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A few years ago, my friend had a good laugh when I told her my kids and I had just gotten back from the beach and that I was exhausted.
She was at work all day, so a day at the beach sounded glorious and stress-free to her. It was difficult to get her to understand that no, it wasn’t all (or even a little bit) fun and games.
A day at the beach is a lot of work.
As many moms can empathize, not only was I watching my kids every minute because of the water, I worried about sunburn and that they stayed hydrated.
I schlepped towels, a blanket, sunscreen, hats, a change of clothes, beach toys, drinks, and the many snacks that I ran out the night before to get.
So no, it wasn’t that relaxing for me. Nor did I expect to be, given my kids were still so young. But yes, I would loved to have been on Facebook or reading a book.
Now that my kids are older, I’m exhausted in a different way.
Exhausted moms of summer
There is this pressure to fill their summer breaks with meaningful lessons and enriching and exciting experiences combined with requisite downtime.
How will we find a good balance this summer?
Kids’ summer breaks
So many moms experience pressure and anxiety over their kids’ summer breaks.
These are usually moms who love having their kids at home and not in school.
They are thrilled it’s summer and are looking forward to making lots of fun memories with their kids.
Many families make summer bucket lists to be sure they remember to do the fun things they’ve been wanting to do all year.
Yet, as exciting as all of this is, we are the exhausted moms of summer.
I bet if you ask your fellow moms, they would agree.
It’s not so much that we are exhausted in a physically tired way…. it’s more that we are putting so much pressure on ourselves to do more, to teach more, and to experience more, that we are worn out and worn down.
We are super busy during a time that we should be relaxing.
Pressure and anxiety? Why? Because it’s summer!
In my house, we always start the summer strong.
We sign up for the summer reading program at the library. The kids read and log their minutes.
They play outside without prompting.
Instead of playing on the iPad, the new rule is the kids help make their own breakfasts and lunches. Hey, they have all of this extra time, they can sure help.
They willingly agree to do a page a day in their summer slide workbooks. We’ve already signed up for a few camps. They’ve seen a friend or two.
This all happens for maybe the first week, and then it stops.
They are back on electronics too much. (Keep them off electronics with these ideas.)
I’m nagging them but also really enjoying this break to get my own work done or to to just veg out online or with my Netflix shows. It’s summer after all, don’t us moms deserve some R&R too?
Moms know we need to take breaks too. Yet these summers, which should be carefree, come with lots of stress.
Back in the day — the unstructured summer
I know for sure I didn’t grow up this way.
I’m sure my mom, who was awesome, never worried about what we accomplished over the summer. Kids played in the neighborhood and rode bikes all around town.
We played with water balloons and ran through the sprinkler. Remember hopscotch? We played tag, roller skated in the driveway, and played basketball.
I remember using my dad’s old tennis racket and spending hours hitting a tennis ball against my house. My sister and I would make complex obstacle courses with jump ropes, hula hoops, and other objects in our garage. We improvised using buckets and coolers for “cones.”
We made up games and figured out how to entertain ourselves. And we had a blast.
Summers now come with so much extra stress. We’re more anxious than ever. Many moms feel this underlying pressure that we’re not doing enough to enrich our kids.
It’s like we’ve been given this glorious gift of practically obligation-free days, and we need to make the most of them.
Are Pinterest and social media to blame?
Here’s why we are exhausted moms
Pressure to teach and for kids to learn
If I can’t get my son to practice in his cursive workbook during the school year, when we are bogged down with school days, sports, clubs, homework and more, it would make sense that we should be able to do this over the summer.
But it’s not happening. I seriously can’t make this happen 5 – 10 minutes a day, even once a week!
We “should” be reading everyday and practicing math facts, even for a few minutes. Even if I set them up online to learn. But this isn’t happening either. And they’ve only done about 8 pages each in their workbooks. Our school awards students for the most minutes spent reading and for online pursuits.
This is additional pressure; we don’t want to be the only family who doesn’t partake in these opportunities.
Then there are the summer camp catalogs to consider. Of course, most families figure this out well before summer break, lest the camps be filled. Summer camps are great and a nice break for kids to get away from siblings and to give the exhausted moms a break.
They are a lifesaver for working families. There are camps for everything… cooking, drama, sports, coding, engineering. At least eight kids from my son’s baseball team enrolled in a baseball camp. I found myself feeling badly that my son would “be behind” because I didn’t sign him up for it.
See friends while we are not bogged down with activities
This is the time to schedule playdates and parties. It’s rare during the school year when our schedule matches a friend’s schedule. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an area where there are kids in the neighborhood to play with.
So there is pressure to schedule meetups with friends.
Visit local attractions before it’s too late
Then there are all the local attractions that your kids will soon be outgrowing. Shouldn’t we be going to the zoo, miniature golfing, and to the lake?
Heck, people come HERE for vacation, and we have all of this in our backyard so to speak. Why aren’t we taking advantage of it? When my kids reach the teen years, they won’t want to go. Or they’ll be busy working, or they’ll have other plans.
And in the case of the children’s museum and similar venues, they’ll be too old! We must go now!
All of those Pinterest ideas
I have been guilty of going on Pinterest to find cool activities and holiday crafts to do with my kids over the summer and not doing any of them. Not one!
Go on a great vacation
Now is the time to go on that family trip. Did you plan anything? Can you get off of work and do you have money to go?
Vacations now are becoming the “what did you get from Santa” questions a la six months ago.
Did you take your kid on a cool enough vacation?
Even more than that, you only have so much money and time. It’s difficult to choose where to go, even if you are able. And of course, you were the one who had to plan it. You can bet you will be the one packing for it and will be the one doing upteen loads of laundry when you return.
Kids need creative playtime
Now is the time for creative play. Oh how I long for the days for my now-tweens to pull out the TinkerToys and Lincoln Logs and whatever else and just build, create, invent… play!
Why is it always me who has to bring them out?
(Have you ever brought out a long-lost toy and just set it on the floor in your living room to see what happens? I did this with all of their Hot Wheels cars and sets one summer. They walked past it and ignored it for three days, so I donated all of it. Then of course, three months later, they wanted to play Hot Wheels!)
I am forever rotating toys in their rooms and bringing out games to play.
Then there are the art projects. Oh how we used to create. My kids loved playing with pipe cleaners, Play-doh, painting, coloring, drawing.
You name it, we had it and they enjoyed it. Now? It’s a forced activity. Even worse, I just don’t have the energy to drag out all of this stuff and nag at my kids to partake in it.
Let’s learn science
I knew I reached a new level of exhaustion when I walked past a shelf of science sets on sale for 50 – 75% off and didn’t buy one of them. I looked at them as more obligation for me.
These kits would be an anchor in my mind, weighing me down with the “we should be doing a science kit instead of watching TV, etc.”
As it is, I have boxes of science and art kits in our closets. For whatever reason, I am unmotivated to pull them out this summer.
Why are we exhausted moms?
Basically, we are exhausted doing all these things yet feeling like we’re not doing enough. Believing we’re not maximizing our time.
The kids are growing up so fast. We need them to learn all of these things, play all of these games, see all these friends, schedule all of these camps, swim, and go to all of these places, because if we don’t do it now, we never will.
We have 10 weeks to do this… it’s all the time in the world and not enough time, all at the same time.
Soon, it will be time for the dreaded back-to-school shopping and getting prepared for school. And then in a flash, it will be the holidays.
In the meantime, there’s shopping, meal planning, cooking, and laundry. There’s always tons to do.
Nothing makes me happier than come Friday, I can look back on our week and feel like I balanced my kids’ energy, creativity, curiosity and our together time with their wishes as well.
We all need lazy days of summer. I just wish I could better balance this in my mind, channel my anxiety, and enjoy whatever it is we are doing.
One thing is for certain, we exhausted moms of summer will keep plugging away.