By Guest Writer Lane Faulkner
Here in Nashville, Tennessee, the signs of summer abound: the oppressive humidity has arrived early, and end-of-the-year pictures populate every inch of my newsfeed.
For some, I suppose the arrival of summer is much like Christmas – full of anticipation and joyful expectation. I know when I used to be a teacher I felt that way. Now that I am a self-employed Mompreneur, my perspective on this season has drastically shifted. With the kids out of school, my everyday hustle, grind, and repeat schedule looks more like a slow jog punctuated by multiple stops for side stitches and deep breathing.
I like our routine during the school year. It’s predictable and productive for all of us, and if I’m being honest, I am dreading the chaos that summer brings.
I’m going to say something that isn’t very popular: I don’t live for my children.
Whew…I said it. There it is, standing nakedly out there ready for the barrage of shame and criticism such a sentiment typically draws. I love my children dearly, and I have a uniquely special relationship with both of them. It’s just that I have relinquished the duties of being their sole daily social planner and entertainer. My entire existence is no longer to fill every minute of the day with fun and educational activities for them, and it definitely isn’t to ensure that they are occupied and happy every minute of the day.
Let’s be honest: we’ve all been there as parents, especially in the beginning. Our Pinterest dreams of craft times at the kitchen table came tumbling down after the first few attempts realizing that it takes a heck of a lot more work on our part to make the homemade Play-Doh with essential oils with the clean up than it’s worth, at least for the five minutes it entertains them.
For all the moms out there who are able to plan and execute daily educational excursions each day of the summer – serious props to you. I just can’t do it anymore, at least not without my sanity in tact. When I was growing up, parents didn’t have the expectations of being a social curator and coordinator; I entertained myself during the summers. I played outside in the backyard, rode bikes with the neighborhood kids, set out a lemonade stand, played with my toys in my room, and read books. I honestly think that’s how I developed into a self-sufficient teenager and adult because I was never reliant on other people to tell me what to do and how to do it.
I have Surrendered the mom guilt that comes with not living solely for my children’s entertainment. As a single mom who works from home, I simply cannot live up to those expectations anymore in terms of time or resources. But even more so, I’m relieved that I can’t because I want my kids to learn their own self-sufficiency. I don’t want them to rely on me or anyone else to manufacture their happiness. Does that mean I’m giving up walks to the park or outings to the bounce house? Of course not. Inflatable jump zones will always be a sacred haven for parents in the heat of the summer seeking air conditioning with the added bonus of burning childhood energy. What I have surrendered is defining myself or my worth as a mother by the number of activities and experiences I provide for them while they are at home.
If you are like me and feeling overwhelmed with summer’s onslaught of free and unstructured time, I urge you to Begin the Practice of Surrendering it.
Ask yourself: what’s beneath that feeling of being overwhelmed? Is it a sense of obligation, and if so, to whom? Whose expectations are you trying to meet, and – here’s the kicker – what would happen if you didn’t meet them? What would happen if we simply laid down our quest for parental perfectionism?
I can tell you from experience my children have a much more relaxed and grounded mother at peace with herself which I believe is the best gift I can give them.
Truly, all 8 Practices of Living Hope are born out of this. I can Surrender my ideals and expectations of perfection then embrace the Stillness that finally arrives once we let go of any notions that we can control anything but our own selves. Then, we open ourselves to Curiosity to determine why and how we ever thought we could control those expectations in the first place and get Honest about what bucket we’re really trying to fill with our busyness. Only then can we Forgive ourselves for thinking we could uphold some lofty and absurd standard to be the perfect parent and emerge Resilient and sure of who we are in our true identities as both people and parents. Once we are able to do that, practicing Joy is a natural by-product of living moment to moment in all of the organically-created moments with our families.
As we transition into summer, embrace not only the change in routine and season but also the opportunity to redefine your own parental identity by Surrendering that which brings you anxiety, dread, and the need for control. Lay it down and live in the moment. This is Living Hope.