It's summertime. and the living is (supposed to be) easy as the song goes, but it's not! There are new carpool shifts to drive, camps to get to, play dates to arrange, swimming lessons to sign up for and so much more. How does a parent manage? I just went to a lecture last week that was given by a group of women and men that I really respect. One statistic that was mentioned really jumped out at me: Only 14% of all American households have stay-at-home moms. I was surprised to hear that, yet with the economy and the price of everything, it made sense. Most families need two incomes to manage.
When I was teaching at a private school in the 1980s, a large percentage of mothers were stay-at-home moms. The women were in their late twenties and early thirties with kindergarten-aged offspring. As I continued my career, the parents seemed to be getting older. Tuition was going up and so was the age of the parents. It appeared that people were getting married later, and their careers were being established before they had their children. Many of the couples were both in high stress, time-consuming jobs, but the education for their children was a top priority. By the 1990s and 2000s, many of the parents were in their late thirties and early forties. I found myself making boundaries with parents that there could be no substitutions with babysitters when it was time for parent-teacher conferences and other parent-driven activities. Of course, I did make allowances for grandparents or special friends when it was grandparent day.
It seemed to me to be a catch-22, because as a single mother at that time, it would have been impossible for me to do it all had I not been fortunate enough to be a teacher at the school. I had chosen this work because I loved being around children, but also because I could be home with my own children on weekends, after school and on vacations. Most parents were not that lucky, even though I am sure their salaries were much higher than mine!
The question I am being asked at this part of the year is "How do I manage to get the children to everything?" This question comes with a look of frustration on most parent's faces. They want to do it all. They want to make sure their children are being intellectually and physically challenged.
My answer is that as a young or older parent, whether you are working or staying at home, or whether your husband is a stay-at-home dad, try to decide what your priorities are. If it's making your little one water safe or offering a sport for which he or she does not have time during the school year or participating in music class... that is all great! Check with friends to make carpools work, or see if the camp or school has transportation available. See if there is a stay late program if you do not get done with work until later. You do not have to accompany your child every single minute of each day if you know the people with whom you are planning to take turns.
Most importantly, remember that children need what I call "nothing time" where they can sit outside and stare at the clouds and ponder the lady bugs on the bushes. Going to the park with a babysitter or making mud pies in the back yard... remember they are children, and children learn even when we are not formally aware of it. Cut yourselves a little slack, and know that you are doing the very best of jobs. Your children know this and they will love you unconditionally for it!