I’m A Working Parent, And My Kids Aren’t Getting The Summer Everyone Swoons Over

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“You only have 18 magical summers with your children – make the most of them.”

Okay, insert eyeroll.

Moms: How many times have you heard this phrase, or come across an article talking about these 18 “magical” summers? Seriously, even one time is too many.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it. Childhood goes by way too quickly. Whenever anyone tells you that your children go from 6 to 16 when you blink, they are absolutely telling the truth. The time you get to spend with your kids, especially the time when they are little and full of wonder, is DEVASTATINGLY short. Time spent splashing around in kiddie pools and sprinklers, with sticky popsicle hands and dirty little bare feet, is fleeting at best.

Trust me when I add that, as a working parent, those 12 weeks of summer go even quicker since time spent with the kiddos is mainly reduced to the weekends. It is safe to say that a working parent gets, at best, approximately 24 days of summer magic per year (with a vacation and long weekend thrown in if you are lucky). 24 days during which you are not only expected to make magic, but also need to catch up on housework, go grocery shopping, prep meals, and maybe, if you are lucky, find some “me” time to make sure you are getting the appropriate self-care.

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In other words, just because school is out doesn’t mean my world automatically stops. While I can save up vacation days and take summer Fridays, I still have to pay the bills, buy the groceries and do the thing I hate the most — feed the kids.

Let’s be honest, I wish it wasn’t like this. I feel the most guilty in the summer, when I would give a kidney to be outside all day with those sticky fingers and dirty bare feet, sleeping in and staying up late making s’mores, but this just isn’t what works best for my family.

Also, while I bet I echo the feelings of most working moms, let’s not forget our stay-at-home moms. These moms spend many summer days trying to get all the housework done, run errands, and finish yard work, with little children and big children at home all day complaining of being bored, making messes, and asking to watch TV for the millionth time. Like the rest of us, they are also likely on a budget and unable to buy unlimited crafts or pay for more trips to the amusement park. The idea of creating a perfect summer can definitely weigh them down too.

So back to the eye roll. The phrase “you only have 18 summers” doesn’t bother me because I don’t think it is true — I actually feel quite the opposite. It is so deeply, painfully true that I become overwhelmed. But I would much prefer to be encouraged by someone saying, “Yes, you only have 18 summers, but IT WILL BE OKAY.” Then please assure me that there are good things that go along with my children growing up.

For example, there will be a time in the future when I can go to the pool and read a book again, or enjoy a glass of wine. I can even decide I don’t want to spend vacation days at the amusement park. It would also be great if someone could mention that “While you will be sad when the 18 summers are over, there should be some feeling of joy since an end to the summers hopefully means you have raised a productive adult.” Because isn’t that the point of all this? That we raise happy, productive adults who don’t live in the basement when they are 25?

As for the bucket list — it isn’t that I don’t want to make magic, but the pressure on parents to make everything amazing is, in my opinion, 100% unrealistic. So yes, I do want to go camping with the kids, and go to the beach as much as possible. We will hit up amusement parks. We will make s’mores, and catch lightening bugs. Those evenings with popsicles and sprinklers — oh yes, we will do that too! I may even, if I am feeling extra ambitious, write these things down and make it an “official” bucket list (which I will brag about for weeks because I’ll be so proud of my “momming”). I love the idea of a good bucket list, and making the most of the time you have with your kids, so more power to those mamas who do that.

The most important thing here, however, is to remember that we are all doing a good job. Your kids’ summer will be just fine, whether or not you are following a bucket list of 100 creative activities or simply turning on the sprinkler and watching from the porch while you drink a glass of wine after a long day.

You got this, mama. Go enjoy your summer.