Wednesday, July 11, 2012


When you think about it, freedom is the theme song to summer.

No more pencils, no more books and all that kind of thing. If you're a kid it means not having to get up early and complete the daily slog of breakfast, school, homework, dinner, bedtime.

If you're an adult, summer might signal the start of days where cubicles and offices are empty and the halls feel oddly vacant. Someone is always on vacation and if you're lucky, it's you.

For parents who stay at home the trend toward freedom is upside down. Instead of days of solitude followed by busy afternoons, we have days of busy followed by more busy. And most noticeably, unless we pay for the privilege, we are NEVER alone.

It's what I refer to as the summer transition period. If you're used to having six hours to set your own schedule, it comes as a rude awakening to realize people would like you to stop what you're doing and make lunch (the nerve), play a game, drive them somewhere, make brownies, go on a bike ride, pick them up from somewhere, explain the theory of relativity. The list could go on but I'm sure you get the idea.

Then, every summer, there comes that moment when the kids go stay with their grandparents and I go from one extreme to the other. Suddenly, every single minute of the day belong to me.

I wake up and no one needs me to make breakfast. There's no need to squeeze blogging time into those minutes between swim team practices.

My day is my own, completely. And my decisions are based solely on my preference.

I can sleep in and skip lunch without worrying about not setting a healthy eating example. I can hide out in coffee shops and write to my heart's content without ever giving a thought to the time of day. It's life untimed and at my own pace.

I've been trying to remember if I appreciated the freedom of doing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, when I had it on a regular basis.

I'm pretty sure I didn't.

It would have been akin to asking me, right now, if I appreciate having fresh water to drink. I do, but not in the way someone would who hasn't had it in ten years.

Of course, by the time the kids return on Sunday their pristine bedrooms and the quiet house will have begun to make me sad. I'll long for the chatter, the demands, the laughter and the mess.

But right now, I'm enjoying my morning cup of coffee at noon and it's entirely possible I'll get so wrapped up in writing my newest book that hours will slip away, unheeded, because for the next few days I'm living life off the clock.


Julie said...

I actually LOVE this post! I've been so stressed lately because I'm among the ranks of unemployed-- desperately searching for a job to fill my hours (and my bank account!)--without pausing to remember that being unemployed definitely has its benefits.

After all... at what other time in my life will I have completely carefree (KID-free) days that stretch out in front of me with only my beloved lap top for company?

I'm guessing it doesn't happen often ( :

Thanks for the reminder that, well, maybe life isn't so bad after all!

jenny milchman said...

Good legs!!

It's funny, my days are not much different, though I'm glad to have my kidlets back (and realize how I'd gotten used to working with 7 uninterrupted hours). I'll take the interruptions...and also no school bus deadline and no lunches to pack!!

Beylit said...

You know I was the weird kid who hated summer. The lack of things to do drove me nutty after a week or so. I am still like that. Sometimes a few days of nothing to do but what I want when I want is lovely, but I couldn't handle that all the time. I would go stir crazy.

Tonja said...

Great post. Before summer comes, I always get the idea in my head that it's vacation for me, but it's not. I'm able to have some solitude and routine writing time only when I pay for it - literally - on weeks my little guy goes to summer camp and the older ones sleep in.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Enjoy! This will be me next year when for the first time in 10+ years all of my kids will be in school--all day!
~ Wendy

Cassie Mae said...

Oh man, both my kids are still young enough that they are with me 24/7, so I still don't know that luxury, even during school years. It sounds like heaven :D

Barbara Watson said...

Living life off the clock is wonderous! And I'm quite positive that no one appreciated the freedom of doing what we want, when we want while we had it. =)

Anonymous said...

I'd much prefer to be home with my kids all day, carting them around, doing stuff. Alas, not enough money in the bank for that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Enjoy your week of freedom! I'd probably waste it playing computer games. And I don't even have kids.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Living off the clock is great!

Unfortunately, that hasn't been me the past month or so. I swear, I'm busier now than when my son was in school. I love the swimming and fun but all chores and and what not are wearing. Getting the kid ready for college has been fretful. It's still hard for me to make peace with the thought my baby is 17 and going to college. He'll be in his second year when he turns 18. Where the heck did the time go?

Glad you're enjoying yourself tho. And writing--YAY! That surely feels good.


Carol Kilgore said...

Enjoy your brief moment of freedom. The kids will be more precious when they return.

Johanna Garth said...

Julie, glad I could inspire you to enjoy some of this time.

Jenny, I never miss packing lunches!

Beylit, I don't think that's weird at all. Actually a lot of kids miss the structure of school.

Tonja, it's still a bit of a vacation for me ;)

Wendy, a whole new world is about to open up to you.

Cassie, I'm impressed with how much you get done with your kids home all the time!

Barbara, you're probably right. Hard to appreciate certain things in the moment.

Josh, that's what my husband says too.

Sia, oh, you're baby is going to college. That is a HUGE transition.

Anonymous said...

I do all the cooking at my house, and it's a weekly occurrence that I make breakfast on Sunday and hear the wife say, "I wish we could afford for you to cook breakfast every day." Me, too. Me, too. said...

Enjoy these final moments of freedom, Johanna.

I don't know how you (i.e., all the good parents in the world) do it.

At least kids offer a good excuse to eat lots of ice cream during the summer.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

My hub works from home, so we each take turns giving our son our time and then we make him spend some time entertaining himself while we do our respective jobs. The evenings we spend together as a family unit. It works great for us all. I have to admit though, I would love an entire day every once in a while of no kiddo and no hub asking me to get this or make that.

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dolorah said...

The kids go elsewhere for the summer? So that's what I'm doing wrong . .

I work a day job, and am one of the ones left in the empty office. I'm so jealous of my kids that get to sleep in.

But, I'd be bored if I didn't have my normal routine; so I'll continue to look forward to that "empty nest syndrome" that is only a couple years away.

Enjoy your freedom time :) You know you'll be happy when the kid is back . .


nutschell said...

Ahh..summer break. I remember when I used to have that. That was one of the perks of working as a teacher, I actually got a break too. Now though, since I'm working at an office i get to go to work everyday. sigh. miss those summer breaks.

Avery Marsh said...

This post sums up my summer so far. I really thought I'd get more accomplished, but with all of them home, all wanting to do something, anything, all of my plans get pushed aside. Even when the grandparents come steal the older kids away, they have to leave the baby (who's not really a baby anymore, but still too little for a non-toddler-proofed house).

But here's to school starting again. (Gah, I sound so horrible...) And congrats on being one of the winners over at YAtopia's NA pitch contest!

Ella said...

Ah, lucky! Being a military spouse I lacked the grandparent gig. It did happen on occasion, when we were home. I, too like you craved it, then it happened and I had a different opinion...

A few hours, nice...too long and I missed them~

I hope you enjoyed living off the clock ;D