Dear Summer Mom of School-Aged Kids,
I see you there, feeling so worn out from the strange summer scheduling and the constant demand to be a “fun maker”. Never mind that you haven’t had a pedicure since sandal season started and the house looks like “there appears to have been a struggle” – you are #makingmemories, dangit!
But you’d like to remember a time when you had a moment of quiet that wasn’t interrupted, right? Like those Instagram beach pictures where people actually have “beach books” like that’s an actual thing?? (Oh, it is?? If you say so.)
How do I know this? I have lived it too…many times.
And I still have moments of living it now…this very minute…as I write this!
As comedian P.J. O’Rourke says “Supposedly, summer vacation happens because that’s when the kids are home from school, although having the kids home from school is no vacation.”
Oh, I know summer’s not all bad. Not at all. It’s SUMMER, after all! Much of it is really quite fun: the sun, the warm weather, being outside and doing all those amazing summer activities like picnics and swimming (or staying inside in the a/c and reading if that’s your thing). Whatever your preference for what to do, it’s a break from the demands of the school year. And it’s even better if you have camp options, but if you are the default caregiver for summer kids, it’s a different world.
AND SO IT BEGINS
At first the summer schedule is utterly divine with no set structure or alarm clocks…not having to worry about lunch or homework. It’s a breeze when there aren’t pick-ups and sports schedules, PTA and birthday parties. It’s a freedom that excites you with possibilities of sleeping in and travel time that doesn’t require special permission and make-up homework.
By the end of the school year, that routine has exhausted you and it’s a wonderful feeling when it comes to an end and you can breathe again and take a break.
But there is a limit.
As the summer speeds along, the day-to-day tasks frequently suffer. Your children shift to 24/7 grazers (with or without growth spurts) and there are never enough clean clothes, bathing suits, or towels. Parties by the pool are blissfully tiring, but leave you with little time to do things at home (unless your pool is there). Playground playdates to release energy and library visits offer cool, quiet time are all fun school replacements that continue to take you away from home. Vacations do the same, wonderful and necessary adventures that they are.
And after all that, the days slide into each other and the complaints begin. Boredom seeps in if you aren’t taking them somewhere. They bombard you with requests for television and video games despite the lovely weather. (Or is that just us? LOL)
The summer starts strong, yet it ends in a frenzy of back to school prep and as many “moms celebrating with wine” shots as there are the requisite school bus shots. Why? A mix of short-term shifts, broken habits, and sacrificed self-care.
The summer season is a welcome break from the rituals and requirements of school, but I truly believe we miss the structure and don’t thrive on it as much as we expect we will.
Having a break is good, but it’s short-term satisfaction. The frustration builds when you can’t get the appointments and projects normally scheduled. It’s the reason why vacations work – there are limits. It’s a refresher without getting you completely out of your schedule.
BREAKING FREE OR BREAKING BAD
It’s a novelty to go to bed late and sleep in late, but it’s not ideal for a family to function long term. The freedom to let the kids “fend” in the kitchen seems like a break for mom, but there is a price to pay with the mess and the over-consumption of junk. The habits and routine that come with the structure of the school year are easily lost in the midst of summer. While we think of less pressure as being easier, it actually wears you down until school comes around again.
Let’s face it – if you’re focused on caring for kids in summer, your quiet time and self-care options often decrease. You are actually far less rested because bedtimes are likely off for you as well, so your energy is depleted faster and differently than you’d expect. It’s harder to make appointments with the kids, so you often skip it, right? And even if you do keep an appointment, it’s a different experience. You can make things happen, but it’s not necessarily true recharging.
Does this ring true, mama? I bet it does. And it’s ok. You are not alone. And whatever frustration you feel or whatever habits you’ve acquired this summer aren’t wrong. I’ll wait while you kick that #momguilt to the curb. Listen, Moms get it. I get it. Sometimes it’s just “summer survival” in #momlife and that’s just fine.
That’s my primary message to you, Mom. There’s really nothing to fix, especially if you don’t want to fix it. It’s a matter of transitioning back into the fall schedule and moving forward with a sigh of relief.
It does get better with time. As your children age and become more independent, the demands shift. Eventually it will become easier for you. In the meantime, with a little understanding and adjustment, you can lessen the summer stress in a few ways:
- HANG ON TO A HABIT – Pick one or two things that you find affect your family the most. Is it the food they eat? Or rest and bedtime? Can you identify the change that has the most impact? Opt to keep that habit to help you navigate the rest of the flexible schedule better.
- TAKE SELF-CARE SERIOUSLY: Seek out options for breaks and self-care however you can manage it, no matter how unusual. Some quiet reading time at night? Dropping your kids off with a friend and running for a quick iced coffee alone? Teaching your children that mornings are for meditating and they must wait until you’re done? Find a way to serve yourself as much as you serve them – everyone will benefit.
- JUST SAY NO – Say NO sometimes. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to do “All the things!” Really. I know it’s tempting, but a limit and buffer time can be surprisingly freeing. It also keeps you from feeling so drained.It’s not always about making ALL the memories, but about making the RIGHT ones.
And when next summer looms large, consider scheduling summer a bit more, which will reduce the seasonal shift and make it easier to transition.
Whatever you decide to do, take heart. No matter how messy or mixed up, you really are #makingmemories and making the most of #summertime as well as learning #lifelessons galore. Cheers to you, summer mom! Are you anxiously watching for the school supply list like I am?
Your Positively Productive Friend & Fellow Summer Mom