Working Mom’s Guilt: Summer Edition (and a solution!)

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

School is out for the summer almost everywhere, and that modern rite of summer has begun: people on every social media channel posting pictures of all the fun summer activities they’re doing with their kids.  At 10am on a Tuesday, while I’m sitting behind a desk all day with my kids in daycare.  Cue the working mom guilt.

I know there’s a lot of time left in the evenings and on weekends for fun stuff, but — confession time — sometimes the logistics of it all just overwhelms me.  (“Yes, let’s go on a bike ride.  Oh wait, go potty first.  Then let me get the Ergo for the baby.  Oh wait, he needs changing.  Where’s your helmet?  Oh shoot, it’s bathtime already, I guess it’s too late to go after all.  Cue meltdown.)

Last summer I just did what was easy — mostly play in the backyard – and I ended up feeling like the summer was wasted.  I mean, what kind of slacker mom doesn’t take her kid swimming?  This year I have a new plan.  No, I’m not going to jam-pack our schedule with t-ball games, swimming lessons, and “mandatory fun,” but I do want to feel like we really got to enjoy our summer when we get to the end of it.  There are some activities that just scream “summer” to me, and I want to be sure to enjoy them with my family.  So, how am I going to make that happen?

1.  Make a list.  Yes, it’s yet another summer bucket list.  Annoying, I know, but I really am the kind of person who will completely forget that we can camp out in the backyard unless I plan it out ahead of time!  Is it better if we call it a “Summer Fun Inspiration List”?  I’m sure we won’t do everything on it, but at least it will remind me of all the fun things there are to do in the summer when I’m whining about the heat and humidity.

  • Camp out in the backyard
  • Roast marshmallows
  • Catch fireflies
  • Throw water balloons
  • Have a water gun fight
  • Go swimming
  • Go fishing
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk
  • Make lemonade
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Make a blackberry cobbler (my favorite dessert of all time)
  • Watch fireworks
  • Go canoeing or kayaking
  • Shoot fireworks
  • Watch a 4th of July parade

2.  Gather supplies for fun.  Am I the only one who passes on doing something to avoid a trip to Wal-Mart or Target on a Saturday afternoon?  Ugh… it’s one of my least favorite tasks.  Anyway, most of the items on our list are relatively inexpensive (by design) but they do require some stuff.  (It’s hard to have a water balloon fight without any water balloons!)  So I will suck it up and take a trip to Big Box Inc. to acquire the necessary supplies for all these activities (plus sunscreen and bug spray). It won’t be fun, but at least it will be done!

3. Plan for fun. It’s a little counter-intuitive, I know, but I’m a big believer in planning a few anchor events each weekend, then filling in the slack times with relaxing and spontaneous fun. If I don’t have something planned, I will spend the whole weekend doing things I need to do but nothing I want to do… And all (house)work and no play makes Sarah a dull girl!

Looking at our summer fun inspiration list, I’ll want to schedule that backyard camp out soon, before it gets too hot, and the water activities can wait until we are in the full heat of summer.

Do you suffer an acute case of working mom guilt in the summer? Do you prefer to plan your fun or just let things happen spontaneously?
Humpday Confessions :: linking up with Vodka & Soda

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45 thoughts on “Working Mom’s Guilt: Summer Edition (and a solution!)

  1. What a fun list! And I love the idea of anchor activities for the weekends. We are not out of school yet- not till June 24!- so right now our weekends are jam packed with sports etc. I am then guilty of scheduling nothing on the weekends once they are quiet and while that is good for a little bit, my girls can get antsy. I think I may have to think about this strategy this summer!
    Stacey recently posted…The Weekend Papers: Third EditionMy Profile

    • Gosh… June 24?! I hope you don’t have to go back until September. School here starts back in mid August.
      You are right in the middle of the busiest time of the year… I don’t blame you for wanting some down time on the weekends. I do the same thing, but when my 4 year old gets too bored, he gets really ornery, which is no good. We enjoy our time together much more if we’re doing *something*!

  2. nope, no guilt at all. while i understand why people would feel guilty, it’s not like parents are neglecting their family/kids to hang out with friends. we work to put a roof over their heads, clothes on their back, food on the table and to have a good time.

    we always do something fun in the summer – wonderland is our fall-back plan (it’s an amusement park) since we have seasons passes and that’s always fun. with the recent discovery of my cousins living down the street and their son being 1yr younger than kayla, we’ve been going over there a lot as well. i think as long as the kids are with you and you do have fun – regardless of where or when – that’s what they want/enjoy.
    kathy@vodka and soda recently posted…humpday confessions [6-11]My Profile

    • You’re absolutely right – the guilt thing is ridiculous and stupid. It’s not like I have my kids chained up in the backyard with a water dish while I’m at work! They are at preschool and daycare playing with other kids and having fun.

      I’m jealous of you having relatives living so close by! I think having some neighborhood friends for my boys to play with would be really fun.

  3. Before I stayed home–which has only been for 2 years–my daughter spent summer in daycare. I felt a little guilty but I knew she was having fun with her friends and, occasionally, I would take a day or week off to keep her home and get in all the fun things I wanted to do with her. Now that she’s older, she needs to be at camp and I feel guilty that we don’t send her (it’s a freaking fortune). I think you can’t win. Mommy guilt is everywhere.

    That’s a great list! Fun, and totally doable!
    Jana @ The Townhouse Pioneer recently posted…Humpday confessions: Social media sinsMy Profile

    • That’s a really interesting perspective, Jana. You’re right – we can manage to guilt ourselves no matter what stage of life we’re in. In the meantime, I’ll be over here eating s’mores and shooting fireworks! =)

  4. Well, I’ll tell you — I stay at home with my kids, and those younger years only included a little more fun that what you’re experiencing. It’s soooo hot here, and with nap schedules and feedings…a lot of days it just felt like too much. And I felt like a total loser mom; it seems like all the other moms are running their own wonderful day camps!
    The stuff on your list is great! Plus, don’t you love how kids find just about anything out of the ordinary magical? That’s what I’m telling myself this summer, at least. :) As for planning, I like having a general idea of something fun to do, and then busting it out at the last minute. My kids view any mention of plans as a binding contract.
    Meg recently posted…The Little Things: Bag DispenserMy Profile

    • You’re right – even if I were home I’d be having to structure our days around the baby’s schedule. It drives me crazy sometimes because I feel like I can’t do everything with my older son that he wants to do (like…go bike riding when I need to nurse the baby) but I know these baby days are short and we will all be out playing together in no time!

    • Thanks Kim! I hope you are having a good summer so far. I will email you soon to check in with your moving process. We are headed in Ava in just a few weeks!

  5. I just thought I’d chime in to say that as your kids get older it becomes much easier to have fun. The routine of trying to do anything outside with little ones used to drive me crazy too, and I’m even home during summers. When mine were your kids’ ages we did good to put water in a plastic wading pool for our entertainment. Now that we are past potty training and almost 7 and 4 1/2 it is AMAZING how much easier it is to go places and do fun things. Enjoy making your summer memories!

    • 7 and 4 1/2… that will be us in about 3 years! This is one of the big reasons that I think I’m done having babies. I am really excited about getting to the “little kid” phase — it seems like they are so much fun!

  6. I hear you on the guilt – I don’t work full time but this summer I am working a lot more and between that and keeping up with the other stuff I’m afraid my teenage boys are just spending most of the summer on the X-Box. I told them that every day they have to do at least 1 productive thing and then we try to do at least 1 fun thing (often small!!) – not every day is a success but….
    Love your list!
    Kim recently posted…An Appointment with MyselfMy Profile

  7. I used to snub my nose at summer bucket lists..until this year…because if I don’t plan it or at least write it down, I won’t even remember to do it. Not that I have to do it, but at least look into doing it. Plus my son is older, so I feel like I can do more planned things. Too bad for the baby who gets dragged along :P. I refuse to let myself feel guilty for being a working mom who can’t take her kids to the pool on a weekday. Refuse. It’s my choice and I love working. I even wrote a post “not guilty for not having mom guilt”. Glad you aren’t feeling guilty either! You’re gonna have TONS of fun this summer!!!! Catch fireflies was one of my favorite things as a kid (don’t see them around here much anymore). And maybe we’ll camp in our backyard sometime too!
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…17 channelsMy Profile

    • Yeah… I can relate to dragging the baby along! It does put a crimp in our plans sometimes (how am I supposed to take Josiah to swimming lessons — where I’m expected to get in the pool with him — when I also have a baby in tow?) but I’m doing my best to just accept where we are in life right now and do what we can.

    • Yep! Although I don’t think I could stay home full time either. Too bad there aren’t better part-time job options for moms of young kids!

  8. I too tend to avoid doing fun stuff if it requires a trip to an overcrowded Big Box store. NOT how I want to be spending my weekend! That’s another reason I’ve loved using Amazon Prime. It’s more than paid for itself with all the 2-day shipping I’ve gotten over the past year. Think of an activity by Thursday and you’ve got your supplies by the weekend!
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted…I Got Schooled: 5 Blogging Lessons from the BlogU ConferenceMy Profile

    • Yes, I love Amazon too — but sadly I rarely think of things two days in advance! =) Maybe I’ll just make a big order instead of venturing out to the evil Wal-Empire. Yeah… that sounds much better.

  9. Sometimes the logistics overwhelm me too. Diaper bag? Water? Can Des drink from a straw? What will we eat? Where will we eat? Where will we get gas? Is Google Maps giving me good directions?
    It’s a lot.
    I’m a working home but I work at home so it’s like I get the best of everything and the worst of it too.
    Tamara recently posted…Love is a Battlefield.My Profile

    • Can I tell you how happy I will be when I no longer have to carry a diaper bag or keep it packed all the time? Gah… such a hassle.
      I cannot fathom how you work at home without childcare — that is extremely impressive to me!

  10. I’m not even a mom and I find that time just flies by and I am not sure I actually did anything fun to enjoy it other than exercise. Maybe I should take a look at this for me. :)
    Jenn Speer recently posted…Checking inMy Profile

    • I would highly recommend reading that article I linked about the “anchor events” for your weekends. It’s written by a woman who studies how people use their time, and she has a lot of good insights. I bet you would enjoy it!

  11. Oh lord yes! Yes, yes, YES! I do suffer from working mom guilt in the summer. My daughter hated summer camp last year so I’m allowing her to stay home this year (we work from home). She’s doing a few short camps but still… She’s great and is very independent, but I do feel guilty. I’ve committed NOT to miss my workouts as a result though – this CAN be done! Thanks for your post :)
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…The Art of Food Tracking (Part 2)My Profile

  12. I know the feeling!! It’s the WORST! I’m fortunate I get off at 3 though so it gives me some flex time to play. The good thing is my son is sooo easy; swimming is all he wants. So between swim classes, pool time, simple play dates, and beach trip, plus NYC trip in August – he’s set. He’s a happy kid. I’m fortunate he understands it took him a minute to grasp it but he gets it and we put him in a fun camp that runs all day so he gets to do activities and engage with other kids – he has a blast! So it reduces the guilt significantly if I know my son is having a great time. Plus, he doesn’t see his cousins enough so even going to spend time with my sister makes him happy. Kids are simpler than we think! Have a great one Sarah and don’t feel guilty we all do what we must! -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently posted…What You COULD Have LearnedMy Profile

  13. This was a great list! and I love your tips about having it planned. I think by planning it, it makes it more fun. When I communicate the weekly plan, I can hype the activity. By the time we get to the activity the kids are on fire for it.

    I don’t have a ton of working mom guilt over the summer because my kids go to a primo camp that they love. Even if there are days they don’t love it, it is still an awesome experience for them.

    I save a lot of my time off for the summer. I am taking three weeks off and most Fridays for some balance. This summer I am keeping them home on Fridays to do stuff with me. Hoping I don’t regret it :-)
    Tara Newman recently posted…How to Gain Focus For The Week AheadMy Profile

    • Yes, you should make a summer fun list – I can’t believe we’re already halfway through June! I need to make a plan to check a couple things off this weekend!

      I “have” to work too, but luckily I really enjoy my job, and it seems like you do too. I try not to gripe too much since I know some people aren’t so lucky. Have a great day, Toni!

  14. Ooh I’ve got Sue Monk Kidd’s book on hold too! I read the art of french eating and really liked it. It made me want to budget a trip for France in the future lol. And What Alice Forgot is also good light reading. The last really good book I read was The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley. She talks about our education compared to other countries.
    Nina recently posted…The Biggest Reason Parents Should Have a Life Outside of KidsMy Profile

    • A trip to France sounds wonderful. I got to travel a lot in college (I did study abroad so it was fairly inexpensive to travel around since I was already in Europe) and I miss it so much! My husband and I are talking about saving for a big 15th anniversary trip. And I’m glad to hear What Alice Forgot is some nice light reading… that’s what I need these days! Thanks for stopping by, Nina!

  15. I am feeling you here! I actually STARTED working full time (albeit in our family business) at the beginning of this summer, and it has been a hard transition for me. For now, the kids are in summer school, so I’m pretending that summer hasn’t really started yet, but I’m going to be sad when they head off to grandma’s house (and her pool) without me next month. Thank you for the “anchor activity” idea. I have a summer bucket list up on my blog too, but it is actually our list from last summer – there’s still so much we haven’t done!!
    Fawn @ Instead of the Dishes recently posted…Glamping in ArkansasMy Profile

    • I hope your summer is going well! I feel like it’s flying by. I clicked back to look at my bucket list and I haven’t done any of it yet (or maybe just one or two things)… and it’s nearly July 4! Hopefully we will check off several items this weekend.

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