Summer Guilt is my Achilles Heel

Working Mom Prob #87

I fell down the stairs this morning. I was dressed for work, carrying a full cup of tea and clothes for my daughter.  My fancy summer shoes failed me. It was their first outing of the year in an attempt to look’professional because all my summer work clothes are laying in a wrinkled heap waiting to be ironed.

I slid down four stairs to the soundtrack of my daughter wailing and sniffling, “I don’t wanna go.” As I landed in a pool of scalding tea, I wished for one moment that I had broken something. Sprains aren’t good enough. A broken ankle or wrist would be a real reason to lay at the bottom of the stairs and wail with my daughter, “I don’t wanna go either!!!” Only crazy moms wish for injuries. Not stupid internal injuries, strains or pulled muscles. We need broken bones and possibly an ambulance trip to get us out of work.

It is only the third day of summer camp and my guilt is rising with the humidity. Summer should be watching cartoons in your pajamas until 10 a.m. Summer should be beach picnics with friends. Summer should be bare feet, bathing suits, dripping nectarine juice and sticky hands. My summers as a child stretched long and free. My children’s summer will be camp tee shirts, frantic breakfast sunscreen spraying, sweltering bus trips, lunchboxes with ice packs and forced swimming lessons.  Their summer will be marked by exhaustion and mine will be marked by guilt.

During the school year my guilt is manageable. My children love school and bound out of bed  with no arguments. My wailing daughter loved preschool and I’m sure she will love her camp tomorrow. Mothers, fathers and caregivers have to work. I want to work; I just don’t want to work in the summer. Irrational and impractical but those are guilt. I almost applied for a teaching program just so three years later we could all have the summers off. This was not practical for me or my family but it sounds rational today as I look at my tea stained shoe and glare at tan mom in running shorts at drop-off. I will spend two hours googling work from home and searching out ridiculous remote jobs today. Maybe I can sell those green shakes on social media? Write website descriptions for printers at Staples? Tried it. Not good.

Of course, summer at home with a five and seven-year-old summer is not all beach picnics. I’ve done it and there was lots of wailing, screaming, timeouts and exhaustion – from me.  My children are lucky. I am lucky. My children could be watching television all day in a ninety degree apartment while I try to get an hour sleep after working a crappy night job with no benefits and no security. I could be working two jobs with no break and begging neighbors to take my kids for a couple hours. I could be job searching, clinical depressed and alternate between shouting and ignoring my kids all day (again). There are millions of ways that my guilt is ridiculous, misplaced and self-indulgent but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Summer guilt is my Achilles heel – it threatens to control me and it’s not even to July. It adds nothing to us as mothers or professional women and it threatens to control us all at different times. Today I will use my stained fancy shoe as a reminder at how silly and dangerous this guilt makes me and hope that you all can overcome your mom Achilles without falling down the stairs today.