Summer Anxiety: One Mom’s Pep Talk

School is officially finished this week, and I know I’m supposed to feel really excited for summer break.

All the free time! Fun in the sun! Friends! An open schedule that is ours to fill however we please!

But if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not really feeling it yet.

Summer Anxiety: One Mom's Pep TalkMaybe it’s because we’ve all spent the past year Very Much Together, with quarantines and closures and pandemic disruptions. All that together time came with inevitable highs and lows, and I know we’re still figuring out where exactly our new normal lies. I’m personally feeling a little rusty on the re-acclimation process that goes along with stepping back into a mostly maskless, no longer restricted society.

Maybe it’s because I often feel completely overwhelmed with the volume and variety of summer fun options available.

Don’t get me wrong: this is an amazing problem to have! You Eastern Iowa folks take your summer fun seriously! I’m really grateful for all the organizations that offer ridiculously good summer programming for kids of all ages, from swimming and STEAM to reading and recreation. There are so many excellent choices, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start – especially if your kids are (like mine) still in the exploratory stages of figuring out what they like to do.

Maybe it’s because sometimes I have a hard time finding the balance in our schedule on any given day, so finding that balance across an entire summer season seems daunting.

The line between “just right” and “overcommitted” seems paper-thin some weeks and is highly variable based on professional workload, budget constraints, seasonal energy, and many more factors – all of which can and will change on a dime.

Trusty ol’ Google and her best friend WebMD tell me I’m not alone in feeling like this. Summer anxiety is a real thing, and from the sounds of it, lots of us suffer from it. Contributing factors can be as widespread as issues with body image (Quarantine 15, anyone?) to lack of reliable childcare options to not dealing well with the sizzling heat and humidity of Iowa summers.

So here’s me, giving myself – and you, my fellow anxious mom – a three-point summertime pep talk.

These are the mantras I’ll be repeating as I navigate all that Summer 2021 has to offer.

1. More isn’t necessarily better.

I’m intentionally leaving some breathing room in our family schedule this summer, because I know we all need it – myself included. I’ve learned we do better when we don’t pack our schedule to the brim with activities and commitments, even if they’re really good things to be busy with. Added bonus: by figuring in a few gaps, we’re more able to say “yes” to spontaneous opportunities that pop up over the summer, too.

2. Break it down.

Here’s where you channel your inner project manager and reframe the task at hand. Try not to think of it as 12 weeks of summer break. Instead, frame the summer in shorter, more bite-size segments of time wherever you can. For our family, planning two weeks out feels manageable – anything closer seems to sneak up on us, and anything further out is just too fuzzy. Two weeks is our sweet spot. Breaking down summer schedules into manageable portions keeps the overwhelm from settling in. It also counteracts arriving in mid-August with an exasperated, ‘What?! But where did the summer go?!’

3. Don’t go it alone.

Chances are good that you already have a mom friend who feels the same seasonal anxiety that you do. Find her and support each other whenever you can. Have a good idea for a close-to-home day trip? Pick a date when you can go there together. Want to work out a way to swap kids for an afternoon so you each get a little break? Start the conversation and compare calendars. Pairing up with a compatible buddy always feels like a win-win.

Let’s face it: no season comes with more pressure to “make the most of it” than summer.

But this week, when that final school bell rings and this uniquely challenging school year comes to a close, I’ll take a big, deep breath and remind myself that just making the best of summer is good enough for me.

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