Remember when I said the summer insanity was nearly upon us? Well—it’s here! And I have been fighting a ton of anxiety, mom-guilt, and a lot of pressure to 1) get my business better organized and continue the expansion and 2) prepare everything and everyone for our newest addition that will arrive in August.
This past weekend, I tried to explain all these nerves and anxieties to my ever-patient partner. He totally understood; he reminded me that he’s here to take care of the kids, juggle the family taxi and let me have time to work, self-care, and all the other things. By Monday evening, after similar reminders from my dad, who is a wonderful grandparent-support just up the street, I felt a whole lot better about everything. So much better, in fact, I planned to commit and attend the weekly early-morning business networking group that could prove invaluable to my work as a freelance writer. I scheduled out blocks of work-time, and strategized about the dreaded Tuesday when my younger two kiddos have lots of appointments and no daycare. I felt pretty good about the newfound structure and was optimistically secure in my support system.
On Wednesday, my partner has the kids up and out the door well before 8 a.m. because my early meeting begins at 7.45 and their daycare is on his way to work. My eldest, still sleeping and self-sufficient, was enjoying the first real opportunity to sleep in on her summer break on this particular morning. I felt confident about this day—after all, I even called ahead at 6.30 a.m. to the daycare to ensure my four-year-old had the three tee shirts I’d ordered all ready to go for her summer camp uniform. I packed her backpack with a labeled water bottle and sunscreen, her favorite stuffed bunny, and we talked about her class trip to Build A Bear for the day.
I’m the first to admit I’m a hot mess mom, but this day felt pretty okay. I got everyone out the door with kisses, hugs, and neatly tied ponytails (except Ben, he can take care of his own hair). Less than an hour later, though, about 10 minutes prior to my meeting’s scheduled beginning, I got a rather stern phone call from her school.
“You will have to come get P,” the employee said. “She has a field trip today and she is totally unprepared, and it would be unacceptable for her to attend the field trip today.”
“Hmmm, okay, I’m sorry what is she missing.”
“She doesn’t have a shirt—”
“I called at 6.30 a.m. to ask if the 3 shirts we ordered several weeks ago were available, and I was told the shirts are there—we hadn’t been given them to take home in the weeks since I placed the order.”
“She doesn’t have sunscreen, a backpack, or a water bottle—”
“I labeled her sunscreen and water bottle and put them in her backpack—which should also have her name on it. I am really sorry, what else does she need today?”
“A hat, she doesn’t have a hat. You have about two hours to get a hat to her or she absolutely can’t go.”
Of course, I skipped my meeting—because either way I was going to have to miss the meeting, and at least if I ducked out and brought the hat to her, I could still get writing and illustration work accomplished. But I admit, I was fuming. All this worry about juggling kids and childcare, and wondering if a thousand dollars per child–per month– could be justified for childcare costs… in that moment, as I forfeited a profitable and important business opportunity so I could get my kid’s hat to her, the thousand dollars did not seem like a well-spent investment.
I can’t imagine too many parents would want to be called out of a meeting and lose opportunities over a hat. Sure, it is one incident, and normally if the kids have an appointment or need me, I’m there and can be there quickly because being self-employed is typically one of the most flexible jobs ever. Had my daughter been actually totally unprepared, even, I could see the school’s point and would feel less annoyed and flustered by being asked to cancel my work and deliver a hat.
It did help me re-evaluate what I’m doing and where I am with my kids this summer. My heart is with them. Often, my days are spent coordinating and shuttling to and from appointments for one of the three, and so my work suffers despite 2/3 of our children being stuck in a classroom. The evening is dedicated to them, and after they sleep I’m too busy cleaning and preparing for the next day to do much work. And weekends, too, seem the worst place for work, because they’ve been in school and daycare all week and now I want to spend time with my family.
Yesterday, though, that “dreaded” day of appointments? We survived it, and we thrived it. Work-life balance is hard to come by, but yesterday seemed great for the most part. We accomplished all our appointments and squeezed in a special milkshake treat and a trip to the park. We got home just as some rain set in, and everyone watched a movie with popcorn while I retreated to my studio to work on painting and a few small business details. It was, in all aspects, more productive than most days—AND I spent more quality time with my kids than usual, too. In fact, I didn’t want today to start so rushed and send everyone off to summer camps and pre-school. I knew my 4-year-old was pretty excited for Build A Bear, and that I had plenty of work to get to– but also I wondered what kind of adventures would I have if we didn’t have to commit to the scheduled grind.
When the morning rolled out as it did, I felt all sorts of things bubble up. The feminist in me started ranting about mom-shaming; after all, just that morning as Ben asked me about new classrooms and where to bring her summer camp backpack, and he joked it was good to be a man, because everyone is helpful and no one thinks anything of it when you don’t know what’s going on at your kids’ school.
The mom in me felt guilty.
The self-employed freelancer felt stressed and worried about work missed.
I decided this is, perhaps, the last summer we have before my eldest is “too cool” to be part of the adventure. It is our last summer before my second-born starts school. It is a summer of a lot of change, and I couldn’t imagine three people I would rather spend it with than my kids.
Will it be easy? No. But it wasn’t easy before, either.
We start the adventure July 1st, stay tuned!