It’s still mid-winter, and yet it’s already time for summer planning to begin. Kids summer camps are filling up. Your in-laws are asking, “When are you planning to visit?" And air fares are starting to rise.
How do you plan out your summer without driving each other crazy?
Let's start with how not to do it, with the way that summer planning turns into a hot mess come July.
Partner 1, the consummate over-contributor, realizes that, if she doesn’t start planning out vacations, camps, and daycare, the summer will turn into the domestic equivalent of The Lord of the Flies (we're using "she" because, let's face it, the stats say women usually fall into this role).
So Partner 1 rushes to plan out these logistics. She signs the kids up for camp. She books flights for trips to visit siblings and parents. She maps out the calendar with precision.
Partner 2, the under-contributor, finds all of this way too stressful. He doesn’t see why she's so freaked out about planning for the summer. He’s happy to be spontaneous and just “figure things out" in the moment.
So Partner 2 withdraws from the planning process while Partner 1 runs the logistical show.
In the short term, this set up creates some mild conflict. Partner 1 feels resentful for being the family COO and logistics manager.
Come mid-June, however, this set up turns explosive. Partner 2 can’t figure out why the kids aren’t doing more sports camps. He says, “Why are they spending all their time making sculptures out of garbage? What ever happened to soccer camp?"
This doesn't land well with Partner 1. Nor does it land well when Partner 2 starts complaining about spending too much time visiting in-laws. In fact, Partner 1 feels furious. "He didn't care in February," she thinks, "but now he's micro-managing our life."
She feels the temptation to throw it all in his face, to refund his flights and see how he likes driving cross-country solo instead. But usually, in less dramatic ways, both partners just ruin the opportunity for connection and joy.
This isn’t fun for anyone. So here’s a better way to think about summer planning.
You don’t both have to sit next to each other on the couch as you book airplane tickets, hotels, camps, and all the other logistics that go into a great summer. But when it comes to the big picture vision of your summer, it’s essential to come up with a shared plan. Here are some key questions to consider:
Three months worth of logistics around trips, camps, activities, and events is so outrageously complex that there’s no way either of you can keep it all in your head. So put it down on paper.
Before you start grinding away at these logistics, create a rough map of what your big picture summer vision looks like.
This will help you see where you have too much of something or where you have too little of something. It will also help you both get aligned now so you fight less later.
If you've read The 80/80 Marriage, you know that one of the key shifts in relationships happens when we change the conversation from “What’s best for me?" to “What’s best for us?"
Use this second question to guide your conversation around your shared vision for the summer.
"Is this structure best for us?" The simple question will not only eliminate drama between the two of you but will also help you see where you’re caught by obligations, so you can stop saying “yes“ to others when you really mean “no."
Now that you have a clear plan, it’s time to go after all the logistics required to make it happen. This is a great opportunity to get clear on your summer logistics roles.
The goal here isn’t to make everything 50/50 fair. The goal is clarity, to come up with an intentional structure of who’s doing what so you can minimize the time and effort required to turn your summer vision into a reality.