Why Summer Is a Major Source of Anxiety for Most American Moms

If you're a mom who's stressed out about what to do with her kids over summer "vacation," you are not alone. In fact, a new report from the New York Times points out that summer vacation is becoming a burden for many American families, and for others, something they simply can no longer afford.

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If you're like me, your Facebook feed is likely crammed with mom essays that advocate taking the carefree '70s summer attitude -- just let the kids have lazy unplanned days that roll one into the next! Warm summer days where everyone runs around the neighborhood barefoot and eats Popsicles in the sprinklers. Sounds lovely, right?

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Then there are the parents who tend more toward making the most of those several weeks off, planning camps, clinics, vacations, and activities to keep the learning going and add a little stimulation. The "over-schedulers," if you will.

And then there's everyone else. A LOT of everyone elses.

That's because both of those summer scenarios assume there's either one parent at home or plenty of disposable income to spend what the New York Times reported was an average of about $1,000 per family in 2015 to keep the kiddos occupied while school's out of sesh. That's a lot of cash for most families, and that's just an average.

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But the reality is far trickier. More moms are working; in fact, Pew says 40 percent of households with kids have a mom who is the primary breadwinner in the family. And, as the Times reports, only about a quarter of American households have one parent who stays at home. So the '70s idea of a chain-smoking, Tab-swilling, sun-tanning mom who is available but completely uninterested is, in fact, a luxury most of our kids will never know.

Couple that with the statistic that half -- 48 percent -- of American people are considered "poor" or "low income" and tell me about the reality of a summer "vacation."

What exactly are families supposed to do to get through the summer? Some rely on older siblings to take care of the younger kids. Other kids are spending those weeks at home, alone. And as a result, they lose academic skills and start school the next academic year behind. Summer vacation has turned into a "lose-lose" proposition all the way around.

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For a mom like me, I've been able to figure out a way to do it all from home. I work as a writer from home; I try to keep my daughter occupied in the mornings while I work, and in the afternoons we go to a health club where she can play and swim. I'm lucky I don't have to pay for childcare, but I realize even our health club membership, which offers me a couple hours a day of fun for my daughter, is a luxury most families can't afford. And still, it's not ideal for my 5-year-old to spend so much time watching TV in her underpants and eating cereal, but she knows, Mama's gotta work. And I'm hardly alone.

We need to close the pay gap and give that 40 percent of families with moms who bring home the bacon a raise. Boom. We could do that tomorrow. We also need to invest in more low-cost, high-quality childcare options so that families can actually make money by going to work, rather than just working to pay for childcare.

But most importantly, for those of us who are stressed out debating whether sleep-away camp or a family vacation is the financial burden we can (barely) make, remember there are millions of families all across the country who aren't making it. Kids who have nothing to do and nowhere to go over the summer "vacation" because Mom and Dad have to go to work. Remember them and look for ways to help.

Because summer should be a fun time for families to be together and create memories. Kids should have long stretches of warm days to while away with their parents relaxed and available to join in on the fun. It's more than an American tradition -- it's one of the things that makes life beautiful. And summer vacation is something every American family deserves to have within reach.

 

 

 Image via Danielle York/Flickr

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