A Mom’s Perspective on Summer Vacation: Dream vs. Reality

By: Natalie Rice-Thorp, Ph.D. | July 15, 2022

Every year as summer approaches, I count down the days until school ends, awaiting the time when I have less on my plate. Exhausted from trying to balance my kids’ school demands, keeping the household functional, and keeping up with my own job, I look forward to not tracking almost daily COVID at-home tests, packing lunches, or hunting down Chromebook cords!

I think to myself: “This is the summer that we are going to have fun and be so productive!” I call this the dream phase.

The Dream Phase

In my fantasy, the kids clean their backpacks, we get their rooms organized, we make healthy meals, get daily exercise, and create school memory albums. I keep up with the numerous requests for playdates, and finally attend to my own overdue social calendar. In the dream phase, I continue to complete work-related tasks during the week, and we all enjoy a relaxing vacation. Even though these plans have never actually happened for us, I inevitably trick myself into thinking that it could happen.

The Reality Phase

As I write this article I am staring at my kids’ unemptied backpacks, probably bulging with papers that I need to address, and uneaten lunches turned accidental science experiments. We have checked off zero playdates; not contributed to the memory albums, eaten a lot of pizza, and only one of us has organized their bedroom (and it wasn’t me!). I am surrounded by laundry and unpacked luggage from our recent vacation. Our family vacation was altered due to COVID and wasn’t anything close to what we expected it to be. In fact, our kids said it was “more like survival than vacation.”

The Acceptance Phase

As I settle into the more realistic, acceptance phase, I am determined to stay present with my family and drop the to-dos on my list.

I know better than to say: “We have a month; I can still do it all!” After July 4th, the summer moves faster than warp speed. Though I cast disgruntled glances around this messy room, I feel grateful for our lives and for the privilege that we enjoy. It is now time to make my new, more realistic to-do list for this week. As for things that don’t make the list, there’s always next year…

Between COVID-related stressors, the sociopolitical climate, and everyday life stressors, it is difficult to navigate the demands of life. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your reality, consider meeting with a San Diego Psychologist who will help you develop strategies to manage your stress and be more present. Contact Us now to learn more about how the Team at Therapy Changes can help.



Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

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