Guys, I have to be honest. Apologies in advance if I offend anyone.
I hate summer break. There, I said it.
Now, just to inoculate myself from the outrage of the Internet, I’m NOT saying I don’t enjoy spending time with my kids. I’m NOT saying my work is more important than my family. I’m NOT saying our children and teachers don’t deserve some rest from the rigors of school. I am saying that a mandatory 10-week break in the middle of the year (this year it’s closer to 12!) is not a good thing for our family.
I really didn’t want to sit down and write a rant, but if I’m being honest, I’m crabby. My whole family is crabby. Our kids have been out of school for about three weeks now, and it’s been rough. There has been fighting. Insults have been hurled. There has been literal blood, sweat, and tears.
I have a feeling I’m not alone in my dread of summer vacation; while our culture paints this break as an idyllic time filled with afternoons at the pool, long family vacations, and plenty of R&R, the reality, however, is much more complicated. For many families, including my own, summer break actually leads to less rest and more stress.
My husband and I are very lucky. We’re fortunate enough to work from home and have flexible schedules. But working from home doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work. Just because our “office” is located in our house doesn’t mean we are able to go without childcare. Our productivity drops dramatically during summer, and less productivity means less profitability for our business, which means less income for our family, which leads to, you guessed it: stress.
Interestingly enough, our kids aren’t big fans of summer break either. After about two weeks they start to miss their friends and teachers. My kids need to be engaged; they actually enjoy the routine that the school year offers. While we’ve done our best to schedule camps and other activities as often as we can, nothing short of all-day, every day programs would help. These types of programming usually aren’t long-term and can be expensive.
How bored are my kids? The other day my teenager begged me to let him run to the store for some groceries.
“Do we need anything? Anything at all? I could walk to the store and get something…I just need to get out of the house.”
The following is a direct quote from my 10-year-old son:
“Ever since school ended I’ve felt like Rapunzel in the movie ‘Tangled.’ I feel like I’m in that tower, you know? I feel trapped and sort of lonely. I miss being in school.”
Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. My boys aren’t that far off the mark; studies have shown summer break can be detrimental to a child’s health and academic achievement. These issues impact low-income kids in a much more profound way. Frankly, the entire notion of summer break is elitist: it operates under the assumption that there is a parent at home waiting to take care of the kids for two months. Or, that families can afford weeks of expensive summer camps and long vacations.
Now, to be fair, I know that there are definitely merits to summer vacation. I can absolutely see why some families love it. Many schools are still not air-conditioned (including my kids’ school in the Iowa City School District), and teaching and learning can’t happen in an oppressively hot environment. Summer can be a wonderful time for teenagers to get a job and start saving money (my oldest has a short internship later this summer and is earning money babysitting his little brother in the afternoons). Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either; studies have indicated it can lead to greater creativity and problem-solving skills. As much as I love the idea of year-round school, it isn’t a perfect solution to the childcare problem. And it’s really nice to not have to get up and rush out the door in the morning. The fact that our kids can sleep in gives us more time to spend time together in the evening.
Sometimes I do wish I could enjoy regular, lazy afternoons at the pool. I think about all the fun day trips I’d like to take with our kids. When I have days off, we spend time creating these types of fun family memories.
But even if I didn’t have to work, I still don’t think I would enjoy so much time off.
What do you think? Do you think summer vacation is blissful or stressful?