22) I still love hanging out with my family (2 sisters 19 & 16 and my parents). That is something I treasure and will always treasure.

    ~Emily 🙂

  11. Denzil Ford

    Side track, but is that photo of Mark’s In&Out in Livingston, MT? My son is 8 months so we’re still able to just cart him wherever we want to go. When I was a kid I remember loving canning our garden with my stepmom. Strange that since becoming a mom I have started canning. 🙂

    • Katie Clemons

      It sure is! The young man is an exchange student from Germany. Of course we had to take him there!

      • Denzil Ford

        Super! One of my favorite restaurants.

  12. Alissa

    I love these reminders. I grew up doing lots of my own activities (sports, mostly), but I also have great memories of hiking as a family and LOTS of time spent with my parents.

    My son is just getting into sports age and we had a fantastic Tball experience this year – mostly because the weather was beautiful, so most moms and younger siblings hung out around practice and enjoyied great community time while the boys played. For us, Tball turned into a family activity. I’m sure that will change as the kids get older and we will have to make hard decisions about setting limits to preserve our family time.

    I do appreciate the LDS mindset on this of setting aside Sundays and one evening a week as dedicated family time. Growing up, I had friends that had to bow out of activities because of hteir family commitments – while they seemed initially frustrated, I remember thinking that there was someting pretty special about those families.

  13. Tanya

    Over scheduling is a very bad idea for both the parent driving them and for the child. The summer is a great time for kids to learn how to entertain themselves and just spend good old quality time with the family.

  14. Mary Helen [A Written Purpose]

    This is just a beautiful post and I hope to do a lot of these things as my kids get older. I hate the fast pace lifestyle we throw kids into nowadays. Hopefully I can not get sucked into the trap and keep family time a priority! Thanks for sharing all this!

  15. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Great list! I’m especially a fan of #4. Though my daughter is only 3, we’re already enjoying many of the same activities/books/movies because I’m just sharing things I love with her.

    We’re not in the soccer team years yet, but I’m generally uneasy about my kids committing to too many activities. Love the idea of intentionally choosing activities that can be done as a family! (While remembering that the soccer team is not going to single-handedly tear our family apart ;))

  16. Cate Pane

    I think that ALL of you make valid points! My kids are now 14 and 16 and are taking community college summer classes because they chose to. That said, they ride bikes, swim, hang out with friends, volunteer, and just “chill.” I think one of the most important thing we do as a family is eating together at night (sometimes it’s just the 3 of us as I work at home and my husband is late). We also attend church as a family each Sunday and eat a special Sunday dinner with special Sunday plates. Not everyone attends church, but certainly Sunday mornings are a good time to spend in a special way with family.

    When my kids were younger, we did the sports thing (I hated the time it ate up and some of those baseball parents were beyond rude!), we did music lessons (which they continue), and some 1/2 day camps in the summer. My older son CRAVED stimulation. My younger son LOVED staying home. I guess the most important thing we can do as moms is to really get to know our kids and make decisions based on that knowledge.

    You are all wonderful because you care about being good moms!

  17. Jessica

    Sounds like a great book, I’d love to win a copy

  18. vina

    Great article! I don’t understand why we make life so complicated sometimes, but I get it. I get how easily it is for moms to fall into that role, and many other roles. I think we adults are scared of boredom but reality is that, boredom is an opportunity to flex our creative muscles. We really have to ask ourselves why we are overscheduling our kids. What are we afraid of?

  19. N

    I work and my son is in pre-school year round, so we don’t have a “summer” per say. Still, I like the principles in this post and always told myself that I would limit the camps/clubs that my kid would participate in once he’s older. I tend to lean towards family activities rather than child-centric activities, and the hiking example is a great one. Of course since I work, I would probably have to find some sort of care or camp for my kid, but other than that I would limit my kids’ activities to one at a time so that I’m not just driving them around. I also think it can feel tiresome for kids to have too many activities at once.

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