It’s that time of year again. Here in the US, kids are getting out of school for the summer. My newsfeed is filled with summertime bucket list posts.
Summertime can be hard
I’ll just say it: summertime can be hard and overwhelming.
I adore my children- all 12 of them (the 6 youngest are still living at home). I don’t regret for even a moment having such a large family.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
Along with summer comes the full-time responsibility of supervising my younger boys, almost non-stop interruptions throughout my day and lots of driving. I enjoy the one-on-one time in the car with my boys but being in the car that much is draining.
As a single mom I don’t have any other adults to share the load.
Cue the mom guilt
We’ve all heard the admonition “Don’t compare yourself to others.”
That’s easier said than done though, isn’t it?
My Instagram and Facebook feed are increasingly full of moms posting their summer “bucket lists”, including vacations, creative “staycations” , etc, etc.
I won’t be doing many of those things with my boys this summer.
I read those summer lists and feel so much guilt, wishing I could not only do more, but actually be more for my boys.
I’m happy for you if you are in a position to do those things and delight in them this summer. I really am.
This post is for those of us who can’t do those things.
Perhaps it’s a lack of finances, or maybe you are dealing with a chronic illness, either physical or mental. Perhaps you are grieving.
My reality is that it takes a huge amount of emotional energy to just leave my bedroom right now. I’m learning to manage my own Complex-PTSD, anxiety and depression. I also have fibromyalgia and am grieving a number of things.
Don’t worry; I do leave my bedroom to take care of myself and my boys, but those basic activities leave me with few reserves for other “fun” activities, especially if they involve crowds of people.
On top of that I am also doing my best to advocate for and assist more than half of my children as they heal from the fallout from so many years of abuse. I have children learning to manage very serious PTSD, depression, anxiety, OCD and as I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my boys almost died in a suicide attempt last fall. (Thankfully, he has made huge strides in recovery and healing)
It’s all tremendously overwhelming and draining.
Every year at this time, especially since my children have been in public school, I have entered summer with so much guilt over what I can’t do and guilt about the fact that I dread summer.
This year it is my goal to handle summer differently.
Give yourself grace
If you can identify with my summer mom guilt, then this is for you.
I really do believe that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves (and our children) is grace and compassion. If you are like me, it’s very difficult to give yourself the grace and compassion you deserve.
I will share with you what I am trying to tell myself:
Dear Sister, you are worth taking care of. Please listen to yourself ~ to your valid emotions and to how your physical body feels, and honor where you are right now.
Please remember this: The Lord is not dismayed or disappointed in you. He is mindful that we are frail. He is not surprised by our limitations.
It is, in fact, those very limitations that draw us to Him and allow us to experience his loving grace in ways that we never could otherwise.
Summer bucket lists, while they are fun for some, are not a Biblically mandated activity. 🙂
A summer mom strategy when you are struggling
Here are some practical strategies I am endeavoring to apply this summer. Perhaps these will be helpful for you as well.
It’s not only okay, but loving to set boundaries. When I’m panicky and struggling, I’m learning to let my boys know that I need to rest. I don’t burden them with details of my struggles, but I think it is healthy for them to know that I have limitations.
I am an introvert and even on my “good” days, I need some time alone. In a full, busy household, alone time can be an elusive commodity. Some of my favorite alone time activities are exercise, art, hiking, writing and photography. Obviously, yours will be different, but I would encourage you to consider what activities give life to your soul and try to carve out even tiny bits of time to enjoy those things.
This summer I am going to experiment with having “work hours” to focus exclusively on my writing and art. I plan to instruct my boys that when I’m working, I need to be left alone. My youngest son is 11, so this is a new option for me now that I no longer have toddlers.
As I set boundaries and care for myself, hopefully I am teaching them by example to do the same for themselves.
Do things for you
This summer I won’t be going on an exotic vacation, but I am considering small ways to care for myself like working out, planning and prepping healthy food and giving myself the gift of adequate rest.
Plan in advance
There is one particular activity that my boys really want to do this summer; attend a local amusement park with roller coasters and a water park, etc. I love roller coasters, rides and water slides but this activity wipes me out due to the noise levels and crowds.
This outing is important to them, so I’m going to do my best to make it happen. It helps if I plan something like this in advance. That way I can try to go on a day that won’t be quite as crowded and I can schedule my week to conserve emotional energy on the days leading up to this and on the days afterwards when I’ll need to regroup.
There is also room for spontaneity. Some days I wake up with more emotional and physical reserves. On those days I might spontaneously decide to take a day trip and explore a nearby park or hiking trail.
Many of my favorite activities are things that my boys enjoy as well. Here are some simple things we might do this summer which don’t require a lot of advance planning:
- create art together
- go hiking
- Stand up paddleboarding with one boy at a time (we have 2 SUPs, so it’s fun one-on-one time with them)
- exploring nearby state and national parks (photography and/or hiking)
I might not be able to do many of these activities with my boys this summer, and that’s okay. I’m simply keeping these low-key options in mind as I head into summer.
Your list will be different, but perhaps there are some things you already enjoy doing which you can do with your children.
It’s okay for our kids to be bored
Boredom can be a wonderful creativity boost for kids. Really!
Boredom can also cause bickering, in which case I usually suggest to my boys (in a lighthearted way) that if they are bored I can help them occupy their time. There are always bathrooms that need to be cleaned here, etc. For some reason, they can usually find something they’d rather do than bicker or clean the bathrooms!
And honestly, while I work hard to monitor my boys’ time online (I love using Disney Circle and Bark here), there are times when it’s okay to let your kids use electronic devices so that you can have some interrupted rest time. Please don’t feel guilty about that.
Grace, above all
Above all, please give yourself grace.
This summer I might not be able to do even my low-key activity ideas. I’m trying to give myself grace for where I am right now.
Dear reader friends, please be gentle with yourself. If you are in the midst of deep challenges, I’d encourage you to honestly acknowledge the reality of your situation and be as kind and compassionate with yourself as you would with a friend.
Your summer, like mine, might not look like a Pinterest-worthy photo, but I believe that if we can learn to honor our struggles and accept the Lord’s compassionate grace, then even an overwhelming summer can be less guilt-ridden and more grace-filled, which is a win not only for us, but for our children as well.