The countdown is on! What countdown you may ask? The end of school where parents anticipate lazy and less-scheduled days? The time of the year when there are no more mad rushes to get lunches ready for the next day? Or perhaps simply the beginning of summer where the weather warms up and the sun shines into the evening? Could it be the big family trip of the year that makes a parent’s stomach tingle as they look beyond the packing to frolicking somewhere on a beach with their most cherished ones?
A parent’s anticipation this time of year could stem from all of these or the anticipation can be mixed like a less than satisfactory weekend cocktail, with dread. For a SAHM, summer can be the hardest part of the year. Running at full throttle to ensure our brood has a balance of rest and relaxation coupled with activities or camps to keep them busy so the house is not entirely destroyed. Checking the cupboards and filling them with healthy snacks as they attack like scavengers desperate to fill their never-ending empty tummies. We ask with a hint of panic in our voices to other parents at the park, “What do you have planned for the summer?” in the hopes a future playdate will be offered as we look ahead to eight weeks alone with our kids.
Now please do not misunderstand me, there are some wonderful things about spending eight weeks with a group of young, young people. The morning cuddle in bed knowing you do not need to rush to get out the door. (If it is not a camp day.) The leisure to have a planned reading time lounging on the newly put together patio set with coffee in one hand and Ramona the Pest in the other enriching your children’s mind with wonderful children’s literature. Successful outings to the ice cream shop to reward excellent behaviour. The family trip planned overseas to introduce the kids to a new culture. All of these and more will build memories.
However, for a SAHM of three or more (at the younger age spectrum) who is for better or worse, on their own with the kids for eight weeks, with the wonderful comes a big dash of reality. The reality if it is a rainy, cool summer. The reality the house will not really be clean for eight weeks. The reality my time really becomes their time. The reality that I am up to bat. Some days I may strike out and others hit a home run, but all I can do is keep going.
When I have brought this up to other people they look with confusion at me and state, “why not enrol them in camps?” Sighing, I often wonder how to explain the budgetary constraints of enrolling three kids in never-ending camps throughout the summer when you are on one income? Or the logistics that it would be harder to enrol three kids in three different camps at three different locations because their ages are far enough apart my options are limited. For all of our sanity I need to be able to have a one-stop drop off and pick up. Not to mention my two-year old is too young to even appreciate camp and going through the inevitable separation disaster of a new environment makes my skin crawl to upset his schedule again a week later. My older two are in a couple of camps for the summer. Carefully chosen for not only their individual interests but convenience there are a couple of weeks where two out of three kids will be exploring theatre, art and the wonderful outdoors. But after that, our days will be casually planned with well, whatever strikes my fancy.
So think of me and others like me this summer and if you happen to see a red-haired woman walking a yellow lab with three small kids trailing after her and she looks a bit tired, give her a thumbs-up. She will appreciate knowing that she is doing an okay job and that somebody noticed.