Summer With the Children Begins: Am I the Only One Who’s Scared?

Summer with Kids Begins: Am I the Only One Whose Scared? -postpartumprogress.com

In two more days it will be summer. The school year will be over.

Some moms thrill over that. Some moms can’t wait to go on adventures and hang out all day long for weeks at a time with their kids. They have plans for family field trips and crafts and such. They are giddy just thinking about it. I’m going to admit something here: I’m not one of them.

The summer scares me. It makes me nervous. I feel like I don’t know how to entertain my children all the time. I can only do it in short bits and bites. And then what? They’ll go off for a while and play on their own but then it’s back to mama. Mama, watch this. Mama, do that. Mama, play this imaginary game with me. Mama, read this book to me. Mama, mama, mama, mama.

I’m staring down the barrel of 10 weeks straight worth of mama, mama, mama.

People use the word “overwhelming” or “overwhelmed” quite a bit when discussing postpartum depression and its equally unpleasant cousins. Even though I’m years away from having postpartum OCD, and even though I adore being a mom to my children, I can still get that feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s not like it was when I was sick, of course, but I sometimes have moments of feeling like it’s all too much.

It’s almost like I love them SO much and feel SO responsible for their every happiness that I’m full up and then it boils over and then … well, then I need space. And quiet. Does that sound horrible? I mean, if you know me, you know how much I adore my children. You know how, when I’m spending time with them, it is bona fide, grade-A, full-eye-contact QUALITY time. But after that mama has to be on her own for a while. It’s like the intimacy that I feel is required is so energy-sapping that I can only do so much of it before I have to go refill myself in a solitary place.

I sometimes wonder if my introvertedness (is that a word?) and issues with intimacy are what makes it hard for me to get excited about the summer, and perhaps also contributed to my experience with postpartum OCD. Like I just don’t know how to make it all perfect (did I say perfect? yes, I’m a guilty perfectionist), and I feel weighted down and guilty by the inability to meet perfection.

Am I the only one?

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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  1. I can't say I can relate too much since my son doesn't start kindergarten until this year and I don't work…so I really don't know what it is like to not be with my kids.
    On the other hand, one thing I have found with my kids is that if you give them just 15-20 minutes of your time, they will usually feel free to play on their own for a while.
    If they are going to school already, then just let them know that they need to entertain themselves. Buy some new books, some sidewalk chalk, whatever…and tell them that for X amount of time they can't bother you unless someone is bleeding, unconscious or otherwise in immediate danger. Then sit outside while they are there and read a book and mumble the occasional "ya honey, i see that…great…."
    Then maybe make some lunch together or something.
    Again, I don't know what it is like to NOT be with my kids…though I do long for the days both of them are in school and I can have some time to pee without someone in there with me…
    🙂
    And for the record…I am totally sure you aren't alone. hugs

  2. I too don't feel like summer is a break, because i homeschool my 4 oldest kiddos and also have a 3yo and twin 10 month olds, so honestly, i think life would be harder if they DID go to school 😀 but having been through the baby thing 5 times already i've come to realize something- this time is PRICELESS, and while i'm so scared watching my twins grow up, knowing that i'll most likely never get to be a mama to babies again, i'm so sad but what i'm trying to keep in mind is that its ALL precious. I watch family videos of when my olders were little and think, HOW did i miss that? What i've come to realize is that there is NOTHING more precious in the world than really being present when my kiddos are growing up because it all happens so fast, which i know EVERYONE says, but it just recently "clicked" for me with these babies. Yes, it will be harder in some ways, yes there will be a LOT more mess, MY issue 🙂 but there will hopefully also be a lot of priceless bonding, bonding that your children will take with you as they get older and remember when they are adults parenting your grandchildren! Yes, set boundaries, have ABSOLUTE mommy time from 2-4 or whatever where you are NOT to be bothered, but if you invest your time in them, i'm convinced they won't let you down!!! (oh and i second the opinion that if you give them a little bit of focused time, a game, read a book, etc. they often get their cups filled sufficiently enough that they spend the majority of the rest of the day off playing 🙂
    Please know i'm not meaning this in a judgmental way, i just really wish i had this awareness several children ago. 🙂

  3. I'm so glad you brought up this topic because I thought I was the only one that can take my kids in small doses. I dread summers and school holidays. I always thought that this made me a bad mother. I so need my downtime and alone time. I think it is important to have "me" time and like you say it may be because we love our kids to much that we feel this overwhelming responsibility to be such good mothers and to keep them entertained all the time. Its nice to know I'm not the only mother who feels this way. Have you considered summer camp?

  4. I too am dreading the summer. I am a teacher and work full time. In six days I'll be home with my baby boy and I am sure my much relieved husband (who has been watching him full time) is anxious to have me take over most of the parenting. I am looking forward to the time with him, but at the same time scared I won't know what to DO with him or that I will make some fatal mistake with him.

  5. Heidi Howes says:

    I hear you completely! It is imperative that I have my time and I have had to learn this over the years the hard way. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves because we care so much!
    It seems to help to have a schedule and to map it all out every day so that they know the boundaries–and I have a hard time being consistent with those myself!– and I think summer camp is a great idea!
    I feel you on so many levels. Empowering myself with a plan and some education about ways to deal helps!
    Thank you for sharing this, for sure you've got a lot of mamas feeling the same way out here!

  6. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Three weeks of camp already set up.
    It's more just the idea of the responsiblity of being 100% in charge of every minute of the day and making sure they are entertained and happy at all times. Which I know, of course, is the wrong expectation to have for myself but sometimes I can't help it.
    Thanks for speaking up about this. I think there are lots of women who feel this way.

  7. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Chris,
    I am sure you and i both will be fine. It's just the anxiety of it all that makes it seem so darn scary! Damn this anxiety!!!

  8. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks Heidi! Glad to hear it's not just me!

  9. You are so not the only one. I swear I must have sensory issues because I, too, feel like it's all too much sometimes. Too much touching, too much talking, too much laughing, too much running…just TOO MUCH. I need space and I've always been very honest about needing solitude. Like you, you'd be hard pressed to meet anyone who doesn't know how much I adore my children but yeah, sometimes it's all just TOO MUCH. And not just during summer. I have to say that we usually do fall into a nice routine. Fun activities in the morning (pool, park, movie, etc.), quiet ones in the afternoon.

  10. I'm so glad you raised this issue, Katherine. And I'm so glad that your readers are loudly saying YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE! I hear this in my office day after day this time of year, and every single mom feels guilty that she feels this way. Time to ditch the expectations! Expectations that summer is nonstop, wonderful, cherished fun. Expectations that it's mom's job to perfectly engineer all the outings,breakfasts, crafts, swimming, camps, snacks, sunscreen, lunches, bug spray, moods, sibling fights, dinners, baths, tears, crankiness, and bedtimes–for 168 hours a week for ten weeks in a row. In blistering heat and humidity. No wonder moms are exhausted and overwhelmed! who wouldn't be?
    When my kids were small, rest/reading/nap/down time was required EVERY DAY in the summer. That was the single most important aspect to summer survival. The second aspect was ditching the idea that 110% of a child's happiness is MOM'S JOB. Kids need to learn to amuse themselves. The third aspect was that I planned activities that were fun for me, too. No hanging out at the park for endless hours if I hate the park.
    In fact, this is such a pervasive issue–and one we're still not very honest about–that I had already planned an episode of "The Sanity Hour" for June 7 (8-9 pm ET, toginet.com) to validate and problem-solve on this topic. Anyone care to chime in, join us on air to discuss? Please email me at ann@anndunnewold.com. Would love to hear from you all!

  11. First off I just wanted to say how much I love it when you write posts like this – about your personal experiences and how you ponder what you're going through. Love it!
    My little one isn't quite old enough to be involved in a lot of summer activities, and luckily, since my husband is a teacher, he's home for the summer to help when I'm not working.
    But…summer aside. Just in general…I struggle with this all the time. I love my quality time with my daughter, and I'm by nature a pretty social person. But, I am also someone who is VERY much in need of my space and my alone time.
    I get to the point where I've had it up to *here* and I just have to step back. I'll turn on the TV for her or go in another room or SOMETHING. Sometimes I just need to step away and be by myself. I struggle with – oh crap, she spent too much time watching shows today when I could have been working on her letters with her or doing puzzles, etc., but in the end – I think that stepping back and taking a breather and relieving myself of some of that pressure really makes me a better mom.

  12. Christina says:

    Are you the only one? Absolutely not. Oh, how I wish I could be one of those moms who planned crafts and museum trips for rainy days. Oh, how I wish I never felt overwhelmed and never needed help.Oh,how I wish I never needed time to myself. But I do. And I'm scared of summer too. I love( adore,practically venerate) my kids. But I need my me time. I'm just getting over my PPOCD( it's been about 6 months since it lifted) and I'm still struggling a little. I feel guilty ( and have been made to feel guilty by various people) that I just can't "cope" with doing everything I have to do sometimes. Everything being the baking, cleaning, cooking, packing lunches, doing taxes,various charities, work and school. HA! I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack. Ain't nobody perfect.

  13. Christina says:

    Totally. But we all mother in different ways. We have to set up the ideal circumstances for the best mothering we can give. For some of us, it's homeschooling etc…For others it's working outside the home. But in the end it's all work, no? If I was around my kids all day I would not be the best mother I can be.

  14. Heidi K. says:

    Despite the fact that my son is only 9 months old, I, too, can relate to your message. I work part-time, but am off for 7 weeks this summer. I love being with my son. I miss him when I am at work. I feel guilty and lonely when I drop him off at day care to go to work. I long for more time with him. Funny, though, when I get it, I get scared. I get overwhelmed. Often, I let him play alone on the floor while I watch TV or some other "zone-out" activity. (Thank God he's good at entertaining himself so far!)
    Your comment about "loving them SO much and feeling SO responsible for them" that it overwhelms you really struck a chord with me. I never had the exact right words to explain why one precious little 9 month old could send me into a tailspin. I know I love him, but I never knew how to explain why I get so anxious about falling short– or perceiving that I do. Thanks for giving me the words!
    I am in the midst of PPD/Anxiety…and the kicker is, I'm pregnant again– 17 weeks. My emotionas are ALL over the place. I have been wondering & worrying about summer since probably March.
    My decision to help us both survive and thrive is to hire one of our baby sitters to come over as a mother's helper a few days a week. She won't be here the whole day, but enough for me to get some rest, toss in a load of laundry or just enjoy the fun of being with my boy w/o out the "work" part (changing diapers, feeding, etc.) And if I get overwhelmed… off I go to get some space. Also, I have company during the day while my husband's at work.
    Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. It's reassuring to know that I'm not either.

  15. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ninotchka. I'm in good company!

  16. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    You're the best Ann. I had a feeling there were a lot of moms out there who feel this way, but then again since no one ever talks about it, I wondered whether I should post this or not. Thanks for the validation.

  17. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks Sera. I do a LOT of pondering.
    As far as TV goes, I don't feel bad when my kids watch it. I make sure they watch things that are safe and have some educational component. (They are big fans of PBS' Between the Lions and Nick Jr's Little Bear.) They're both extremely bright and good kids, so I don't think television has ruined them one bit.

  18. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I love your use of the phrase "practically venerate". Me too!
    I'm starting to get over the other people making me feel guilty thing. I'm getting to the point where I don't care what other people think. But I haven't gotten over the me making me feel guilty thing. I've got to stop that.

  19. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Great idea on the mother's helper. Way to take care of yourself! I love hearing that from my readers. Glad you're here!

  20. Ok, stop there. Just this comment, "the idea of the responsibility of being 100% in charge of every minute of the day and making sure they are entertained and happy at all times.", made me think that somewhere in your mind you are thinking you need to be supermom…
    You do NOT have to make sure they are entertained. If they are old enough for school, even preschool…then they need to entertain themselves.
    Happy all the time? Give me a break! LOL That is the the most gargantuan myth of motherhood I have ever encountered. They aren't going to be happy all the time. They are going to yell, and scream, and throw fits. They are going to want something they don't have, or don't want something they do. They are going to get injured or upset or otherwise 'not happy'.
    After going through my own episode of PPD with my son, I realized that no…he isn't going to be happy all the time and no…it isn't my fault or my responsibility.
    Pretend you are in a therapist session and evaluate exactly why you don't want your kids around. Ask yourself what you expect from them, what you expect from you…and be honest…and then think about what you CAN do and what they WILL do. Then act accordingly.
    I am not saying you need to spend the whole summer with your kids! I am not saying get over it…please don't take it that way! I am saying that it is easy to fall into the ways that society thinks mothers should be, even if we don't realize it.
    The things that I do to keep my sanity with my kids all day every day is I just let them be. They get dirty. They trash the house. They even fight with each other which I rarely intervene…I let them do it themselves.
    However, I am here for them if they really need me. If they stub a toe or cut a finger (amazing how accident prone my kids are…cutting fingers on…nothing…LOL) I am here to give a kiss and a hug and a boo-boo bandage.
    At some point we will watch a movie that we like together with the rule that they have to be quiet a watch. But other than that…they have run of the place.
    Yes, I live in a messy house…yes I have tons of laundry to do. But…I am not driving myself insane trying to keep things neat and clean and my kids entertained. Now and again I send the kids with the ILs so I can clean things up and put things away…but of course as soon as they are back, the toys are back in the floor and I have a pile of laundry to do.
    Like one of the above posters…one of the things I keep in mine when they are tearing up my house like a tornado is this…one day it will be clean and stay clean. And you know what? I will be sad. I will be sad because that is when they will no longer have time for me. They will have their own lives and I will be begging them for attention.
    As a Buddhist, one of the strongest ideas there are is the idea that everything is temporary. The summer is temporary. Their childhoods are temporary. This entire life is temporary. If you put all of the facets of your life in this perspective…it helps to cope. It won't make you happy all the time, you will still have to deal with taking care of kids…but sometimes it can make it a bit easier to deal with them. 😉

  21. dancerchica5416 says:

    My 22 month old son is in daycare fulltime because I'm a single parent and I have to work fulltime, but I feel this way on the weekends. Because I'm alone (other than limited help from my mom) I feel so much more overwhelmed when it's just me and my son at home. I feel like a bad mom because I do have to sit him in front of the TV (educational shows only) every once in awhile so I can take a breather, but for some reason it never occurred to me that maybe it was linked to my struggle with pre-pregnancy depression and PPD. Thank you for posting this entry because now I feel like my eyes have been opened to that possibility so now I can ask for help from my doctor! I kept trying to convince myself that I could do it since other moms do it everyday, but I'm so sick of feeling too tired, stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, and detached to spend time with my son. I feel like I'm going to look back at his young childhood with regret because I don't enjoy him the way that I should. Thank you again!

  22. Thank you for this! I feel so guilty that summer overwhelms me because I think I should be grateful for 1) being blessed with children and 2) having a job that gives me the summer off to be with them. It’s the introvert thing… Needing time alone to recharge. I only get it if they both nap.