As an educator, I am given the somewhat unique opportunity to identify as both a working parent and a stay-at-home parent. For about two months every year, I get to put away my working mother shoes and step into the shoes (usually flip flops) of a stay-at-home parent. Granted, the life of a stay-at-home parent is a bit different during the summer months, especially with school-aged children, since the kids are home all day long. Nevertheless, I get to experience a bit of what it’s like to be “on the other side”. And I do not like it.
There are many reasons why I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home parent. I miss my work. I miss the people I work with and our conversations and interactions. I miss time alone in my car, in my office, and in my head. I miss my busy schedule and our routines. I miss being called someone other than, “Mom”. At work I’m “Mrs. Orris” or “Sara”. During the summer, all I hear is “Mom”. All. Day. Long.
I have been home on summer break for two weeks. This Saturday I woke up in an absolutely rotten mood. My husband called me on it and I quickly realized that I was just DONE with being “Mom”. For two weeks straight, I have been the sole provider of care and entertainment for my children. I have been living and breathing my kids and managing their constant requests for food, drink, help, attention, and activity ideas for two full weeks. I have had nothing else to fill my time with either. I was just “Mom”. I was exhausted and, of course, I was feeling guilty.
(Quick disclaimer: My husband, of course, helps to care for his children. He works long hours during the week, however, and spends most of his quality time with our girls on the weekends. Unfortunately, my girls almost always come to me first for…everything. Even if he is in the room. Anyway…)
Shouldn’t I want to be with my kids? Shouldn’t I be savoring this time with them? They are all aging so quickly and the older ones are already pushing me away a bit. I should be so thrilled to get these summer weeks with them. I shouldn’t be complaining about caring for my own kids especially when I’m not working. What else do I have to do? As a parent, isn’t that what I signed up for?? Two weeks into this summer and I’ve been short with the kids, I’ve said “no” to many requests, and we’ve had one too many bouts of tears and anger. We are all, already, bored and a bit tired of each other’s company. How are we going to make it to September? What kind of mother am I if I can’t tolerate a few weeks with my kids? What is wrong with me?? I spent a good part of the day on Saturday just laying on that guilt and being miserable.
I hate feeling guilty, however, and I worked very hard to reflect upon these feelings and thoughts so I could move on. I’ve got a lot of summer left, after all. It finally hit me yesterday: I, actually, did NOT sign up for this. I have always been a working parent. Other than my very minimal maternity leaves (thanks to no paid family leave in CT), I have worked. My children are cared for not only by me but by my daycare providers, my mother, and their teachers. When the kids were younger, it was financially necessary for me to continue to work even in the summers. I would sign up for summer school and other part-time jobs to keep the income flowing into our household and my children would continue to go to daycare. Being home with the kids for the summer is relatively new to us. This is only my third summer spent exclusively at home. I need to give myself, and my kids, a break.
I’ve decided to start week three with a good attitude since, really, that’s all I can do. I’m going to find a way to give myself a bit more time to myself (and NOT feel selfish about needing it) and I’m going to work on feeling important, not put upon, when my kids need me. Summer is my favorite season and there is so much fun to be had–we just need to figure out how to all get along a bit better while we are having some fun. I’m also going to remember that I am extremely lucky to have this time off from work. So many working mothers out there are spending their summers at work missing their kids. Mine are right here, reading over my shoulder as I type, since they are, of course, bored…and hungry…and have at least eight questions that need to be answered…and something they need to show me…So, smile on my face, love for them in my heart, and…go.