6.07.2012

The Summer Guilt




I try not to spend too much time wallowing in working mother angst.

There are moments when I succumb to the guilt, for sure, but for the most part, I try to focus on what's good about being a full-time working mom, namely that the girlies get to see me doing work that I truly enjoy, that excites me, challenges me, and (on most days) makes me a better person. I'd like to think I'm teaching them about balance, following your bliss, being accountable, having a strong work ethic. (And yes, I realize that you teach your kiddos all those very same things as a stay at home mom, it's for sure not an either/or thing...)

And not only am I lucky to have flexible job that I love, but I'm lucky that Bryan has an incredibly flexible job too. So while we miss some school parties and field trips, we cobble it together and make it work, and everyone seems pretty happy (most of the time). Guilt just feels fruitless, so I try with every fiber of my being not to succumb to it. Except in the summer.

In the summer all bets are off. I am Guilty McGuilterson. I am guilt personified. I am a total wreck.

See I had lazy, boring, totally relaxed summers when I was a kid... My mom stayed at home, so just "hanging out" for three months was a totally reasonable proposition. We played games, swam at the neighborhood pool, ran around with our buddies, watched television. We got a break. A nice, long, mellow break. Those summers of my youth are burned on my psyche as the type of summers that I think the girlies should be having, and they aren't. So I feel like a big, fat, guilty fail.

My girlies go to summer camp every day. Sure they swim and do ceramics and paint and have adventures with their camp buddies and play tennis and go on field trips and watch live monkey shows (don't ask). They're happy. They pop out of bed every morning raring to go even...but still I feel bad. I hate that their little lives are already so structured year round. I wish they had that long span of time where they got to stay in their PJs until 2:00 and eat too much ice cream and complain that they're bored (because being bored is the starting point for all the really magical stuff) and watch Gilligan's Island for three straight hours... (Well maybe not that last one.)

So I try to make up for it. We play long matches of UNO and War after dinner. We swim in the dark. I let Audrey stay up way too late watching the movies of my youth while we cuddle on the couch munching on microwave popcorn (last night was a screening of the dramatic classic, The Karate Kid). I let them eat ice cream every night and wear the same outfit to camp two days in a row. It's wheels off this cobbled together fake summer of ours, but you do what you can, right?

17 comments:

SuchSmallSteps said...

Summer is the hardest time for me as a working mom, too. Seeing constant Instagram photos of pool and beach trips makes me sad my kids don't get that down time, either (except for weekends, which we try to keep unstructured). The school year is easier since everyone is back to routine. I try not to dwell on it but I do feel the guilt, too.

nicole said...

yes, we do what we can...all of us mothers...just loving our kiddos and giving them the best of us and the best of our dreams for them.

Kelly and Kelly said...

their summer sounds magical in their own way. and they will look back and remember it as fun and free.

nkp said...

Because that's all you can do. And you do it beautifully.

kikiazure said...

Not sure how old Audrey is but the movie Little Darlings was and still is one of my
old favorites! It has Cynthia Nixon and Matt Dillon in it and they're teenagers!
XO

Jill V / TerraSavvy said...

Funny, I just was just writing about this camp thing today too. My kids are going to a more "serious" day camp for three weeks. Scary!

Mary said...

I totally understand and feel exactly the same way. And you're absolutely right - you do what you can, and it sounds like you're doing it splendidly.

Rachel said...

I didn't have a lazy summer at home until high school and it never even occurred to me to mind! I loved my camp summers. I can see where the ache comes from, but I would say don't worry about it too much. Summers are magical just because the routine is different and the days are longer.

myimaginaryblog said...

Where I live most stay-home-moms keep their kids in camps, lessons, or activities all summer, because they say "If I didn't, my kids would sleep in every day," (Heaven forbid!) or, "They just get too bored," and so forth. I look forward to summer all year long, and dream of the type of lazy summer you described, but sometimes feel like I have to fight tooth and nail to keep summer unstructured. This year my husband, very well-meaningly, kept recommending camps and lessons that he thought the kids would enjoy and benefit from. I kept trying to explain why I didn't want to do that, and finally said, "Look, I would PAY to have the kids home with me; why should I pay to send them away?"

We do work on chores and projects around the house in the summer, and my kids go to a week of church camps and two weeks of swimming lessons, so our summers tend to get pretty busy, even so. But I really try to do whatever I can to give my kids a true fallow time.

I hope you'll understand I don't intend at all to increase your guilt--rather to say that I see lots of moms who *could* have the unstructured summers you remember from your youth, but they schedule it all away anyway, whether intentionally or just because kids' extracurricular activities and interests eat up the time. So I guess the point I'm also making is that I think to a large degree, summers have changed for everyone, not just families with working moms.

Missy Anne said...

It is hard not feel the guilt that comes with giving our kids a different experience than we had as kids, it is true! But it sounds like your kids are having the summer of their lives!

bdaiss said...

(Found you thanks to Design Mom.)

This. This is me all the way. Summer was all about relaxing and playing from sun up to sun down and going to my Uncle's to swim and playing with my cousins and neighbors. I feel horrible that my kids have to go to daycare/summer adventure programs because we both work. Like you I try to make up for it with unstructured weekends and lots of fun when we can be together. But then I realized - all their friends are in the same daycare/program. They are doing what I did, just without my direct observation.

What puts the nail in my guilt coffin is that I travel a great deal in the summer (minimum 5 trips). Luckily my company works in National Parks and is very open to family tagalongs. So my kids are getting one thing I never had - the chance to see some of our most beautiful places! This year we'll hit Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Rocky Mountain. Bears! Bison! Birds! Elk! Hikes! Campfires! Geysers! Mountains! What kid wouldn't love all that?

kellychristine said...

i freaking love you (and this post), jos! i honestly cannot relate but i think you're an amazing mama, if that counts for anything. xoxo

Megan Taylor said...

Yes you can! Within structure there is still room for freedom and laziness, I promise! In my childhood, I had the opposite experience of your girlies and more similar to yours. No structure, playful, lazy. Yet, I craved some discipline. I created it for myself - almost scheduling my days hour by hour for myself. Your girlies probably love camp and will cherish these days when they're older. We all feel guilt and doubt, but I promise, your girlies are LOVING these sunshine activities, and also the live monkey shows ;)

Katharina Zuniga said...

You are so right... I often remember this summer vacation where you could just do what you want.... But today the kids always have something to do... Sometimes it's hard even to find a day for a playdate - everything is scheduled, even the vacation... I wrote a post about 5 things that kids should have done. One thing was just to go to the bakery in the neighboorhood in pyjamas at the weekend just to start a lazy day :-). To bad it's in German but it's a perfect fit... But maybe some will check out: http://3überfräuleins.de/kinderspas-5-dinge-die-kinder-getan-haben-sollten/

Katharina

Desi McKinnon said...

It's all about the moment, it doesn't matter how lazy or crafty it is there's magic in it. I still like to laze about a bit, I miss the Summers of my twenties when I would wake up and think...what am I going to do today? I would just let the day take me wherever I wanted. Lovely. Your girls will find that at some moment in their lives.

melissa loves said...

Look, I totally understand hun...but, what you described up there? Going to camp, staying up late, playing UNO, swimming and watching movies?! That is heaven on a stick right there. For any kid. And you are an AMAZING Mom. Don't beat yourself up, they are having the time of their life! :)
xo
Melis
ps how cute is the little shorts outfit with her little headband and necklace? :)

paperjunk-lc said...

I go into a funk every June because I hear about my friends going to the pool, lake anywhere but their jobs and hanging out with their kids. A cocktail of guilt and self pity isn't good for anyone. So you have to plan and get skilled making the most out of weekends and weeknights. Hang in there.

Signed the other working Lake Highlands Mom!