We were less than one week into Summer break when I participated in my first complaint-fest about the season with two fellow moms. "Are you guys already exhausted?" questioned one friend, a mom of two kids, ages 6 and 5. Her youngest had been out of school for a week; her oldest three days. "Absolutely," replied the other, mom to a 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl, both of whom had celebrated their last days of preschool a week before.
I echoed their sentiments. Without my 5-year-old daughter's four-day-a-week preschool schedule, I felt adrift and harried, and I already counting down the days until Fall, when I could send her off to her first day of (full-day!) kindergarten and, soon after, start her younger brother in his twice-weekly Mom's-day-out program. Why is it that, now that I'm a mom, the season I used to love most for its unscheduled, lazy, long days has now become something I dread?! Does Summer suck when you're a mom of little kids?
In theory, the season should be more magical than ever. Since I stay at home with my kids, I'm as close to the Summer schedules of my youth as I ever have been as an adult. A sunny Tuesday can be spent at the pool all day long. If I want, my kiddos and I can laze around every morning, then eat ice cream for lunch. Hell, I can pour myself an afternoon margarita and sunbathe (with SPF 50, of course) while I watch them run through a sprinkler in my backyard. It all sounds idyllic . . . until you add a toddler and a defiant preschooler to the mix.
In my five years of motherhood experience, I, like many a mom before me, have learned that little kids thrive on schedules, routines, and sameness. Naptimes and bedtimes are sacred; lunch is served at noon, followed by dinner at five on the nose. Little ones have so little control over their own lives, and these touchstones seem to make them feel safer, happier. While it can be boring for parents, what mom wouldn't readily choose monotony over kiddie chaos and meltdowns? So a season that's all about throwing the routine out the window? It's bound to cause some serious stress.
Beyond the problems caused by a lack of routine, there's the logistics of participating in summertime activities with little kids. A day at the pool likely includes at least one near-drowning or lost-child incident and a beach bag so big, you're tempted to bring your own wagon to haul it around in. A day at the beach? Ditto, add sand. Our favorite local farm's weekly pizza night? You'll be spending that running after a 2-year-old with two fistfuls of rocks and a face possibly permanently stained by a Spider-Man popsicle. A week-long family vacation? Hope you can afford to bring a nanny if you plan on relaxing for even a minute.
Of course, ever the planner, I've tried to counter my Summer stress by over-scheduling myself and my kids to a ridiculous degree (when we're actually going to have time to move into the new house we have to be in by the end of July is beyond me). Weekend trips, Summer camps, multiple weeks at the beach with family . . . these are my meager attempts at regaining my love for Summer. Obviously, mostly they just add to my stress.
I'm sure there's a Summer sweet spot that I'll hit in a few years, when my son will actually know how to swim after he inevitably jumps directly into any body of water he sees, when my daughter will run out the back door in the morning to play with friends and return only when she's hungry or slightly injured from yet another rollerblading injury, like I used to when I was a kid. I look forward to the days when I can once again luxuriate in long, open days and nights. But for now, Summer, you're really stressing me out.