Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Survive Summer Vacation

Before I say a word, let me go on record and say that I am ridiculously lucky to get a summer vacation. Eight weeks to have little to no work obligation and plenty of family time is a beautiful thing.  The only problem is that it's killing me a little.  And it is totally my fault.

I tend to cram every second of every day with Activities.  Because I'm scared that I'll default to zoning out in front of Kids Netflix and refreshing my Instagram feed, I plan for us to go places and construct art projects and agree to too many play dates.  I run the kids hard and pray they'll pass out so I can have some quiet.  We all end up grumpy and exhausted, existing on road snacks and putting off potty training, and it's not the good life.  I sometimes feel like I'm not emotionally equipped to handle mothering them 24/7, and then I feel guilty because stay-at-home-mom is a thing, and most people don't have the return of a work schedule to look forward to.

This is a crappy way to feel all summer, so I'm working on reframing a lot of it.  Being stressed from constant kid time only reinforces that I am making the right choice to be a working mom, and teaching is a perfect career for many reasons, not the least that I get to hang with the boys during the summer.  In an ideal world, I would definitely have a few days a week where they would go to camp or daycare, but it's not financially possible right now.  Instead, I'm saving up to pay a sitter for a few days of mama adventures later this summer, and treating myself to a medicinal iced coffee every damn day, because I'm worth it.

Here are a few more steps to help you come out of this alive:

1. Stop Calling This Vacation
If you are sole caregiver of one or more children, you are not on vacation.  You may be facilitating someone's fun, or even relocating to a vacation destination, but you are not on break.  This is what I need to shout at myself in the mirror every morning.  Set a routine (even if it's different from your usual, school-year jam), eat your vegetables, follow through with normal rules, and stay on top of necessary chores.  This may make me seem like a killjoy, but what really kills my joy is searching for clean clothes while crunching through snack crumbs in the carpet while my sugared-up kids fight and whine and beg for another episode of Power Rangers.

2. Be Realistic
Know what your family can handle and plan accordingly.  Last summer I had an infant and a toddler, so a season pass to our local petting zoo/splash park was doable- I could chase Milo and keep Elliott safe in our stroller.  This year, with two walkers runners, I didn't feel safe taking them to the farm by myself.  If you have two kids who can't swim, don't try to take them to the pool alone.  If you have two kids who struggle with sleep, don't go away overnight without a lot of reinforcement.  When Milo was really small, I could do almost anything because he was lumpy.  When Elliott was really small, I could still swing most things as long as he would sleep through whatever Milo needed help with.  Now that I have two sentient, mobile kids in my home, what we can do is changing, and needs to be evaluated pretty regularly.

3. Schedule Rest Days
If you teach or your kids are usually in school, summer is a fun time to do all those things you picture stay-at-home-moms doing during the year: classes, story times, and play dates.  Without fail, I dive in and fill our calendar, and I always start out feeling great about our "productive" summer.  Even as an extrovert who loves to be out in the world, it doesn't take long for my pride to turn to absolute exhaustion.  A good friend had this great tip: schedule something every other day.  On the off days you might get a chance to do a load of laundry and let your kids actually play with all those toys you bought them.  It's so hard to turn down offers to get together with friends or pass up the free day at the kids museum, but it's so important to not become burned out and hate your kids and yourself.  I've been there.  Give yourself a home day.

4. Embrace Simple Pleasures
This one is really difficult for me to remember: your child is as happy playing with the hose in the backyard as they will be at the shiny new water park.  When kids get older, their demands get more sophisticated, but if you have younger children, know that they don't care where you take them.  I like to take Milo and Elliott on day trips because I like day trips.  Yes, they are having some cool experiences, but if it comes down to nothing more than their happiness, they would be just as pleased with a popsicle on the steps and their own bubble wand.  I will not stop visiting museums and beaches, because this is a way for me to enjoy my summer alongside my kids, but I've had to stop and realize that there is nothing wrong with a day or a week of hanging in the backyard.

5. Give Yourself A Break
Don't beat yourself up for sometimes hating what is supposed to be the pinnacle of joy in the calendar year.  This is hard, and you're doing an awesome job.  Let the kids binge on Netflix, buy two iced coffees in a day, spend a little too much on a pedicure, call your sister and bitch for a little while.  It can be very hard, but try to find some time for yourself, even if you have to pay a sitter for a few hours of quiet.  No matter how you swing your summer, know that if you're thinking about your family and not pressuring yourself based on any other expectations of what summer "should be," you're doing everything right.

Most of this is just an open letter to myself, but if you're feeling any of the above feelings, I hope you show yourself some love over the next five weeks.  Summer doesn't need to be a nonstop party or a boring stress-fest.  Find yourself a spot in the middle.  Good luck!


At July 17, 2014 at 3:56 PM , Blogger Becky Goerend said...

Oh, I am totalllllly with you on this. Our guys go to daycare 1x a week, and I really need it. I love this" Because I'm scared that I'll default to zoning out in front of Kids Netflix and refreshing my Instagram feed" Yep, Feel that way. Wish we were neighbors!

At July 17, 2014 at 4:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is all great stuff, even if we don't have kids now my husband has summers off and it's important to remember a lot. We're taking our nephew Saturday morning- Monday afternoon this weekend so I think it'll be a real test, particularly David Farmland. I'm super excited to go there, and super horrified by our shockingly fast nephew. haha

At July 17, 2014 at 5:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. We went on vacation which was not a vacation, but a lot of work instead!
The kids had a great time until everyone ended up sick. I was exhausted and irritable and guilty for being that way. I am sure they will be wonderful memories in the future; however, it was much more difficult than I had imagined in the moment.

At July 19, 2014 at 1:09 PM , Blogger ashlie said...

Hahaha, it's SO real! Neighbors would be perfect...I picture kid share days and then sneaking away to hang in the backyard when everyone is asleep! :)

At July 19, 2014 at 1:09 PM , Blogger ashlie said...

The mix of busy and calm can be applied ANYWHERE, I agree :) I can't wait to hear how things went at Farmland!

At July 19, 2014 at 1:10 PM , Blogger ashlie said...

Vacations with kids aren't fun. I heard a comedian talking about but never realized how true until I lived it! Good point about future nice memories, though...I'll hang on for that :)

At July 25, 2014 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Laura Singer said...

My sister and I made a deal that if, when we had children, we would help each other as much as possible, and we mentioned vacations. Since that childhood pact, we have both been on several vacations together and have swapped responsibilities taking care of our kids. Yes, we pay for her to come and when it's my turn, she pays for me, but it's always worked out great. Recently, we rented a house on Nantucket and she couldn't come so we hired a nanny on the island. It was not that expensive, my daughter loved her new friend and we had a wonderful vacation AND the weather was actually perfect!!! - This comes under your point 5, give yourself a break!!!

At July 28, 2014 at 7:08 AM , Blogger ashlie said...

I love this idea! I'm so glad you and your sister can rely on each other like that. My sister has definitely saved me several times, travelling without her is harder, without question.


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