Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hello Big Yellow School Bus

It has been a LONG summer!  I have been the director, events planner and counselor for “Camp Mommy” for 9 weeks and 4 challenging days. Yup, just the three of us ALL SUMMER LONG.  I have done a lot of soul searching over the past 6 ½ years and have come to terms with the fact that as much as I would like to be, I am not the stay at home type.  I just don’t like it. I have tried the stay at home thing, the working full-time gig and the part-time schedule.  Hands down, I am just not happy when I stay home with my kids. As much as I value a parent who stays home, it brings out the worst in me.  I have embraced who I am and let the guilt go about that one.  In owning who I am as a mother and woman, I found that when I work outside the home for pay, upon returning home I am more present, I have more patience and I value my children in a way that I just can’t muster up when I am home with them everyday-day after day.  

So what the hell was I thinking this summer??!!!

Let me explain…In addition to being a life coach, I work part-time as a school counselor-so I was “off” a good bit this summer.  I only work a handful of days at my counseling job when school is out- and June, July and August are traditionally very slow months for helping professionals. I didn’t plan on making much money this summer and just couldn’t justify sending my 4 and 6 year old to camp when I was home and not earning any money.

Although terrified at the thought of all this time at home, I dove right in to the summer with elaborate camp schedules, sticker charts and even played “school” 5x a week. The kids loved it!  They were buying into the behavior charts, getting a kick out of playing school and were listening to directions more then they had in months.  Then weeks 3 and 4 came and I was exhausted from holding together all this structure.  I am not an organized, “tight ship” kind of person and all this planning and consistency was killing me slowly.  As the days went on, I was less enthusiastic, scheduled school time was sporadic and the fighting and whining began (and never stopped).  When the kids fight, it is the fastest way for me to loose my patience and NOT enjoy my time with them. I muddled through week 5 and 6 knowing that our 2 week vacation was around the corner and at least I would have backup (AKA Big Daddy).  I pretty much used the sticker charts as threats instead of rewards until vacation came because I had no steam left to do it the right way.  The kids had beaten me down!  I was holding on to the thought of a change of scenery at the beach (because we all know the term “vacation” is used loosely when you have young children).  Our trip was a fine diversion, but upon our return we had a week and a half more to go before school and work started back up for good.

These two weeks were so difficult.  Swim lessons were over, most of our friends were on vacation, it was 90+ humid degrees outside, the kids were bored and I just wanted school to come already!  I had an internal struggle going on with wanting to feel grateful that I have the choice to be home with my kids and that I “should” be enjoying them VS just really wanting that bus to come!  My old friend, GUILT came back and I was so sad and disappointed that I couldn't be happy about this time with my kids and have some genuine fun.  But I could not.  

After an earthquake and no electricity for 3 days due to Hurricane Irene, school finally started (3 days latter then expected) this week. I am happy for the structure the school routine gives to my family.  I like knowing that they are in a safe and stimulating environment while I am happy at work.  I can now I look forward to seeing them at the end of the day instead of waking up with anxiety about the upcoming day at Camp Mommy!  I am who I am, and work is a large  part of my identity.  Without it, I am "mom" and this role is just not all fulfilling for me.  And in large dosages,  I just don't feel very good at it.

I know views and perspectives vary wildly on this topic.  I have friends who could never/would never stay home with their children all summer despite their working situation.  I also have friends who cry every year when that big yellow school bus comes.  Sometimes the tears are for the decreased time they will spending with their children, while other times it is due to the fact that they are kissing the slower pace of summer goodbye.  Whatever this transition is for you, if your kids are school age you are entering a different rhythm as September has arrived.

What are you looking forward to and/or what are you sad to leave behind?

How was this summer for you?

Did you learn anything about yourself?


  1. It's bittersweet for me, even though I'm transitioning from Camp Mommy to Homeschool Mommy. It's the idea of expectations and schedules that get to me, I love the slowness of summer and the wide open options every single day. I dread the nightly school planning, even though it takes 20 minutes. Nagging, scheduling, schlepping ... and yet I've come to realize (maybe not just this summer, though I enjoyed it more than usual) that I truly do love being home with my kids, and NEVER thought I would. Seriously I've always needed an outlet and the approval/companionship of adults. I still do, but am getting more connected with other homeschoolers, and the balance is tipping in favor of wanting appreciation (not likely!) and approval from my family, not other parents. Working harder at making them happy, not my peers. I still need more time alone than I'm getting, and must get it better scheduled in, but I'm coming to terms with who I am and it's not at all who I expected to be!!!

  2. Hi Bethany,
    That is HUGE! It is always a powerful transition when we discover that approval from other parents is not very important (if at all)...that doing it your way is the ideal. Your story is also a great reminder that who we are today, may not always be who we are in the future. Our expectations and values are ever changing. Thanks for sharing your summer reflections with us.

  3. Thank you, Heather, for this piece!

    There continues to be part of me that wants to provide this level of playful structure consistently with my kids as I believe they would thrive within that setting. Still, it's incredibly draining and here's my latest epiphany about why, specifically, that is....

    In many of our work lives, we have outside tools we access to get the job done---we have steps required to complete the tasks, we have instruction by our supervisors, we have a curriculum or HR policy or a specific computer program.

    As a mom, we have ourselves as the primary tool. Sure, there's play groups and discipline techniques and pre-packaged food but ultimately, we are the main attraction. We are the primary "tools of the trade" called mothering. No wonder we get so depleted so quickly!! Yes, there are those sparkly moments of energizing joy we experience with our kids but largely there's getting someone juice and buckling someone into a car seat. So much for the magazine covers.

    You're a true inspiration in this journey of motherhood. Thank you for sharing of yourself in this way. Through your own struggles and successes you allow us to more fully honor our own; and that makes us all better parents!

    By the way, have any leftover behavior charts? (smirk).
    Sincerely, Val

  4. Hi Val,
    I love your comparison of motherhood to "regular work" and the lack of tools and stucture we are given as a parent. No wonder we all feel so ill-equipped at times! Thanks for your comment and for recognizing my vulnerablity in sharing my stories. Sometimes I think..."nobody is going to work with a coach who doesn't have it all together.' Then I think..."WHO has it all together? NOBODY!!! " In being honest, I hope other moms feel more comfortable getting real and getting closer to accepting and loving themselves -flaws and all!

    And yes, I do have pdf. files of all the charts if you want them. But once I give them to you, you are on your own. I can't help with the follow through :)