I’m writing this post on a Tuesday morning — Tuesdays are my work from home days, and I’m trying my best to juggle post-vacation e-mails, a new project, this blog post deadline, and three kids. We’ve been home from vacation for 72 hours and things are already a mess. The baby is super clingy after fourteen days together, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get anything done. Did I mention she’s getting a new tooth?
When I first started working from home on Tuesdays, the girls were in school and it left me with an entire day of peace and quiet. It eliminated three hours of my weekly commute and gave me one day a week to pretend I was good at this working mom gig. Some Tuesdays are busier than others, but there are rare days when my inbox stays mostly quiet and I can feel like Super Mom for just a few minutes.
I have never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom more than I do in the summer. After limping through the last month of school, nothing sounds better than a summer spent at home. The last month of school is always filled with school programs, awards days, and class parties, but this one felt particularly full. My two oldest girls were at two different schools this year and almost all of their important events were on different days. When summer break finally arrived, we were all exhausted and I had likely worn out the good favor of my employer. I’m sure they were thrilled to hear I still needed time off for vacation and somewhere I would need to squeeze in yearly checkups, dental visits, and back-to-school shopping. While most of the moms I know are rejoicing at the prospect of summer, I’m sweating over all of the mental gymnastics it will take to survive the next eight weeks.
I have been fortunate to have excellent childcare options for my girls, but no matter how good you have it, summer throws a kink into things. My mom retired this year and is keeping our youngest daughter full time — she has the added pleasure of keeping an eye on the big girls over the summer. She has always been eager to help, but that sometimes comes with the guilt that she might be missing things of her own. Since I have such a long commute to and from the office, the smallest of things can affect how long I’m away from home. If I have to run any errands or there is a wreck on the expressway, it could take hours to get home at the end of the day. This unpredictability is the hardest part of my job but also the thing I have the least control over.
I try to be cautious about scrolling social media — especially during the summer. I only follow accounts that bring me joy and if I feel even the tiniest pang of jealousy or discontent, I hit unfollow. Facebook is a little trickier since my feed is filled with faces that I know. It’s hard to see all of the fun things your friends are doing with their kids this summer and not wish you were doing those things, too. Pinterest is filled with summer bucket list ideas that I’m probably never going to have the time to check off, so it’s best if I just avoid looking.
I can remember feeling sad about the firsts I would be missing when I went back to work after my oldest daughter was born. I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mom, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t sad about the things I might miss. My mom was so encouraging to me during that time and gave me some advice that has long stuck with me — she pointed out that the first time I saw my daughter walk, would always be the first time she walked for me. It has been life changing to let go of all those things I might miss, in favor of all of the wonderful things I did get to see. I don’t remember the sitter telling me she took her first step, but I do remember watching the steps that happened while I was in the room. I have to take that same approach to summer or I’ll start to feel overwhelmed with all that I’m missing.
If you’re feeling guilty for working while your kids are home this summer — don’t. It’s taken me years as a working mom to realize that I’m doing the very best thing I can for my girls and that they aren’t lacking for anything. I ration my vacation days all year long so that we can take a two-week family vacation in June. I turned off my notifications and spent fourteen days making as many memories as I possibly could. We swam, we built sandcastles, we watched movies, we rode bikes, we laughed and danced and told stories, and those memories will sustain me for the rest of the summer.
I’ll get up early on Tuesdays and work as hard as possible until lunch so that I can swim with the girls and work puzzles at the dining room table. I’ll stay up long after they’re in bed to fold laundry and budget and meal plan so that our Saturdays are free for library visits and matinee movies. Summer might not be relaxing for the working mom, but it can been just as wonderful with a little extra planning. When the kids go back to school in August, they will have just as many memories to share as their friends with stay-at-home moms, even if most of those memories took place in the few hours before bed.