making summer memories

Making Summer Memories as a Working Mom

Everyone seems to be going on great vacations and magical summer adventures—Disney, week-long beach trips, weeks at the lake. Kids are doing amazing half-day camps seemingly tailor-made to their personalities, and then coming home to Pinterest perfect activities.

I’m—going to work.

Even though I’m confident in my decision to work out of the home—I’m still susceptible to guilt, and there is no time when that guilt runs higher than during the summer.

I understand that the Pinterest ideal is not reality for most people. The days of a stay-at-home mom are anything but leisurely, and it’s almost impossible to take what you would call a “vacation” with small children. But summer is when I feel like my kids are lacking an essential piece of childhood.

I remember the sweat-soaked freedom of summer, creating entire worlds in my grandparents’ backyard. Sitting on a swing with a popsicle dripping down my arms and making strawberry-flavored mud in the dirt below my feet. There was the week at the lake every summer with long sunscreen-scented days filled with drip castles and carnival rides.

My daughter goes to camp. Camp only fits into the quintessential summer ideal when it is wild and free, full of rope bridges and survival skills. What we have in its place is basically summertime daycare. Just in case the people who design these more campy camps aren’t aware, let me point out that for most people “full-time” employment means 8:00-5:00. Therefore a camp that runs from 9:00-2:00 isn’t tenable to the schedule of two parents who work full-time, so our kids are missing out on some great opportunities.

My vacation time has been eaten away by an extended maternity leave and the health problems of a premature son. I don’t have the time or money for making summer memories at a week-long getaway to the Motel 6 on the other side of town, even less for a fabulous snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas.

Daughter at the lake
Not the Bahamas

So what’s a working mom to do?

Making Summer Memories

Control what I can – No amount of wishing and hoping is going to make the half-day camps accessible for the entire summer, so instead I send my daughter to the cheaper, full-day option for the majority of the weeks, but pick a couple of amazing shorter-day options to fill in a week or two. Luckily I can manage to shift my schedule enough to deal with that.

Understand that longer isn’t always better – So what if we can’t spend weeks hiking in the Himalayas? We can rock the short vacay without feeling like we’re missing much. So far this summer we have done a weekend of camping, a weekend at the lake, a music festival, and a zoo trip. I’ve also managed to sneak a solo self-care momcation weekend into the mix. All of these together cost less than a big fancy trip, and each involves taking at most one day off of work. The biggest downside is that places tend to be busier on the weekend.

Go back in time – I can’t give my kids exactly the same experience I had, but our weekend at the lake was a throwback to those days. We went to the same lake from my childhood and stayed in the same hotel. When the clerk checked me in and directed me to my room I said, “I probably stayed in that exact room as a child.” She laughed and said, “it hasn’t changed a bit.” Other than the addition of a mini-fridge she really wasn’t kidding; I’m not even sure they’ve replaced the carpet. But it was amazing to watch my daughter find pleasure in a simple day of swimming and ice cream. Sepia-toned images of my sister and me jumping into the lake were a mental overlay to our kids arguing over who got which float. It’s good that some things never change.

So if you’re comparing yourself to your friends’ Facebook feeds and feeling let down that you can’t provide all the things this summer, remember that the kids won’t care. They will find fun where they are, whether that’s weekdays spent at poodle grooming camp or weekends building forts in the backyard.

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