It’s mid-July, half-way through summer vacation, and I’m ready to have a melt-down. I love my children, but I love them much better when I am not with them 24 hours a day. I love my husband, but I love him much better when I’m well-rested and tranquil. Summer vacations do not lend themselves to rest and tranquility when you’re the stay/work-at-home parent.
My mid-summer meltdown originates in my mis-aligned expectation. I have fond memories of lazy summer days playing at the pool, reading piles of books, and sleeping in. I associate that with the idea of summer, but my summers as a mother are anything but. It’s altogether too much togetherness. I need space and quiet to decompress, think without being interrupted, and collect myself. If I don’t get that space, I begin to feel increasingly panicky, fragmented, disjointed, and irritable.
When I was growing up, I had my own bedroom, somewhere to go to be alone. I thought that when I became grown-up, I’d be able to do whatever I wanted. I was so wrong. Being grown-up means doing what’s needed before doing what’s wanted. Most of the time, alone time remains stubbornly in the “wanted” category. Deeply desired, but something I can’t justify (cue mom guilt now).
But then we reach this stage of summer vacation, I’m claustrophobic, fragmented, panicky and cranky. I crave alone time.
More kids home more hours equals more messes and sweaty clothes and eating and cooking and dirty dishes and noise and arguments to mediate and teaching moments to seize. (I am teaching them to do housework, but the teaching is time consuming and adds new requirements to my parenting due to the increase in complaining and excuse-making.)
My energy level decreases because I can’t keep up with my winter gym schedule, I have to take the kids with me wherever I go which makes everything take longer, and I have to come up with distractions from their favorite pastime: bickering and engaging in foolish and meaningless arguments. No-one lets me sleep in. When I pick up a book, I fall asleep after just a few pages. I’m that boring mom who insists sitting in the shade watching instead of splashing with the kids. I smash my work in between swim practices, afternoon movies, and bedtimes.
Summer is hard work for a stay-at-home parent. I need to remember that instead of tantalizing myself with visions of my dream summer: a pile of books, a lounge chair, an umbrella, a beach, and uninterrupted quiet in a breezy little condo just a stone’s throw from the shore. The best vacation I can hope for is a few minutes in the hammock out back, at my desk in our basement, with my coffee and granola in the morning, or under the umbrella during my kids’ half-hour swimming lesson. I treasure those scant moments of tranquility more than money. Maybe that’s the lesson I can take away from this season of life.