If I hear one more parent talk about how excited they are for no school and summer, I might scream. Clearly these are not parents who work full-time. Summertime for me, as a full-time working mom, means guilt that my kids are stuck not doing all the fun things and feeling some major FOMO.
Sorting out summer break with my 4 kids has been an ongoing process. Aside from when I had babies, I have always worked full-time. Even worse I work from home. I know, I know. I can hear the eye-rolls loud and clear, but let me tell you that working from home can the biggest curse of all. Especially in summer. I am accessible to my kids, but not really. They hear "No, we can't. Mom has to work." more than the average kid because they constantly ask me non-stop throughout the day to do things. I hear their fights and giggles and have to pause work to sort it out (or try to steal a moment of happiness) only to be drawn back to my desk while they cry about how boring life is. Oh, and that they ran out of things to feed themselves (eggos and cereal are my silent co-parents).
I still haven't figure out the perfect formula to be a working mom and enjoy summer break, but here are my top must-do items so I don't completely fall apart.
SET ASIDE DAYS OFF
You would be surprised how much of a relief it is to have random days spread out through summer where you know you can play all.day.long. I worked with my employer last summer to have Friday's off. I can't even express how much it helped my anxiety and guilt. It also helped my kids stop asking 100 times a day if we could go <insert any activity>. They knew Friday was a work-free day for Mom and we would get to play.
Can't swing a solid 7 day vacation, but you have 3-7 days worth of paid time-off? TAKE IT!! Schedule random days through their summer to be mom. Even a half-day can be a blessing. I mean you could (should?) also call in "sick" any chance you get (it's mental health after all!).
PRE-PLAN ACTIVITIES FOR YOUR KIDS
I had a handful of close friends who understood that even though I was home, I was not really available. They rescued my sanity more times than they realize by offering to drag my kids to the pool for the afternoon. If you have these friends or family in your life, sit down and ask if you can pre-schedule some time where they take the kids to play. Even if it is just to their house (or--for us work from home'rs-- even in your own backyard). Knowing that someone responsible is watching after your kids and entertaining them will do wonders.
I also buy "special" activities that are only to be brought out at certain times. For instance, a new pack of play-doh, a new movie, sugar cookies to frost, a board game, sprinkler, sidewalk paint, or a random new toy. I would gather up (or put together) an activity that was relatively safe without direct adult supervision guaranteeing a few hours of fun.
STOP WISHING YOUR LIFE WAS DIFFERENT
Okay, so this isn't going to happen overnight. I have pathetically cried very real tears watching mom's spend afternoons with their kids; a last minute outing to the zoo, or heading out for a spontaneous (or even planned) overnight adventure. I felt like I had failed my kids. They are so bored and never get to do fun things like their friends.
Do not let these feelings creep in. Everyone's situation is different and just because you are a full-time working parent doesn't mean your kids have it bad. If you are always feeling sorry for yourself, your kids and your life, the kids will feel it and it feeds unhappiness. Consciously acknowledge all the great things your life does offer. Your full-time job supports those lovable beasts and it is a blessing. Be reasonable with yourself and your life's current situation. You're doing great!
DON'T WASTE TIME YOU DO HAVE
We can get so caught up in what we can't do, we forget how much we CAN do. Find what works for your family and don't hesitate. Just do it! If you work days, fill your evenings with movie nights, board games, late night walks or night games. If you work nights, fill your mornings with ice cream for breakfast, painting, quick hikes or morning story time. All the kids want is to enjoy a happy and relaxed version of yourself.
Summer for a full-time mom can be full-time guilt and FOMO, but let this summer be the one to change all that. Give yourself permission to do whatever it is that makes your summer full of love, laughter, memories and relaxation. Your kids (and yourself) will thank you.