To the mom who is NOT counting down the days to summer vacation. I feel you.
It’s that time of year again. Teachers are counting down the days until summer vacation. Parents are overwhelmed with the rush of end of school activities. Summer camp fliers are appearing in my son’s backpack in droves as the school year winds down. And some kids are already enjoying the taste of freedom that summer vacation brings.
So many of my friends with older kids are DONE. They are SO ready for their kids to be on summer break. They can’t wait to start enjoying the next few months where life will be slower-paced, piles of homework can take a backseat for a while, and they don’t have to worry about classroom snacks, permission slips, and the like.
I have no doubt there will come a time in the not so distant future when, I too, will be one of these parents. Before I know it, I will be googling how to help with math homework because I no longer understand it, and we will be knee-deep in science fair projects, field trips, and music concerts. I am sure there will come a time when I am counting down the days until summer vacation, because it will truly feel like a break from the crazy pace that the school year brings.
But honestly? I’m just not there yet. Am I looking forward to summer vacation? Not really. Because things are about to get a lot harder, not easier. And I’m convinced that I’m not the only parent who feels this way.
I’ve been staying at home full-time for almost four years. I realize it’s a path I have chosen for myself, and I feel lucky to be able to make that choice. I don’t think I will ever regret staying at home with my kids, and I will be forever grateful for the time I have been able to spend with them. But staying-at-home full-time is also really, really, hard. And in the parenting stage that I’m currently in, summer vacation seems to magnify the hard.
My oldest puts me through my paces. He makes me question my parenting ability and the choices I have made. We are a lot alike, and therefore, we butt heads on a fairly regular basis. My nightstand is piled high with parenting books because I’m constantly trying to figure out how I can best meet his needs. I still have so much to learn! Sometimes we just need time away from each other in order to “reset.” I truly believe our relationship is stronger and more positive when we don’t spend every waking moment together. In the summer, that time away can be harder to come by, and we struggle more than usual.
My youngest started preschool this past fall, and his class meets five hours a week. In the grand scheme of things, five hours is not much, but it is five dedicated hours each week that I have been able to step out of my mom role. This past school year, I have been able to reclaim some of those things that have gotten lost in the shuffle. Those five hours have been spent refilling my own cup, so I’m better able to pour myself into my children. Soon, those five hours will be going away, and oh, how I will miss that time over the next few months!
My boys are also at the age where they argue like it is their full-time job with bonus checks offered for extra effort. Normal behavior between two siblings? Probably. But it drives me absolutely bonkers. And after being around each other 24/7 day after day they start to drive each other bonkers, too. I think they also benefit from time away from each other.
I try to take advantage of babysitters as I am able to. I make it a point to carve out time that each of my boys can spend with just me or my husband. That certainly helps. But during these long summer months, I find myself more cranky and tired than usual, my patience tested to the max. I feel guilty on the days I allow too much screen time, yet there are some days I just need that extra time to retreat for a while and re-center myself. I feel the need to provide my children with loads of entertainment, yet I also know there is so much good that can come out of times of boredom, even if that ramps of the complaining. Summer seems to magnify the mom guilt and my own feelings of inadequacy.
Don’t get me wrong, there are positive aspects of summer vacation, too. I love taking my boys to baseball games, spending time outside, barbeques and park dates, and playing in the water. I am determined to make this summer a good one, even if it isn’t easy. I hope when school is back in session in September, we will have a bucketful of fun summer memories to look back upon. But when that “Welcome back to school” letter arrives in the mail in late August, I will probably be doing a little celebratory dance and breathing a sigh of relief. And I suspect there might be a few other mamas doing a happy dance as well.