Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pre-Summer Mothering Angst, or How Can I Enjoy the Spring Flowers When Summer is Looming Over Me Like a Big Horrible Scary Looming Thing

Dear Mrs. Ditter: Summer is coming. And school will be out. And I am IN TOTAL DREAD of it. I feel terribly guilty, but I feel DOOMED DOOMED DOOMED by the thought of summer and kid(s) at home and everything else that goes with it . . . carpools, constantly changing schedules of camps and lessons, making endless breakfasts, lunches and dinners (for which I have no new ideas), taking the kids to the pool (and having to appear in my swimsuit), "fun" family trips and all the stress those entail. What's wrong with me? I must be a terrible mother. I used to love summer. I should be looking forward to spending all that time with my offspring. . . . in cranky and awful early adolescence, by the way. Should I be fired from this mothering job? Thanks, Ms. Pickle.
Dear Ms. Pickle, HAH! Are you sure you didn't mean "Could I be fired from this mothering job? Please? PLEASE?" and the answer is, "Sorry, honey. You will be a mom until your dying breath, and then probably for quite a while longer. Like, all eternity. So suck it up. Plus, you'd miss them if they weren't around."
Continuing to take your points in backward order, there is nothing wrong with you. At least I don't think there is. But then I could have written this letter myself (note to all loyal readers: No, I don't make up the letters that I answer here. But this one? Totally could have come from me). I do know a few women who love having the long summer; love the unstructured days; love the freedom to do just about anything, any time; love the family trips. I also know that these women have 1) more money than I do, and they 2) travel more than I do, and also that 3) their kids tend to get along with each other really well. I think that last point is more important than the first two. Also, I've noticed that parents who have extended family nearby, or who live in neighborhoods where the kids all run around together, seem to be happier about the long summer vacation. But most of the stay-at-home parents I know struggle with the same feelings you have. So cut yourself some slack.
Next: Of course you used to love summer! You used to be a goofy kid; a teen with no responsibilities; a college student with summers off from school and a no-brainer job; a 20-something with a hot body and lots of energy. Summer was FUN! Summer was the beach and the sun and the smell of Coppertone and hooting at cute young men. Boy, those were great times. *sigh* Is summer still so uncomplicated? No, I didn't think so.
Next, "I should be looking forward to spending all that time with my offspring." No, you shouldn't. You either are, or you aren't (most likely, you're feeling some combination). Telling yourself you SHOULD be feeling something is ridiculous, unproductive, untrue and hurtful. You're feeling what you're feeling. End of story. 
Also next. Just because you take the kids to the pool does not mean you have to appear in a swimsuit. And, reality check: Most of those moms at the pool probably look a little lumpy, a little softer than they used to be, a little...saggy. Stop looking at yourself and just get in the water and have fun. Or hang on a chair and read. Don't worry about anyone looking at you, because they most likely aren't. Remember that old quote: You wouldn't spend so much time worrying about what people thought about you if you realized how seldom they did? That applies here. Take it to heart. It's your path to freedom, poolside.
I'm not going to give you recipes, or camp ideas, or carpool suggestions, other than to point out that if your children are in "early and awful adolescence" they are old enough to prepare at least one of their meals every day (bowl of cereal, sandwich), and perhaps each one of them could make dinner one night a week. Also: teach them how to do laundry this summer. You won't regret it. 
So what are you going to do? You are going to enjoy what's left of the school year (translation: do things for yourself while the kids are in school), realize that you're probably going to have some rough spots this summer, and make sure you have at least one good friend to whom you can moan and complain.
Finally, on June 15th, write the following wise words on the back of your hand in Sharpie: This Too Shall Pass.
As always, thanks for reading. Comments, questions: leave them in the Comments section below, or you can leave me a question at

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