Eleven days until the kiddos go back to school. E-lev-en. Almost there... almost to the end. In the home stretch. Steady as she goes. And of those eleven, today is the real watershed moment. Today is the final "in the office day" cranking through tasks before we head out on family vacation. (Insert "Holiday Road" melody courtesy of National Lampoon.) Today is the last office day of this Summer's "Hell Days." These are the hellish days you see on the calendar every year between school dismissal and day camp start, then between day camp end and school return. There are usually a few peppered in the middle of Summer somewhere too. But these long blocks of days, "these are the times that try men's souls." And women's. Even if you don't have kids, trust me, it's a stress bomb rippling through facets of your life too.
"Hell Days" know no time zone, school district, or part of the country. It doesn't matter if your school lets out in May or June. Rest assured, it will conveniently fall 1-2 weeks before your town or local Y can ramp up enough college kids to watch your kids while not texting their own friends their drinking plans for the night. Provided my own sons are safe, I don't begrudge them their good time. In truth, I'm jealously nostalgic about it. I just wish they'd assemble a little earlier. Then, regardless of what college these counselors all attend, the day care option will slam shut 2 weeks before you can safely drop your newly-backpacked kid at the school's door. In all good conscience, you know you can't send them to the school bus stop with lawn chairs and tents to camp out for days like American Idol tryouts. (Sigh) If only.
For working parents, it's more than a basic cost issue, though that is a factor. Beyond hiring and paying for some short-term childcare (assuming you don't have 4+weeks of vacation time), there's the air-traffic control job of knowing who's where, with whom, until what time, with how much spending money. My husband works from home for the most part, so the main juggle falls on him. I know I've got a good thing going there. I delude myself that he is just hyper-happy to see me for the sake of me at the end of the day... as opposed to thrilled to be able to retreat to his office without 50 gillion interruptions of, "Can I/Can we/When are we/ Why can't we? etc etc etc" We save on a babysitter, but he's paying his proofreader through the nose.
I used to think this was only a gripe of working moms, until I started Facebook and saw stay at home moms complaining about trying to entertain way-bored kids for these two week clips. You can only do so many arts and crafts projects at your table, spend so many hours at the community pool it seems before insanity sets in. I get that. I can barely get through Easter egg dying or pumpkin carving without ER visits. Looks like one more area in the mom-debates in which the grass that always seemed greener is now coming into true focus. You want your kids out of your house just as badly as I do.
I said above this affects all, whether you have kids or not. I really feel for anyone working with the general public during his or her region's Hell Days. Imagine the throngs of frazzled moms, bored kids, and dads just internally begging for a cell phone call without screaming in the background. We can't be the easiest consumers to serve. It's just got to suck for you all. I'm sorry. We're just stretched to the ends of our ropes. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Old Navy and Staples sales tell me so daily.
So now, instead of standing around with my kids texting their buddies for drinking plans, all the college students have returned "to classes" (cough, cough) -- to discuss those plans in person. While they've flown off like swallows to San Juan Capistrano, we're dealing with a 10 and a 12 year old crawling the walls expecting constant stimulation and our respective sets of clients expecting their work. Ya know, the work for which we get paid, to afford the constant stimulation? And so, the vicious cycle rolls on.
Lest you think I will do anything to avoid spending quality time with my kids, Sunday starts vacation. I'll go on record now that as two self-employed parents, our vacation does come with iPhones and laptops. WiFi is as much a resort consideration as on-site dining. But, I'm determined to make lasting memories for Son1 & Son2 next week, and focus more on the "mom" part of "working mom." I'm looking forward to some time away and adore VA where we're heading. We'll toast each other to celebrate the end of Summer reading assignments, enjoy the fleeting weeks of late evening sunlight, and rest up for the impending school projects knowing we have made it through another year of childcare-free Hell Days. And if we barely keep our grip on sanity during vacation with our rambunctious two-some... well, I am happy to report VA has a bustling region of wineries.