92 Days of Summer

How a work-from-home mom finds kid-life balance during summer break

How a work-from-home mom finds kid-life balance during summer break

Mom and kids having fun in the summer
Summer parenting seemed easier when they were younger. The work-parent boundaries were obvious. We played more, worked less. Photo by Clyde Thompson

As I write this, it is day 34 of the summer holidays. If I were to score the days so far based on my ability to balance my family and work responsibilities, I’d say the game is at Dawn: 3, Summer: 31.

It usually takes me a couple of weeks, but eventually I get into the summer groove. More than a month in, I’m feeling a disabling case of imbalance. So far, my summer feels like a spin class: loud, sweaty, exhausting and frantic.

I can’t speak for full-time working moms. These are women who shop on Saturdays, prepare crock pot dinners at 6:30 am and wear bras to work. But their ability to check out in an air-conditioned office with nary a pubescent teen in sight sounds like Paris in springtime.

 So far, my summer feels like a spin class: loud, sweaty, exhausting and frantic.

I likewise can’t speak for stay-at-home moms. They have husbands who sometimes get up from the table and move directly to the couch. Seriously. Sit on the couch while their wives clean up the meal they’ve planned, shopped for and cooked. (I’d be serving 25-to-life given these circumstances.)

They pick up all the prescriptions and dry cleaning, they are required at every doctor appointment, they have to fill out every piece of paper thrown their way from schools and camps. They stay up in the middle of the night if someone is puking and meet every ridiculous “8 am to 1 pm window” home maintenance visit.

But to not have to conduct an interview for an article while mouthing Stephen King-caliber threats to your children sounds like a much more peaceful way to exist.

I won’t even begin to speak for single moms in any work situation. And teachers clearly have the whole situation brilliantly figured out.

I can speak for the part-time, work-from-home mom. My home office is a beautiful thing I wouldn’t trade nine months out of the year. I can take my kids to school (in my PJs if I want), pick them up in the afternoon, plan dinner, shop without crowds, have coffee with friends, go to yoga or spin class, and work during the seven hours the kids are at school.

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t realize how lucky I am.

The other three months — those “carefree” summer days — I feel like I have to do everything. Perfectly.

I am not really at work, so why can’t I spend the day running kids around? Why can’t we go to the pool or the movies? I have a job so why can’t I do a 2 pm conference call on a swim meet day? I can work at whatever hour of the day I choose, so, if my kids need me during the day, that may be 10 pm many nights.

Here’s what the first four days of this past week held for me: 

  • Three trips to DPS for Driving Teen’s driving test (which he finally passed after much drama and two pre-dawn trips to the Fort Worth office).
  • One six-hour volunteer stint at a swim meet in 100-degree temps. For the first four hours of that, the bar at the KayCee Pool was closed. Cruel and unusual.
  • Multiple daily trips taking kids to and from friends’ homes.
  • Multiple drives around town, practicing for the previously mentioned driving tests.
  • Birthday dinner for Driving Teen with family in Waxahachie (a dinner I was supposed to cook and forgot until an hour before we went; total mom fail).
  • Guitar lessons.
  • A three-hour chaperoning stint at NorthPark while New Teen and some friends saw a movie.
  • Doctor appointment for Driving Teen.

This does not include work, of which I theoretically do 15 to 20 hours a week. This does not include grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning up dog poop, answering calls and texts about who can go where, when, how and why not.

This does not include even a conversation with my husband. This does not include any of my volunteer responsibilities.

This does not include stomping-up-the-stairs fits about why New Teen can’t see World War Z or texts from Driving Teen about why I can’t meet him at Game Stop right now and buy him an M game and why, by the way, do I even care what video games he buys?

This does not include my being glued to the Wendy Davis filibuster and the Texas Senate until the wee hours of the morning or moving my laptop to the living room so I can better focus on CNN and Facebook the day DOMA died.

In one three-day period, I got 16 hours of sleep. My husband jokes that the only time I can do math is when I’m crawling into bed, figuring out how many hours until my alarm goes off. Let’s just say I was not on my A game after cumulatively missing an entire night’s sleep.

Then my husband came home from a business trip. I got eight hours of sleep — in one night. I went to a spin class with a friend. For 45 minutes, there were no calls. No texts. No requests by a child, editor or dog. When the music stopped, I got off the bike.

The analogy didn’t escape me. But getting off this summer-kid-work-balance bike is different.

When they were younger, their ages demanded I play more and work less. But the balance isn’t that easy now. They don’t come up to my desk, asking that I play dinosaurs with them. They want to go to the mall, requiring questions about the movie, the friends, the supervision, then deciding if all of that is a good idea for a 13-year-old.

They want to drive somewhere to hang out with friends, requiring questions about which friends, where, the supervision, then deciding if all of that is a good idea for a 16-year-old and mapping out a route so he isn’t tempted to look at his phone while driving.

So I get right back on that bike of summer imbalance. Because, though tired, frustrated and always at risk for busting a deadline and some PG-13 cussing, I realize one of my jobs has an expiration date — always coming at me faster than I think.