I recently dropped my son off at a friend’s house who has two older, mild-mannered, appropriately spaced children. (I, on the other hand, had three kids in four years who are now 7 to 10, which I have come to think of, with affection, as inappropriately spaced.) When my friend opened the door, I audibly gasped in horror at the scene. Her house was spotless, she had a eucalyptus candle burning, and Enya(!!!) was crooning in the background. There were no bouncing-off-the-walls-frothing-at-the-mouth-children screaming about their sibling looking at them wrong anywhere in sight.
As we chatted, my friend told me all about the adventures they were having, and she sang the praises of the slower pace of summer. I tried to mask my bewilderment, but I do not have a believable poker face. I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around it, because our summers could not be more different. She asked how my summer was going and all I could muster was to sputter, “Um, I’m very tired.”
I’m totally happy for you if summer with the kids makes you feel relaxed and refreshed, and I’m only the slightest bit jealous. Feel free to stop reading now and resume sipping your iced lavender latte and meditating. But if your summer looks more like an ongoing MMA match and wrangling rowdy little humans who can’t stop, won’t stop destroying your house and your sanity, then come sit next to me, because you’re my people. I’ve driven approximately nine bazillion miles to various camps, listened to kids’ endless bickering, and I’m constantly on the verge of heat stroke. I’m waving a white flag. Summertime, in all its hot and sweaty glory, has bested me. We’ve definitely had some good times, but I am so ready for it to be over.
At this point, I look like a parody of a harried mother. I am a meme. I have zero time to myself, and it shows. We all benefit from breaks from one another, and summer takes that away. The kids are home all day every day and the responsibility of it is solely mine. For me, summer is the Super Bowl of carrying the mental and physical load of raising kids and when my parenting stress has reached its apex. The pressure and expectations of modern parenting feel like a two-ton boulder sitting squarely on my shoulders. The perpetual begging for more screen time! The planning! The camp forms! Someone constantly needing something from me! I hate it here.
There is truly no labor that is less economically valued yet immeasurably critical than caring for young children, and this is never more evident than in the summer, because it presents the ultimate catch-22 for working parents. I’m a work from home mom, who is trying to balance a career while also being with the kids. Back in the stone ages — AKA the 80s and 90s — summer looked a lot different. I had working parents that had to, well, work, during the summer, which left me as a latchkey kid to essentially fend for myself. My parents’ goal for summer was to keep me alive-ish.
But, for better or worse, things are different now. It feels to me like todays’ parents are expected to be cruise directors that keep kids amused and constantly entertained while also striking the perfect balance of rest and recharging for ourselves and them. I feel like I must offer a curated experience that keeps them productive, academically-challenged, yet having fun. Our culture has set the bar so unattainably high, that I’m calling bullsh*t because it’s unrealistic and exhausting.
The amount of planning involved in keeping multiple kids occupied with play dates and various activities that keep them stimulated and physically and mentally active makes my head hurt. The alternative is sending them to camps and experiencing near fatal sticker shock. “Is that what it costs to send three kids to camp or the downpayment on a house?” my husband lamented when he saw our credit card statement.
If it sounds like I am complaining, it’s because I am. Of course I love spending time with my kids, being an unpaid Uber driver, playing thousands of games of Go Fish, and making popsicle-tinted memories with them, but I also love a little silence and some alone time. I’m sorry (not sorry at all), but I am not enjoying every minute of my summer and I don’t feel bad about it either. In fact, after multiple months of constant overstimulation and sensory overload, I want to run screaming to a galaxy far, far away. Or at the very least, send them back to school.
So, here’s to the summertime moms just trying to keep it all together while we entertain, make endless meals, hear “I’m bored!” for the 8,345th time, clean the house just to have it wrecked again, spend all day driving to and from camps, break up fights, lifeguard, broker peace treaties and dole out more snacks. Not all heroes wear capes, some wear coffee-stained yoga pants. Give yourself some (read: a sh*t ton) of grace. And consider this a sign to go ahead and book a massage for the first day of school. And a sign to appreciate your child’s teacher profusely.
But take heart, fellow parents in the summertime trenches, because alas, the end is near. In the words of the great Jon Snow, “August is coming. We know what’s coming with it.” Okay fine, he may have said winter, but whatevs, you get the sentiment. Just 24 more days until those glorious school doors swing open in slow motion while a chorus of angels (or maybe Enya) sings sweetly in the background. But who’s counting?
Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford