The school year has finally ended in my neck of the woods, bringing a close to the endless morning carpools, lunch-packing, extracurricular activities, and homework projects that dominated our school year. But like most parents, I’ve barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief — because the onslaught of playdates, camping trips, and other “enriching” summer activities have already begun. Because of course, we should keep our kids busy all the damn time, even during summer vacation. That’s what modern parenting is all about, right?
Just ask Kristen Hewitt, aka the blogger behind Mommy in Sports and two-time Emmy Award-winning television reporter and producer for Fox Sports Sun and Miami HEAT. Hewitt knows a lot about being busy and staying on task under pressure. So when this summer hit and her kids were finally out of school, she had big ideas about making sure they stayed busy and entertained all summer long, with activities that would exercise both their minds and bodies.
“I had big plans to be a ‘good mom’ this summer,” she wrote in a Facebook post that’s since gone viral. “There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week. Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day.”
Sound familiar? That’s probably because we’ve all fallen victim to over-scheduling our kids (and ourselves), in a quest to be “good parents.”
But here’s the thing — once Day 1 of summer actually rolled around, Hewitt admits her best laid plans flew right out the window. And to her surprise, it felt pretty freeing.
“Here’s what we did instead,” she continues, before listing off a slew of unplanned — but totally enjoyable — activities with her girls. “[We] lounged in our PJ’s until 11 AM, baked the girl’s pick — chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.”
And that’s when it hit her: In reality, she was tired of the chore charts and the schedules and all the many places to be. But above all, she was tired of pressure and the “unrealistic expectations” she was putting on herself.
“So instead of a schedule we’re doing nothing this summer,” Hewitt declares in her post. “Literally NOTHING. No camps. No classes and no curriculums. It’s so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let’s be real — we’re all tired.”
“During the school year, it felt like we were moving in a million different directions,” Hewitt tells Babble. “There was school and all the papers, fundraisers and events that go with it, PTA meetings (yes I’m THAT mom), work, First Holy Communion classes, dance, and don’t forget my job with Fox Sports and my husband traveling like crazy.”
It’s no wonder she was starting to feel exhausted.
“Just managing school pickups, the nanny when I needed her, meals, laundry, pets, and doctor and dentist appointments required a color-coded calendar to be in my possession at all times!” she tells Babble.
And this is exactly the kind of pressure we’re supposed to be getting away from with a coveted summer vacation to begin with, right? For Hewitt and so many other moms out there, summer often means more of the same stress. But it doesn’t have to.
“My friends were telling me about all of their STEM, coding, and surf camps I felt like a total failure,” she admits. “I knew there was no way I could keep up this pace, so I said screw it. Even the sun needs downtime. So we’re doing nothing.”
It was this very a-ha moment that inspired Hewitt’s now viral Facebook post, in which she declares a summer of actual peace and relaxation.
“Instead, we’re going to see where each day takes us,” she explains in her post. “I’ve dubbed this the ‘Summer of Me,’ so workouts and clean-eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what THEY want to do. We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do — it will be low key … So if you haven’t figured out what you’re doing this summer, you’re not alone. And guess what? It’s OK! Your kids will be fine and so will you.”
And as for hearing the inevitable complaints of “Mom, I’m bored!” coming from her kids, Hewitt has this to say: “My kids were bored the second day of summer, but that’s a good thing in my opinion! They can learn to entertain themselves, that’s what I did as a kid.”
And she’s totally right — boredom is good for kids, it sparks creativity and encourages imagination. Besides, Hewitt explains, “They have TV, iPads, a Wii, a new puppy, and tons of toys. If they get bored, then they can clean the litter box!”
All in all, her main goal for Summer ’17 is for her kids to chill out. “I just want our children to sleep in and just be kids,” she says. “No pressure or standardized testing. No having to rush to be somewhere. I want them to have fun, get dirty, run around barefoot, learn how to crack an egg, bake muffins, and ride their bikes.”
I honestly couldn’t agree more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ton of summer plans to cancel …