Mommy Burnout

Yesterday I let my three-year-old sit on the potty for 45-minutes, having an epic meltdown, waiting for someone to help him wipe. That someone was not going to be me. I’m out of the bottom wiping business.

Did I feel like a bad mother? yes. Did it fry my nerves to listen to his wails? yes. Will I repeat the situation all over again when it happens next? yes.

In just three week’s time he will head off to preschool where no one will be allowed to wipe his bottom. He’s got to do it on his own. But it wasn’t just this motivator that spurned me on, it’s that I’m in Week Eight of the American school system’s ten-week long, summer holiday. I’m toast.

Week One was bliss. I couldn’t wait to have both of my kids with me to take to the beach, go on adventures and explore new camp experiences. We took a few days as a family to attend my brother’s wedding in Pennsylvania and tacked on a side-trip to Sesame Place while we were there.

Then we had a little intentionally unscheduled time before a variety of half-day camps and two visits to grandparents’ houses began. By the end of July, I had done a great deal of idea generating, activity planning, transporting, coordinating, packing and unpacking. Then we took a week “Down the Cape.”

Our week on Cape Cod was something I had been looking forward to all summer. Back in February, our dear friends from Montana came for a surprise, 36-hour visit. While they were here, we talked them in to coming back with the whole family in the summer and we’d all take a house at the beach. Despite lacking any knowledge of the Cape, DH and I endeavored to find the right rental in the right town at the right price for all of us. We succeeded.

We just came back from that wonderful week-away but it was not a vacation.

When DH was little, his pediatrician informed his parents that, “when you travel with young children, you are taking a trip. When you travel with grown, independent kids or on your own, it’s a vacation.” That man should be given a gold star.

We had five kids ranging in age from 6 down to 1. We had a full-efficiency house with the ability and desire to have many of our meals there. We were in a new place with tons of things to do and we wanted to be good hosts to our friends who traveled so far and at great expense to “vacation” with us. We absolutely had a wonderful time but it was NOT relaxing. In fact, it was very much like the rest of our summer just in a slightly improved location.

In summer’s past I have more successfully orchestrated my kids’ schedules and my own writing deadlines to provide occasional breaks for me to work or get things done. In the past I’ve more regularly had breaks by hiring sitters or with longer afternoon nap-times and camp days. Somehow, this year, I failed to coordinate any of these.

Week Five, the one week that I was supposed to have every morning free while both kids were in camps, brought a visit from the Coxsackie virus instead. This heralded the beginning of the end of my coping abilities. It was easily the worst childhood illness DH and I have experienced in our six years as parents.

In Week Six, I rediscovered mojitos…this helped tremendously with my coping abilities.

So here were are, just two weeks away from the beginning of the new school year (queue this). I am enormously thankful for the many good times we’ve had this summer but have also learned a lot about both my kids’ needs and my own and it boils down to one word: routine.

I have long fancied myself a creature of spontaneity. Willing to go wherever and whenever an opportunity arose. Having kids changed that for me. For one thing, I became a Nap Nazi and grew to cherish my kids’ daily needs for down time as a sacred and necessary part of our sanity.

Also, I leaned this summer that selecting several different one-week camp experiences for my older child was no longer a good idea. After the familiarity of attending full-day kindergarten all year and the joy of predictable routine and familiar faces, switching things up every-other week was a bit hard on her.

So what do I have planned for our last two weeks? a whole lot of nothing. And I think that’s a pretty good plan. We all need a little time to reset (like me being here at the library writing while the kids are home with a sitter). I also think there’s great value in the ability to get bored. Boredom fosters creativity and also instills deeper appreciation for the fun events when they occur.

I’m not much in to politics but it’s an election year and once the kids head back to school I plan to get a new ballot question going: I’m going to seriously look in to getting our politicians to reconsider the agrarian school calendar we’ve all been following for far too long and see if we can shorten summer vacation by just a week (or three)!


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. slightlywonky
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 15:44:28

    It all rings so true…I think that most parents are relieved when the end of summer approaches! Endless planning, entertaining, feeding, cleaning up, schlepping…I get a migraine just thinking about it. Kudos to you for hanging in. Maybe our kids are too young for us to shoo them into the backyard and say, “don’t come back in until lunchtime!!!!” Maybe that way of doing things is no more? Sigh…HANG IN THERE!!!


    • growingmuses
      Aug 17, 2012 @ 17:39:28

      Or in my case, maybe our backyards are too small to make it worth it. I am close to letting them wander the neighborhood (or at least bike it) unattended but not take a walk in the woods yet…I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood with other kids so I don’t feel like they’re being short-changed but I do wish I weren’t the main cruise director all the time. I am thankful that at least they have each other to interact with. I definitely would not be a good singleton mom. Or I’d definitely have to go back to work.


  2. Elizabeth
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 16:12:25

    It’s definitely time to return to a routine… Our summer was so disrupted with travel and house showings, etc. It made me realize that change is as hard for adults as it is for kids.


    • growingmuses
      Aug 17, 2012 @ 17:41:31

      I can’t imagine what your summer has been like. We talk about putting our house on the market and moving in to a more long-term one in a few years but we’re both sort of lazy and don’t want to take the steps (or purging stuff and keeping it spotless) that putting it on the market would require. I do so wish you weren’t STILL going to be so far away 😥


  3. Wanderlustress
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 21:50:51

    Oh we are such soul sistas!!! A true vacation with young kids do not exist and I can’t tell you how many times that got jack-hammered into my head when we were at the beach or in the mountains after I had fantasized about finally going on “vacation” to “relax”. Nope, can’t fool this mama anymore. It’s just work. Work work work in a different setting. And here I am fretting about the kids’ daycare being on break for the next two weeks, should be a breeze compared to your whole summer. But I am terrified about entertaining them and trying to keep the same routine which they’ve only just gotten used to having started at their new school here in Laos only two weeks ago. Routine is SO key no matter where we are. Wish us luck but I will be thinking of you and your summer to keep it all in perspective. Thanks for posting this. Your sharing will shore me up a great deal in the coming weeks! Hugs.


    • growingmuses
      Aug 17, 2012 @ 17:43:29

      the fact that they’re IN daycare and you’ve already settled into routine in your new home (LAOS) is just a marvel to me. Won’t you want to go exploring together when they’re out for 2 weeks? or maybe all of that fun will start when they’re four…naps can kinda get in the way. Soldier on my friend!


  4. Wendy Lawrence
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 15:56:10

    I like the mojitos idea! 🙂 And good luck getting through it all!


  5. Maureen Harder
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 18:51:24

    We started school Monday and it is so nice to be back in the routine again!


  6. cecile
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 09:54:32

    I’m with you ! For me here it’s week ELEVEN already, ten more days to go… and I feel that having school vacations this long is just crazy. Hey, maybe I’ll try mojitos next week, good idea !


  7. Rachel
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 14:14:38

    Now two weeks post school starting here, but just finally read this post. Just want to say I hear ya sista! School is definitely helping, but it may take longer than usual for me to completely decompress from summer!


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