Schedule-Free Summers Aren’t Realistic For Working Moms

Every year around this time, the Internet explodes with articles encouraging families to toss their virtual agendas and let kids enjoy a schedule-free summer. These posts wax on about how special it was to grow up in the eighties and nineties without the modern pressure we have to over-excel.

With babies enrolling in gymnastics classes as early as four-months-old, toddlers playing violin, and constant status updates from parents bragging about it all, it’s easy to see why some of us want to head back to a simpler time. However, while the sentiment is wonderful in theory, it’s a dream that is simply untenable and unrealistic for many working mothers—and if you’re a working mom, you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

I understand the allure of the schedule-free summer.

I was born in the mid-eighties and was a child of the nineties, so I remember those days fondly. My parents were not over-schedulers. They couldn’t afford to send my siblings and I to camp or to many activities, so we came up with our own fun. I have plenty of memories of long, lazy summer days running through sprinklers, eating ice pops, riding my bike, playing red light-green light, going swimming, and ending every day with a Nick at Nite marathon.

I understand the nostalgia and desire to replicate those memories for kids today. For the last couple of years, I have worked from home, so I’ve been able to make that our reality to some extent. However, a lot of families can’t, and there may even come a time when I am also in the office more and my family’s summer days will have more structure—and there’s nothing wrong that.

Why You Should Kick The Scheduled-Summer Guilt

While some working parents rely on family childcare, other families rely on daycare facilities and summer camps. Many career moms experience guilt worrying that their children may feel overworked, bored, and tired, or that they will lose out on crucial character-building opportunities without the independent play and free time they’d have in a less-structured environment.

But, here’s the thing: kids have fun like it is their job, and that’s because it is. That’s it. That’s what they do. Whether they are playing in the sandbox in a daycare classroom or building bird’s nests at an outdoor summer camp, they are still going to create fun, happy memories. They will still have time to play and rest and soak in those quintessential summer moments. That is the essence of childhood.

We look back on our youth with fondness not because our days were perfectly scheduled or perfectly unscheduled, but because we weren’t yet adults. We didn’t yet bear the burden of the world on our backs—and that’s true whether your kid spends her days in camp or on the couch.

You are not stealing their summer.

Just as you aren’t robbing your children of a childhood throughout the rest of the year, you are not robbing them of a childhood during the summer months. They will still get to be kids—they may even have more fun than if they were to be home all day looking for a new activity. Additionally, having a routine might be sanity-saving for you as well—and that’s important.

You will still enjoy those perfect summer moments.

If you’re still pining for the schedule-free summer, think of it this way: you will likely spend evenings and weekends with your kids, and honestly, is there anything more magical than a summer bonfire or watching the sunset on the beach? Is there anything more quintessentially summer than spending a whole Saturday in the pool, or walking to the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee, or spending a Sunday on the lake? You will still have those summer moments even if they don’t comprise your entire summer agenda.

Finally, you are working hard for your family.

You are giving your family your best when you are at home and when you are at work. Believe in the fact that you know what is best for your family—schedules and all.