Working Moms’ Summer

    Summer is hard for working moms. Oh, not for the reasons we tell you—that summer childcare eats up our entire take-home pay, that scheduling summer camps and activities to fill up our nine-to-five-plus days takes familiarity with Excel and many, many late nights. That’s true, but we budget all year for the summer financial hit; we’ve got file drawers full of camp brochures and our on-line calendars programmed to remind us of registration deadlines. By June we’ve paid the bills, we’ve printed out the spreadsheets and plastered them on our kitchen walls, and we’re way past all that.
    So that’s not why it’s hard.
    It’s hard because in the summer we constantly run into SAHMs. We see them hopping into their SUV’s with their tennis rackets. We see them riding their bikes with kids along side or onboard. We see them picking up coffee as they head off to walk the Stanford Dish, wearing their sunglasses and sun visors. And we see them sitting by the country club pool drinking ice tea looking amazingly cool in their casual yet fashionable coverups as we rush, sweating, from the parking lot to the day camp pickup knowing we are seriously late. Yes, we’re grateful the camp takes the children of non-members, it’s a good camp, but we wish it had a back door.
    And when we see them, they smile cheerfully and ask us, “How’s your summer going?” And we can’t answer. We can’t be honest, and say, “Summer is hell and I’ve never been so tired in my life.” We can’t lie and say, ‘Oh, great, it’s just so relaxing.” And we really don’t want to punt and ask them about their summers; we just don’t want to hear it. So we mumble about being late, which we usually are, and move past quickly.
    Sure, intellectually, we know their lives have their own challenges. We know that they are sitting by the pool because they don’t trust the teenage lifeguard and they’re afraid the swim teacher might drown their kids; that keeping bored kids happy on long summer days can be draining. We know that their lives aren’t always ice-tea-by-the pool, and that when their kids were younger getting through the day felt like running a marathon. We know that in our heads, but deep in our hearts, we are sure that their lives are easier.
    In the winter, we don’t mind so much . We wave to them at school dropoff as we go off to work and they go off to, well, whatever it is they go off to. We know they aren’t watching soap operas and eating bonbons all day; we know they are volunteering in the classroom and running the PTA auction and doing all the other things that keep our communities running. And when we see them drinking coffee at Starbucks they’ve got their day planners and their computers and are figuring out how to bump the school fundraising numbers up 10 percent this year, and we can honestly wish them well. Meanwhile we dress up like grown-ups and go off to our reasonably interesting jobs, which we mostly like, and collect our paychecks that help pay the mortgage, which we really like. And if we’re lucky, we take the occasional business trip and order room service and, sometimes, even get to lie by a pool for an hour or two and drink ice tea.
    In the spring, we don’t mind. We’re giddy with the warm weather and the flowers blooming and take the long way back from lunch so we can walk past the nicest gardens. We’ve got an endorphin buzz from the return of the sun, and an adrenaline buzz from trying to fit in all the spring sports and school activities without getting behind at work.
    But in the summer, we mind. We mind a lot. Years of school vacations conditioned us—summer is not a time for work. Summer is the time for hanging out with friends, the time for the pool, the beach, the tennis courts. We take a few weeks off, but it’s not enough. We get pedicures so at least our feet look rested, splash on a bottle tan so we don’t look like ghosts, occasionally spritz our hair with surf-spray for that just-got-out-of-the-ocean look, and dump on sunlotion for the beachy smell. And on those rare days that we’re early for the camp pickup and have a moment to sit outside, we fool ourselves into thinking we actually are having a summer.
    Until, that is, a well-rested SAHM with a real tan and no bags under her eyes asks us how it’s going, not realizing she’s entering dangerous territory. For one day, we may blow; we may tell the truth, and it won’t be pretty.
    So in the interest of keeping down the carnage of the Mommy Wars, treat your local working moms with care this summer.
    (And now I press the post button, knowing that I may be about to become cannon fodder…)

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