To the Mamas Who Don't Have
a Summer Vacation
Summer summer summertime, time to sit back and unwind.
Swimming pools, water parks, play dates, movies at the theater. Strawberry festivals, sleepovers, bonfires, trips to the zoo, lemonade stands, swim lessons, ice cream, lightning bugs, and endless hours spent basking in the summer sun we so desperately wait for all year long. I could go on. Insert the most magnificent summer bucket list here. It’s the stuff childhood memories are made of.
Actually, just Saturdays. Sundays are mostly for laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping and prepping for the week ahead.
With most jobs, when you work outside of the home you don’t have summer vacations with your kids. You just have summers…regular ol’ summers. Now don’t get me wrong, working inside the home is no cake walk either, not by a long shot, but moms who work outside of the home carry a special kind of guilt when it’s summertime. They carry the guilt of not being there.
It creeps in when you see pictures on social media of pool days and popsicles…while you’re at work. It creeps in when you can’t stay up late to catch lightning bugs because you all still have to be up early in the morning. It creeps in when you drop off at daycare and notice the emptiness of the classrooms. It creeps in when you see pictures of your little one having fun during sprinkler day…without you.
It creeps in when you wonder if your child is somehow missing out on a fundamental right of childhood by missing out on those endless, carefree summer days spent swimming until exhaustion sets in and romping around outside until the sun goes down.
A few days ago I sat outside on our deck over-thinking this very thing as I listened to the kids in the neighborhood behind ours laugh, play, and jump into the swimming pool. It was about 8:00pm and my daughter was already in bed, like most other week nights for us. I was kind of bummed she was already in bed while the other kids played. I wanted her to have wonderful memories of childhood summers just like I did.
I thought back to all of the messy, melty ice cream cones in the car. I remembered the warmth of my mama, the comfort of her gentle hugs, and how she supported any idea I had or any project I wanted to work on (which I know took the patience of a saint because my concoctions ended up in every corner of the house…but darn it…she let me do it every time). I remembered the trips to the local pool with my siblings and dad when he was off work. I remembered how light and silly he was and how we’d always drive with the windows down, music blaring.
Those memories shaped who I am today. And as I sat back and listened to those other kids play while mine slept, I realized that the memories my heart holds on to the most aren’t from the perfect summer bucket list. The things I cherish and remember the most aren’t actually what we did – it’s how we did them. We were relaxed. We were laid back. We were uninhibited, carefree, and silly. We talked and dreamed and joked with each other. We laughed and listened to the storms and let the ice cream drip without caring and played wherever the wind took us.
Now THAT’S the stuff childhood memories are made of. And that’s when it hit me. Summer is a spirit, not an event, and that spirit is what my daughter will truly remember the most, no matter what that looks like for us.
She’ll remember driving home from school with the windows down and the music up.
She’ll remember way too many ice cream cones in the car and those glorious sticky fingers on upholstery I didn’t care about.
She’ll remember eating dinner together in the clubhouse of her swing set.
She’ll remember all of the fun summer field trips and experiments at school.
She’ll remember the times we bent the rules and stayed up way too late and paid for it dearly in the morning, but wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.
She’ll remember stopping at the library every Friday afternoon before dinner to cash in our books for the Summer Reading Program.
She’ll remember our weekends, filled with pool days, trips to the zoo, bonfires, and lemonade stands. She’ll remember listening to the storms and the freedom to bring her ideas to life.
She’ll remember the relaxed, laid back moments where we were uninhibited and carefree. She’ll remember playing wherever the wild summer breeze took us.
She’ll remember that she had the best summers EVER.
Sometimes it’s so hard to see past the guilt of our precious mama hearts. We want the best for our babies and are ruthlessly unforgiving with ourselves when we feel like we’re providing anything less than that. We always question whether we’re doing the right thing and for some, summer is no exception.
So to the mama who doesn’t have a summer vacation: there is no right way to do summer. You can create moments of bliss and inhibition wherever you want and you can carry the spirit of summer with you and your family no matter what you do.
Whenever you can, wherever you can.
That time together is as golden as the summer sunshine itself, and that’s what our kids will remember and cherish the most.