Have you seen the 18 summers meme? I have. And as much as I appreciate the sentiment behind it, I also feel a little mom-shamed by it. I was like, “wow, thanks for reminding me that the work I do doesn’t involve a 3 month summer break and that my kids will spend large chunks of time watching TV while I try to squeeze in as much work as I can into the mornings, so I can spend time with them in the afternoon.”
Listen, I get the idea behind the “18 summers” meme but I think it’s really misguided and sort of misses the bigger picture.
I’m here to remind you that you have more than 18 summers with your kids.
Before I go any further, I also know this isn’t true for every parent. I know that 18 summers isn’t a guarantee for any parent or child.
We don’t always have 18 summers. Sometimes we have less than that. Sometimes we have more.
Here’s the thing:
It’s not about summers. It’s about how you choose to spend your time with your kids.
I’ve come up with 3 simple ways you can ditch the summertime mom guilt and actually enjoy your summers with your kids.
1. Create Clear Boundaries
This for me is key. It’s also probably the one I struggle with the most, especially because I work at home. So it’s easy for me to let work sort of spillover into motherhood and motherhood spillover into work. This, in of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I love being a mom and I love working from home and my business is in some parts, based around being a mother. The problem is more that when I don’t set “work hours” for myself, I end up working when I’d rather be doing fun things with my kids.
I don’t think this is exclusive for moms to work from home. I think there’s always a little overlap, even for moms who do the unpaid labor of motherhood at home exclusively.
So the key for me is to create clear boundaries around my time and hold myself to them.
It’s also not just work time that I give boundaries to. It’s also me time that I create boundaries for that I hold myself and my kids to as best I can.
The more intentional I am with these boundaries and the better I am at maintaining them, the more likely I am to feel less guilt.
2. Make the Most of the Moments You Have
This one is super simple and necessary. Not all moms have 24 hours a day to devote to their kids. Not all moms WANT to devote all 24 hours a day to their kids. Does this make them bad moms? No. It makes them human.
Instead of holding the expectation that we should be sharing more moments with our kids, how about we make the most of the moments we actually do have.
It’s not like moms need more opportunities to feel guilty about how we are failing our children. If we try to make every single moment extra special and amazing, we’ll be exhausted. And honestly, we’ll fail. And dilute the amazingness that we’re trying to create.
If we instead make the most of the moments we have, instead of trying to add in extra minutes or hours or days, those moments we do have become more special.
3. Stop Idealizing Summer
Summer is not the only season. Yes, the kids are off school but there are 9 other months in the year. What makes summer so important or amazing? When you really think about it, not much.
This is a massive pitta issue. We prioritize summer and try to cram more in than we actually should because the energy of the season encourages us to. (Stay tuned for a blog about this coming really soon).
This is the season of more more more more and more.
What if we scaled way back and made it the season of less?
I think back to my own summers when I was a kid. Sure, we went on family vacations, which were amazing. I remember those. They were maybe 2 weeks out of the entire summer.
The rest of the summer was hanging out with friends or going to camp or watching movies or reading books all day long.
I don’t know if my mom felt the same pressure that I do or that moms of my generation feel (although since she reads my blog, I’m sure she’ll tell me).
What I can say is that I don’t remember her spending every single second of every single day with me. And my summers were still really awesome. And I still love my mom.
So as fantastic as summer really is, I propose that we don’t let this meme guilt trip or mom shame any of us into thinking we’re not doing enough with our 18 summers.
Maybe also to remember that if we’re lucky, our summers with our kids won’t stop when they turn 18. And if we’re really lucky, those post-18 summers will be even more wonderful than the first 18.