Ahhh, summer vacation is finally here, and moms all across the country are rejoicing about their upcoming respite, and the chance to finally catch a well deserved break from their everyday “household” duties. We’re all chomping at the bit to head out on a relaxing summer family vacation and have been craving long naps, housekeeping service, room service, laundry service, and consecutive days of basically getting the privilege of not doing jack shit for our families.
We’re begging for a week or two where we don’t have to see the inside of a grocery store or a laundry room and where the only dishes and wet towels getting washed, dried, and put away are the ones someone else is doing. We’ve even pictured our children leaving us alone all day because they’re at the resort-sponsored day camp where they will be fed, entertained, and made so totally exhausted they collapse at 7:30 p.m.
Doesn’t that sound absolutely heavenly? If you’re one of the lucky moms out there who get to experience a vacation break full of such all-inclusive bliss that you don’t need to lift a damn finger, then thank your lucky sabbatical stars.
But if your summer vacation sadly mimics what you do the other 51 weeks out of the year, just with a better view, then I feel you. I feel you so damn hard because that is not a fucking vacation. I know this all too well because I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.
I call it mountain-view mothering, and no, you won’t find me waltzing across lush green valleys belting out the hills are alive and thanking my lucky stars for a relaxing vacation. You’ll find me at the local Dollar General buying fabric softener, red Solo cups, and bug repellent. Didn’t find me? No worries. I’ll be there again tomorrow buying hamburger buns, toilet paper, and more red Solo cups. And then the next day. And the next. And the next fucking day too.
Sure, when your husband phrases it like, “Let’s rent a house for a few weeks on the beach!” or “We can go stay in the mountains!” you begin to immediately have visions of slurping down frozen pink drinks and inhaling bacon-wrapped scallops brought to you pool-side. Or maybe you’ll finally enjoy some alone time and peaceful serenity as you breath in fresh mountain air on your daily kid-free “where the fuck do I find this guy named Zen” hike.
Of course, the house will come with a hired chef and housekeeper, and you’ll crawl into bed at night on freshly laundered sheets under towels someone folded up to look like zoo animals. Tomorrow you’ll wake up to someone handing you freshly baked pastries while you sip coffee overlooking the lake/ocean/palm trees/sparkling lagoon/tiki hut. Thank God, you won’t be cramped in a small hotel room with all the kids, but instead there will be space — lots and lots of space in your own house!
And then it hits you. That house doesn’t come with any help because you are the damn help. And all that glorious space just translates into more dirty square footage that needs cleaning. The house is so spaciously spectacular that it even comes with a kitchen and laundry room so yay — it looks you’re the sucker baking fresh pastries (and whipping up lunches, snacks, dinners, and desserts) all while washing a minimum of five loads of wet towels a day! I mean, does that say vacation or what? Meanwhile, the kids and husband are all having a blast because of course they are, and nobody can understand why mom is exhausted, resentful, and full of everything but the gratitude she is supposed to feel for this opportunity to finally be on a vacation.
It just doesn’t feel like a vacation when you’re spending it taking care of everyone else’s vacation — planning all the outings, shopping for, preparing, and packing for all the picnic lunches and all the day trips. It’s not a vacation for mom when days are spent filling everyone else’s “I’m having a blast bucket,” while yours goes completely fucking dry.
But that’s just what moms do, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had great vacations with my kids these last 20 years. They’ve just been different great. They’ve been sessions of self-sacrifice so enormous at times, I just wished we’d never went at all. But isn’t that what parenting is like much of the time? Intense periods of selflessly giving all we have so our kids can just be kids and their childhood can be full of fantastic memories, albeit ones that may come at the expense of mom having fun?
So this summer I will again smack a giant wide smile on my face, and I will schlep it to a vacation house with my family. I will clean, laugh, cook, bitch, cry, wash, rinse, and repeat, so my family has the time of their lives, all while making magical memories and an abundance of s’mores.
But then right before summer ends, I will turn in my mom martyr card and take a real vacation all by myself. I will suck down mango daiquiris solo while reading trashy novels and digging my bare feet in soft white sand. I will order the steak and lobster and send my laundry out to be cleaned at $5 a shirt. I will have croissants delivered to my hotel room every morning because I can dammit, and I will practice a level of indulgent self-care so obnoxious it would make a Kardashian jealous. And I will fill up my fun bucket until that motherfucker overflows — right into the resort’s hot tub where I will be floating until my muscles actually begin to atrophy at 110 degrees. And you can bet your ass there won’t be a single paper plate or red Solo cup in sight.
Now, who wants to join me?