Thank you Carrie, for writing this guest post. Carrie contributes to the Exhausted Moms Parent Support Group show.
The first week of August is a strange “In between” week for my children. I have a daughter, who will be 10 years old this month and in the fifth grade, and a son, who is 6 years old and in the first grade. The public schools here in Nashville, Tennessee have gone to a “balanced calendar” with breaks in the Fall, Winter, Spring, making a shorter Summer Break. Summer begins the last week of May and ends the first week of August, giving a 9 week break in between during June and July. School always begins on a Wednesday for a half a day, then there is no school on Thursday for local Election Day, and then a full day on Friday. The Thursday in between the two days of school is meant for the teachers to still report and the schools to look at enrollment. Metro Nashville Public Schools is a large city and county system so there is a lot of shuffling around of students and classrooms. It’s complicated and a bit mind boggling. The schools will do a full week of school beginning next week and then off we go into the school year!
Back to this “in between” week… sort of. The last Exhausted Mommies podcast in July was all about what to do with your children during breaks in school and childcare. Now that my kids are older, I tend to “plan out the summer” in advance and most weeks they have camp experiences to go to. They like camp experiences because they often get to play outside more, swim, or learn an art form such as drama. We also vacation at least one week out of the summer and I always look forward to taking a break and getting out of town. This summer there were probably only 5 days total that my kids were home without anything “scheduled” to do. This included three days out this week sans the one half day of school and one full day of school. Our weekends always seem to be busy with one thing or another.
I work part time with my own music therapy and music lesson business, so although, I work during the summer seeing clients and students, I have flexibility to stay home with my kids when needed. When the kids were preschoolers, I would often take them on outings to the library, the pool, the zoo, the art museum, and the park during the summer. There was one summer when my kids were younger, I followed the story times and library events from library branch to library branch through out the city for us to have something to do almost every day. However, I noticed this summer, when I suggested going to do these things, there was some reluctance. Even this week I offered to take them to a water park where I had scored some free passes and in the end, they just wanted to go play with their friends on play dates. I realized I no longer have to worry so much being their primary source of entertainment. Playing with friends goes a long way with their happiness.
I limit “screen time” during the week and those are my kids’ most desired modes of entertainment just like most children. It exhausts me to have them beg for more time, but I set limits. For the most part, they obey them because the consequence is loosing their time the next day. On days when they are at home and complaining about not having anyone to play with or telling me, “Mommy, I’m board!”, I often let them be board, and eventually they find something to do. One thing believe I have done successfully is to foster their creativity by keeping art supplies in the house, keeping books out, and the Legos in plain sight. As much as I want a neat and tidy house, I have learned to let that go when the kids are home. The other day, they painted and created sculptures with Sculpy clay. The Legos have been trailed along the floors for weeks. My daughter finished her Nancy Drew book the other day and asked to go to the library to get a new book. And, there was a moment when I was not worrying over emails or dinner that I sat down and played a game of “Crazy 8s” with the kids. It’s a grand balance.
I feel a little guilt about being so giddy that they go back to school. I admire moms who can stay home and seem to make motherhood their profession feeding their kids whole foods and homeschooling. In my perspective these moms seem to have boundless energy I just can’t always muster. Yet, my calling as a music therapist and the need to work is strong and I know that my kids are well taken care of in the camps they go to and the schools they attend. I set them up for success just as my work with children with special needs has taught me to do before I even had children of my own.
As a final note, thinking about the cause of this blog and podcast to help mothers everywhere who struggle with the anxiety of keeping up with their children, I suggest reaching out to other moms, of course! This is one of the other things that saved me from feeling like I lived in a bubble of perpetual childcare. I’m a shy person in many respects, so this was a big deal! Meetup.com saved me when my daughter went started school and my son was 2 years old. I could hang out with other moms of young children and feel conformed by their similar experiences. Blogs like this are meant to connect mothers with mothers too. I encourage you to share your story and find your community.