“Summer”: for most of us, the word conjures images of beach umbrellas and picnic blankets, or the smell of sunscreen, saltwater, and barbecues. Sounds nice… in theory. But if you’re a parent, you probably already know that summer “vacation” doesn’t always feel like much of a vacation at all. Suddenly, your previously built-in childcare via school or pre-school is gone, yet all of your pre-existing responsibilities still exist. You also have to find time to care for your kids for much longer than before – and it can become even more challenging if your kids often have friends over.
If you’re a working parent, you are probably familiar with the struggle of finding summertime childcare, costly summer camps that book up a year in advance, or managing to get any work done at home with popsicle-and-Capri-Sun-fueled kids bouncing off the walls, maybe even smearing sticky fingers all over important paperwork. If you were a stay-at-home parent before summer vacation even started, you may find it even more difficult to make time for yourself, or for you and your partner.
Despite that this is the reality for many parents, the expectation remains: summer is meant to be the most fun-filled time of the year, a time for spending loads of quality time outside with your family and friends — right? If these expectations don’t describe your reality, you may end up feeling isolated, wondering why no one talks about how exhausting summer can be. Even after acknowledging how unrealistic this idea of summer might be for parents, you may still feel guilty about not being able to achieve all your summer expectations. You’ve spent the whole year looking forward to the season, but now the pressure is real and your responsibilities have drastically increased. Just remember that you’re not alone: if you’re feeling defeated from juggling all of the added responsibilities of your kids’ summer vacations, know that other parents are too.
With the added responsibilities of increased child-care hours and more frequent meal preparation, your plate is suddenly much fuller than you’re used to. Prioritizing self-care is more important now than ever (albeit more challenging!) Whatever self-care looks like for you, make sure you’re scheduling it in. Avoid making excuses to cancel it or push it off. Remember that spending dedicated time taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is a crucial part of being the best parent you can be.
Summer can be challenging for parents, so if you can ask for help and take something off of your plate – do it. When this isn’t possible, remember that even if you can’t control the responsibilities that fall into your lap, you can control how you perceive them and how you take care of yourself. Know that you won’t always be able to “fix” everything, and that’s ok. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can – and that you are enough.