July 8, 2013

The Summer Series - Elena Sonnino

As my Summer Series nears the halfway point, I am in awe of the amazing women I am lucky enough to call friends. Each week, as I look ahead at who will be joining me here next, I get so incredibly excited. This week is no exception.

Elena Sonnino is a freelance writer, strategist, traveler, runner, cancer survivor and chaser of dreams. She is passionate about fostering self sufficiency and inspiring others by sharing travel, running and social good stories. She believes in empowering tweens to become develop global citizenship. Elena inspires others to make every moment matter through travel, fitness and social good at LiveDoGrow.com

The day before I received Elena's draft, I had been "evaluating" our summer so far, and feeling as if I have failed my child in many ways. I could so relate to what she is sharing here today. And I have a feeling I am not alone...

Confessions of a Mom who Failed Summer Vacation

The tears and crumpled chin said it all... ultimate boredom and frustration had set in.

"I am an only child. You have to work every day. We never have time to do anything."

While there may be a hint of exaggeration in the "we never have time to do anything" claim... my tween daughter is not wrong. Opting for a camp free summer, we made a choice this year. Early morning swim team practice would be our camp like daily activity, followed by work time each day structured with a learning contract and the occasional mother daughter adventures.

Except that as a freelance writer and social media "person" trying to make a go of this "life"... the one more minutes turn into hours and all of a sudden you realize that a day... or lets be honest, a week has passed without any of the promised mother daughter adventures.

Sure... we rode our bikes to get frozen yogurt... once. And sure, we rode our bikes to the pool in the afternoon... also once. And yes, we have a mother daughter trip planned to New York City to see the United Nations and the newly opened Statue of Liberty.... but in the end... the days are long and lonely.

An eight (almost nine) year old can only entertain herself for so long each day. Add in the fact that said eight year old really doesn't have that many friends (just like her mom) to have play-dates with and the situation becomes even more bleak.

A situation that is our reality.

Our summer routine has become predictable. Swim team, shower, snack, followed by morning work for both my daughter and I. Lunch in front of the television for my daughter while I am still working, followed by afternoon work for both of us...and maybe just maybe, and afternoon mother daughter activity like playing a game or riding our bikes.

Except that at some point you start to question what you are doing. I am a freelance writer and blogger.... does it really matter if I write each day and post to my blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Google + each day? 20 years from now, when my tween is an adult, post college, maybe starting her own family...is she going to remember that I spent hours each week volunteering for her swim team so that she could swim or is she going to remember me closing the door to my office each morning and afternoon?

It used to be different... when I was still teaching during the school year and blogged just for fun. Nature walks at the park, trips to the museums in Washington DC, day trips to local attractions. But now that I work from home? Somehow it has all changed. Somehow the feeling of needing to be doing weighs on me.

Working from home enables me to be a classroom volunteer during the school year. It enables me to go meet my tween for lunch at school on occasion or go to class parties or events. My working from home means that I am here when the bus drops off each day... but in the summer? Working from home is an entirely different ball game. One that I feel like I have failed. Badly.

I have tried telling myself that I am doing what I can. We took an afternoon and went to visit our member of Congress so that my tween could share why she wishes he would vote to fund global vaccination and immunization programs in developing countries to give children everywhere a Shot@Life. I could tell myself that we took time for additional swim lessons to help my tween become a stronger more confident swimmer and that I spent time each week developing learning contracts and mother daughter writers workshop sessions that would foster a love of writing in a child who up to this point has thought of writing as the ultimate evil. I could tell myself that our time outdoors playing games, reading or riding our bikes... was enough. But when I see her face and hear her frustration, I know that I have failed.

Not on purpose mind you. I thought that a summer without summer camp would be ok. After all, swim team plus a few days in New York City with me, a week at the beach with her dad and two weeks in August with her grandparents.... that would be enough to keep things interesting. And maybe it could have been enough... had I made choices to put time with my daughter first.

But I didn't. The sense of needing to meet my goals and make my life as freelance writer working from home sustainable took precedence. The "one more minute" request became my routine... and here we are, mid way through summer vacation.

There may not be anything I can do to "salvage' my tween daughter's summer vacation...but at some point the realization hits you. The question bubbles to the surface, weighing on you. Is it all worth it?

There is no right or wrong answer of course. Or maybe there is. For now, I can only move forward trying to live each day, making choices and setting priorities. No one every promised that life would be easy. And in the end, I want my daughter to remember that I tried my best to do what I can...to be a mom, but also to show her that chasing your dream actually meant something.

Hopefully she will remember. Maybe she won't. Either way, I will feel guilty.

Either way, I will feel like I did not do enough.

Thank you for your candid confession, Elena. I think it is the curse of motherhood that no matter what we do, we never feel it is enough. Down every path, whether chosen or taken out of necessity, there is guilt. And we beat ourselves up like nobody else could. 

Check out these other great Summer Series posts:
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