by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Mid-August is when every mom I run into shakes her head and says sadly, “Wow, I can’t believe summer is going by so fast.”
I smile. But I feel like muttering under my breath “Not fast enough.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. The sun, the swimming, the barefeet, the fresh fruits and veggies, the fireflies in the backyard at night.
Here’s what I don’t like: Bugging kids to put on sunscreen. Putting moisturizer on their sunburned faces when they refuse to put on sunscreen. Nagging them to do their summer reading for school. Driving to three different day camps twice a day. Fixing endless lunches. Emptying the same lunches, half eaten and half rotten, at the end of every day. Bugging them to go to sleep when they argue – surprisingly vociferously – that they don’t have school in the morning. Hanging up the wet towels strewn across the living room. Cutting the delicious watermelon. Cleaning up after the delicious watermelon has been eaten.
Yet by all measures, we’ve had one of the best summers ever. I’m lucky as hell to be able to enjoy so much fun with my children. This is the kind of casual summer I used to dream about when I was working fulltime and all summer meant was taking a wool sweater to my over-airconditioned office and being 1000% certain the camps I picked for my kids had aftercare programs until 6 pm.
This summer, a Spanish friend’s son has lived with us for eight weeks. I’ve taken the kids to amusement parks and water parks. Horseback riding. Ice-skating (indoors). To baseball games, basketball tournaments, and tennis matches. We go out for ice cream a few nights each week. I slipped in culture too: Tours of the Capitol, The White House, Mount Vernon. I taught my eight year old her multiplication tables, how to type, and how to braid.
But giving kids a great summer means I’ve been Super Summer Mom. Which doesn’t leave much time to be me.
Now before you lambast me for being spoiled and whiny, I’m not pining for time to get my toenails done or work on my tan. What’s hardest about summer is that there is so little time that’s not devoted to summer. I need a vacation from summer – so that I can get some work done. And, okay, maybe have a little time for my tan and my toenails.
I got a mini-vacation a few weeks ago by accident. My husband took the kids to the beach for a week and I had to stay behind for a few half-forgotten business commitments made in January. Which meant four days. Alone. In my own house.
I worked when I felt like working, which was often first thing in the morning when the kids normally clamor for breakfast, and late into the night when my husband bemoans an empty bed. I exercised during the kids’ dinner time. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, all by myself. I slept sideways across the bed. But mostly, I worked and worked and worked. Day after day. My concerns about bedtimes, nutritious meals, and buckled seatbelts were replaced with zest for my work, and an almost painful rediscovery of my kid-free, husband-free former self.
I cried when it was over.
That’s when I started to suspect that moms don’t need a vacation from summer. We need a break from endless kids-husbands-guests. That’s my dirty little summer secret. My family is great. My life is great. Summer is great. But summer with my kids and family and visitors and amusement parks and cookouts? Great as long as September – along with school for the kids, regular work hours for my husband, and time for me – come swiftly.