Working mother's guilt: How my kids and I spend our summer vacations

Working mom’s guilt has always had a tremendous hold over me and never more so than during the summer. If you work full-time outside the home, I know you know what I mean.

Like most people my age - I attended yet another “geezerpalooza” party last weekend to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday - I spent summers blissfully at home. I logged a lot of hours “playing out” with friends until it got dark and riding my bike around the neighborhood. “I’m going to Betsy’s house,” I’d holler on my way out the door. Or Judy’s or Monique’s and off I’d go.

To be sure, it got boring toward the end of August, but I loved summer and wanted the same experience for my kids, Emma and Noah. If only my job didn’t get in the way.

My husband and I compensated by juggling our work schedules like crazy to allow the kids as much time at home as possible. I’d make elaborate schedules, plotting out day-by-day and hour-by-hour just how long my kids would be able to be at home with Gerry or me.

Here was a typical week: My husband or I would be at home at least two days. One of us would take a vacation day, and I worked on Sunday nights and was home on Fridays. (We both worked at The San Diego Union-Tribune and had amazingly understanding bosses.)

Those days were open for fun excursions, especially trips to the beach or community pool with other families. But mostly they were spent at home, time for the kids to “play out,” although I kept a closer eye on them than my mom did back in the day.

That left us with three days when Gerry and I had to work, so we juggled some more. One of us would head to work at 7 a.m. and the other would stay home with the kids until 10:30. That’s when Diane, our babysitter and lifesaver, would arrive. She’d stay with the kids until the “early” parent got home at 3. Diane was great about having our kids invite friends over, shuttling them to swim lessons or driving them over to someone else’s house.

And of course, we’d carve out time for a family vacation, and Emma and Noah spent time with friends at day camps and a great enrichment summer school called Gateways.

Last summer, we let them stay home alone for part of their three days. They both played water polo in the morning and Emma worked out with her swim team in the afternoon, so lounging around the house during the middle of the day was just what they wanted.

This summer will be a marked departure for our family. I’m working from home, so Gerry and I won’t need to juggle our schedules. Of course, I’ll still be writing lots of stories for Such A Smart Mom, but the thought of not having to fiddle with our work schedules to give our kids plenty of time at home has had me smiling for weeks.

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