I love summer—especially the beginning of summer. I live in the southern mountains so we can leave the windows open to the sounds and smells of June without the annoyance of air conditioning. The garden is at that robust, yet still orderly stage, and the farmers market is full of glorious peaches, beet greens, cantaloupes, and strawberries. I love absolutely everything about summer, except the guilt.
I run a nonprofit (I imagine that’s not news to you since you are reading this at the website of that nonprofit) and like most nonprofits, we try to save money wherever we can. It’s hard to beat free office space, so my office is in my house. Most of the year I love this arrangement. I can take a break to start dinner or throw in a load of wash mid afternoon, I can take my laptop to the porch to work, and I can’t beat the commute– a short climb up 24 creaky stairs.
But starting June 11, the first day school is out, along with the glories of summer comes the guilt. It’s an odd sort of distraction. I accept that I will have less time to actually work during the summer because of keeping one ear on what’s happening downstairs, what rules are being stretched, and who needs a distraction, but my husband also works from home, so we share this job. The guilt thing, however, is mine alone and is harder to get a handle on.
I feel guilty if I’m not doing things with my kids if they are around. I feel like I have to, or should, maximize this opportunity to be with them. To influence them, to instruct them, but mostly to have fun with them. School time is guilt free time. Summertime is another story all together.
When my kids were younger, I worked part time out of the house, so there was much less juggling of work and home schedules. When I was home, I was home to do home things. Each week I would plan an art project, a cooking project, and a field trip. It was almost like running a summer camp, and I loved it. I know my parenting role has changed now that my children are older and so has my work schedule. But I still think they need my time and attention and summer days present so many opportunities.
I know it’s a cliché, but I’m more aware than ever that this time with our kids is fleeting. All too soon, they will have lives of their own. Actually, “too soon” is not the right description. If we are lucky and if we do our job as parents right, it will be at the right time and they will be ready to phase us out of their everyday lives. But, thank goodness, most of mine are not there yet, and I want to relish every moment of the time I have left. Now, the funny thing is, my kids are at the age when the last thing they want on most days is more undivided time and attention from dear old mom. But knowing that they feel this way doesn’t change how I feel.
So, this summer I’ll be feeling that peculiar mommy summer guilt–wanting to spend my days with my kids and needing to spend them (or at least some of them) at my work. So, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll succumb to the guilt and go rustle up a kid for a game of badminton, a cow race on the Wii, or some cookie cooking.
Image credit: DioceseFDL