Embrace summer. Summer slow-down. The secret to summer. It’s all over my blog reader; everyone’s saying it. Step away from the scheduling and the to-do lists. Let kids be kids. Lazy days, creative play, and the freedom to just ‘be’.
This is summer. Sidewalk chalk and slip ‘n’ slides. Backyard obstacle courses and painting banners for daddy. Campfires and sticky s’mores. Days at the lake and hikes in the mountains. Digging in the garden and stealing nibbles along the way.
I love summer for all of these things. By the time summer arrives, I am done with schedules, school, gymnastics, and everything else. I try to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air from September to June, and when summer comes I drop them all to lay in the sun. Summer is my time with my kids to hike, play, run, swim, dig, and create!
But this summer is different.
This summer things look more like this….. …..than this.
This summer, I’m trying to coordinate my work schedule with my husband’s and my mom’s in order to make sure the kids are covered. This summer, I am figuring out how to fit in kids’ therapy appointments and evaluations. This summer, I am spending more time away from kids than at home, and when I am at home I have a list of things that need to get done that have nothing to do with home. This summer, I’m working.
I’ve worked all sorts of part-time jobs since becoming a mother. I’ve struggled with how to balance motherhood with my vocation. I’ve made space to volunteer in my passions and serve where I was able with the full support of my family. Whether it’s been teaching CPR and First Aid for a little extra income or serving as the President of a Board of Directors for a non-profit close to my heart, it’s been challenging but we’ve made it work.
This is different. I’m working at Camp. I’m serving as the director for a new program at the camp that I attended as a child, where I had my first job, met my husband, and even got married. It’s more than full-time, an hour away, lots of travel, and long hours.
My kids lives have been turned upside down by mommy’s new work schedule. They are ready to embrace all that is summer, and I am running out the door. They want play dates and days at the beach, and I am having trouble breathing because I don’t know how it’s all going to get done. My son who struggles with anxiety is grasping at straws as we make calendars and set routines to help him with the changes. In the midst of it all, I am mourning the loss of my summer with my kids. They will both be in school for longer days in the fall, and they are getting bigger every year. How in the world could I make a decision to miss out on this? Why did I decide to give this up?
A friend recently said to me on the phone, “You know Jamie, I know you say you don’t do it all, but really you do.” She went on to list a bunch of things that I was just barely pulling off at that moment in time. I appreciate the support, and I know I am too hard on myself, but you’ve got to know I am not doing it all. Not only can I not keep up the those seemingly do-it-all moms who are keeping busy rushing their kids to all sorts of enriching activities, I can’t slow down enough to stick with the slow-it-down-enough-to-bring-about-world-peace families who are running barefoot through their gardens (which look far better than our poor neglected space this year) raising free-spirited creative kids. I can’t do it all, and anyone else that you believe may be doing it all is just not. It’s not possible.
We have to let go of the myth that we can and should it all. We have to let go of the idea that anyone else is doing it all while we watch from the sidelines. It’s so easy to judge our lives and our choices by the glimpses we see into other’s lives. Social media plays a big role in this. Go ahead and scroll through my Instagram. Looks like I’ve got it all covered, right? Someone commented on a picture recently, “Your life looks like such a wonderful adventure in nature. I love it!” I love those moments too. But that’s what they are, moments. I love to look at my Instagram, because it’s a highlight reel – beautiful moments captured amid the chaos. Kairos moments (have you read Glennon Melton’s Carpe Kairos? If not, do it.). Sure, there are nods to the chaos and mentions of the overwhelm, but I’m not instagramming the panic attack I just had, the parenting disaster that was bedtime, or my major budget blunder.
Don’t compare your every day struggles to everyone else’s highlight reel. Their entire life does not look like that, and they are not doing it all. As a recovering perfectionist and an achievement addict, the only way I will make it through this summer is letting go of the all. I can do some things. I can do hard things. I can do great things. But I cannot do all things. Oh, and I’m going to need a constant supply of coffee to do any things.
We’re in new territory for our family. There are going to be many bumps and bruises as we try to figure this out. On the good days, I come home and soak up my kids. I am refreshed, loving and engaged. I relish the minutes of our bedtime routine. I am clothed in gratitude brushing and massaging my little boy’s tired, overwhelmed body. I’m happy to read one extra book or rub a back for an extra ten minutes. But, there are bad days. On the bad days, I am stressed beyond words and feeling torn in two. I am cranky, anxious, and short-tempered. I can’t keep the to-do lists straight. I don’t know how I will possibly get all of my work done in time, and I think of all the people I will let down. Then, I figure out that we’re almost out of laundry detergent. I should add it to the grocery list, but who is going for groceries anyway? The same goes for my time at work. I am either stressed needing to be home or blissed out in the gift of this opportunity to be with these people in this place. There’s only one of me. I can’t do it all.
I’ve always been amazed by families with two working parents - the juggling, the sacrifices, and the exhaustion. But I’ve also been amazed at stay-at-home-parents – the juggling, the sacrifices, and the exhaustion. I’ve never been more sure that one is not easier or better than the other. Your Hard is different than my Hard, but geez, they are both really Hard. No matter how easy or great things might look on Facebook or Instagram, we all have our Hard. It’s not just you. Take a look at your own highlight reel when you get a chance, let the joy and love soak into your soul, and give yourself permission to not do it all.