Summer used to be magical.
The hot weather, the outdoor adventures, the complete and total lack of responsibility. School was over for the year and there was nothing to do except swim, ride bikes and eat ice cream cones. Sometimes we were sent away to stay with grandparents. Other times we went to day camp with our friends, and occasionally, a random teenaged girl was assigned to watch us while our parents were at work. (My childhood au pair was named Annie, and rather poetically, she spoke mostly French.) The days were long and life was good. This was childhood. This was summer.
We were blissfully unaware of what it all meant for our parents.
As a mom, summer means finding childcare for your kids, gagging as you watch the number on your credit card bill climb, and stressing out because strange new people are taking care of your children. Your schedule is completely thrown into a blender for eight weeks, and you still have to pack lunches as well as water bottles, extra clothes, and sunscreen. You have to remember when and where to pick your kids up as it changes from week to week, call in a boatload of favours from grandparents, get to know camp counsellors in the five minutes (or less) you spend with them each morning, and beg your kids for information about their days. Was it fun? Interesting? Safe? Were the camp counsellors and other kids nice to you? Good, because you’re there for four more days and then it’s on to the next camp, where we’ll start all over again.
Oh, and there’s guilt. SO MUCH GUILT. Because while your kids are making crafts, bathing themselves in dirt and having the time of their lives, you’re nowhere to be seen. Nope, they’re spending their precious, coveted time away from school with a group of teenage strangers whose names you can barely remember. (If they even HAVE names. Summer camps are notorious for giving their staff hippie, nature-themed counsellor monikers like Sparrow, Clover or Buck).
Summer is hard for moms. It’s awesome a lot of the time, but it’s hard. If you’re a SAHM, your workload just doubled/tripled/exploded. You get to spend amazing quality time with your kids, but you’re also going to spend hours breaking up fights and wondering if the sticky substance you just walked across was glue, human urine or melted popsicle. Either way, you are blessed, because motherhood is a gift and you must NEVER complain.
If you’re a working mom, summer is a special kind of torture. In addition to all the joyous financial and logistical complications, you’ll miss your kids terribly and feel unreasonably jealous of Buck the Archery Guy and Clover the Crafter. While you’re pushing paper at a desk or running your ass off at your job, your kids are laughing and making memories with camp staff who they’ll never see again after Labour Day. It’s a strange, seemingly unfair setup that will make you yearn to live like the other side (SAHMs), even though you know their lives are equally exhausting and ridiculous. The grass is always greener, though, and when it comes down to it, we all just want to be teachers (but only in the summer, because they don’t have it easy the other eight months of the year.)
Such is summertime in the world of adults with kids. You’re broke and sad and probably tired, too, because you’re a mom…but your kids are happy. They’re discovering tie-dye and friendship bracelets and learning how to play Capture the Flag. They might be picking up some swear words or weird expressions you’ve never heard before, and they’re definitely going to smell like sunscreen and filth until September. They’re shuffling around from camp to camp without a regular routine, but it’s all an adventure to them, and they’re happy. So really, you’re happy—because that’s all that matters.
And hey, we still have the weekends.