When summer rolls around and college kids come home, all bets are off. Well, for single mothers who work from a home office, and suddenly find themselves thrust back to days that resemble having high schoolers in some respects, and house guests in others.
Then there’s the complicating factor of one’s social life (if you have one) and the ways in which the usual relationship give-and-take gets bruised or battered when kids are around all the time.
They’re no longer little. And I love love love when my college student flies in… Insert big smile here… and I love love love it even more when he’s here for longer than a quick visit. But there’s no question that the rhythm of the household changes.
Little Kids and Summertime
When my kids were still in elementary school — and I was a single mom with a third grader and a fifth grader — I was desperate for summertime to feel as “normal” to them as possible, and I was scrambling and scrimping to see what I could afford. I tried my hardest to accommodate their usual day camp for a period of time (so I could work), and a neighbor helped now and then with evening jaunts to the community pool.
Looking back, the logistics were tricky, emotions were still raw, and I can see that I jumped through hoops trying to maintain a crazy schedule and keep to an old routine.
As time went on, and we found we had to move, our routines during every season had to be tweaked. And summer was no exception.
Teenagers and Summertime
By the time you’re dealing with teenagers (and those pesky 13 and 14-year-old moods), anything that helps get you through — especially if you’re raising kids solo — seems like a small price to pay!
And of course, most of us are worried about where they are (when they’re out of sight), and the all too accessible temptations of sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. (Care to see my worry lines? Think any parent is immune?) Sometimes I think that all parents are bound to hold their breath for three to five years, and hope everyone gets through unscathed.
Our middle school years in the summertime?
Each of my children attended some academically-oriented activities — hello, credit card debt — but anything else was out of the question. Beyond those periods, they hung out, they read, they played video games inside; they walked to the community pool; they invited friends over.
By the time our teenagers hit 17 and 18, fortunately they seem to be our kids again! The pouting and petulance of the preceding years has given way to behavior and language we recognize.
Maybe they’ve managed to nab some sort of job. Maybe they haven’t, so they’re hanging around. Maybe they’re in an SAT Prep class or Driver’s Ed. Maybe they’re helping out, even as we count our pennies.
By the time my kids were Juniors and Seniors in high school, while I won’t say they didn’t give me cause to worry, they were looking to enjoy the summer (especially at night), they were taking my car keys (to go hang with friends), and they were focused on getting into college or getting ready to fly the nest.
As for that nest — as I am often on a workload roller coaster (when it rains, it pours), I was grateful for their incredible ability to not interrupt as our home is my workplace.
When College Kids Come Home
When any single parent gets involved with a new partner, if the relationship isn’t casual, you want your kids to like who you’re with. You want your new love interest to like your kids. And if you’re living together, things get interesting in the summertime.
Suddenly, everything shifts. A student returns home, and understandably, expects the old rhythm. Likewise, a parent’s attention, at least to the degree that such attention used to exist.
In my case, once again, I am very lucky. Both my sons are observant and thoughtful, and my younger, in this little tale, clearly illustrates his inherent capacity for consideration. Adding to my good fortune, neither of my boys are especially noisy, and when they come home they’re extremely solicitous of the entire household.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss my sons, so when even one returns for a few months, I’m delighted to have his presence. And given that I work so many hours (and there’s only so much of me to go around), it’s hard when I feel the conflict of wanting to spend time with my child and spend time with my guy.
This is one of those situations when I think cloning might be perfectly appropriate! Might there not be two of me — or possibly three — one to make money, one to enjoy summer with my guy, and the other to delight in a rare period with my younger son?
My significant other wants my attention — reasonable, no? — particularly because he has nearly three months off. That in itself, since I have no time off, poses challenges every summer.
As far as my son is concerned, although he’s hoping to work over the next few months, then he’ll fly back to school with one more year to go. Whatever quiet moments we have together to talk are, to me, extremely precious.
So how do I carve out more time? More “me” for the men in my life?
How does any single mother manage the juggle that invariably comes in summertime, if she must work (for economic reasons), but her kids or others she loves are around, and they want her to participate?
Ideas, please… Or suggestions on cloning…
Twofer? (First World Problems)
As I was writing this, my younger son and my Man Friend walked through the front door at the same time. My kid was out running errands with my car; my guy was arriving home after a long commute and his usual workday.
Oddly, seeing both walk up to the house as I glanced out the window — two of the three men I love in the world — I felt immensely grateful, without a particle of conflict in sight.
No one promises “easy” in life. Not in the tough times and not in the good, either. Whether we’re married or co-parenting amicably, or we’re solo parenting with special challenges, we still have struggles, compromises, and juggling to deal with. If we’re fortunate, our struggles are opportunities and we rise to the occasion.
As for conflicts over paying attention to two men I love?
I’m a lucky woman to note that this is my summertime challenge, don’t you think?