Surviving Summer: How Your Tribe Can Help

I think most moms have a love/hate relationship with summer. Sunshine at the pool, vacations, and family time. It’s wonderful when the kids are out of school and the house is full, warm, and loud. But what about our lives? Our work and personal responsibilities have not changed. But instead of having the hours between 8 and 4 to get-stuff-done, we have the added responsibility of the fun, enrichment and entertainment of the growing hearts and minds of our kiddos 24/7. I have far from perfected the summer work/life equation, but in my years of trying and failing, trying and almost succeeding, and trying again (and again), I’ve realized the one thing that makes it all easier is relying on your tribe.

girls playing summer

Asking for help isn’t easy. PMS (perfect mom syndrome) is real (thanks society!), but it isn’t possible. So let’s let that one go, shall we? New society mantra: “We can have it all. Just not all at one time.” Now that we have that covered, we can be open to being honest with ourselves and each other, and comfortable with asking for help.

Lean on your tribe and let your tribe lean on you. I call it “reaching out and reaching back”. You would be there if someone asked, right? You recognize the reach out and you reach back. Your tribe is there to do the same for you. Summer is the perfect time to ask for the help, support, or affirmation when you need it. Here are some “Surviving Summer Tribe Tips” to help you reach out to your tribe:

1. Play-date swaps

Sometimes asking for help is easier when we know we can reciprocate. The “I’ll scratch your back if you busy calendar to do listscratch mine” mind-set is easy to get our heads and hearts around. Have a meeting or desperately need some time to yourself? Make an arrangement with a good friend in the same boat. She takes the kids for a few hours, a few days in a row, or a whole week, and you return the favor. I have a friend who can work from home and so can I. Our projects and “intense times” flex, so we are able to look at our calendars and say, “Hey, I have a busy week in June. Would you be able to take the kids that day (days, week) if I can take them for a day (days, week) in July?” We have dubbed it “Cousin Camp”. The kids love it, and so do we!

2. Work/Play-date together

Go to one another’s house, let the kids play and each of you relax (together or separately), or get some work done. So much of our lives revolves around our kids, so the likelihood that you have found a “kindred spirit mom”, who you like and your kids like to play together, is pretty high. If you’re lucky, they are also a person who doesn’t care if your laundry is done or your floors are vacuumed. The beauty of women together is that we intuit what one another need. There have been times when both my girlfriend and I are heads down at the dining room table and working away when one of the kids comes in. Depending on intensity and deadlines, one of us will get up and take care of things while the other gets-stuff-done. It’s a beautiful thing in every way.

3. Share the struggle

women laughingSummer is hot enough without wearing your stress jacket everywhere you go! You have to learn how to take it off. It’s important to share your frustrations and built up stress with your tribe and not insulate it. That’s why girlfriend dates are so important. Whether it’s for dinner, getting pedicures, grabbing coffee, sitting on the couch with a bottle of wine, or just a phone call (yes, those still exist), find time with your tribe. See each other, hear each other, feel each other. Take solace in your friends with similar struggles and obstacles. Validate each other’s frustrations, and share your own strategies. Take off that damn stress jacket and cool down.

4. Say “yes” to you

I will never stop saying this. Saying “yes” to you is the best gift you can give to others. Schedule time for yourself this summer. relax sleep rejuvenateIt’s rare that you have free time, so when you do have it, use it for rejuvenation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shut the door behind the kids only to turn around to my quiet house to… fold laundry, do dishes, or pay bills. What!? No. Stop it. This will not give you the energy cushion your need to get over the summer hump. When you find free time, use it for you. Get to that yoga class, paint your toenails, go for a run, or (gasp!) take a nap. You heard me ladies: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO NAP. Do whatever is going to refill your cup, not continue to empty it.

Are we perfect mothers? No. Never will be. And that’s okay! “Balance” is a myth if it’s summer or not, and while we do love the family time, vacations, and oddly comforting chaos of summer, it’s okay to admit that it’s hard and we kind of hate it too. Luckily, if we reach out to our tribes, they will be there. And when they reach back we will tribe it right back to them!

Can you relate? Have you figured out some ways to take care of yourself this summer? Comment and share with THE tribe!

The Picture – Reflections of Ourselves to Ourselves

My first apartment was in downtown Denver. It was maybe 600 square feet in a 1920’s building with a shared thermostat and no dishwasher. It did have beautiful wood floors, intricate molding, a fireplace and a claw-foot tub. Just enough to give me all the ambiance I needed to inspire my new life. As a housewarming gift, my dear Auntie and cousin gave me a framed poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The iconic image of her standing in the store window, paper coffee cup and pastry in hand, sunglasses, tiara and hair piled high with the reflection of a glittering chandelier in front and New York street-scape behind. They knew me well… I’d immersed myself in the movie hundreds of times and whenever this scene appeared, I was awash with a sense of contemplative peace.  There was something in me at the time that related so wholly to Holly Golightly’s plight of self re-invention. I was in a big city for the first time, I could be anyone I dreamed of being, I was newly on my own with nothing but my grandfather’s table, a bed and the knowledge that only I knew who I used to be. I could be anyone, do anything. The world was mine!

The world, of course, had its own ideas. Things changed, but the picture was always there. I got married, had a baby and moved to Nashville and then San Antonio. I left my husband in San Antonio, along with everything I owned, including the picture. I took my daughter back to Denver, moved in with the same beloved Aunt that had given me the gift, found a job and a car, and life began again. Many of my belongings eventually made it back to me, but not the picture. It showed up again later in the form of a gift from a man I had dated. In an effort to reignite our relationship, he bought and gave me the picture, knowing how sad I was that it had been left behind. I stared at the uncovered corner of the picture, conscious of how much it had cost and that I couldn’t afford it on my own, knowing how much I wanted it back in my life… but not at the price it was being offered. I refused the picture and the man. And life moved on.

I got married again, to a wonderful man deserving of being a father to my daughter. We moved to San Francisco, had another baby and enjoyed the time in life of one new beginning after another. We decided to move to Fayetteville, Arkansas for my husband to attend the MBA program at the University and be closer to his family. During one of my first birthdays celebrated, and in a particular mentally transitional state of “what am I doing here?”, my mother and sister-in-law gave me a gift. Without having ever heard a word of the history or my deeply seeded love for the picture, they’d chosen to give me the poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s standing in the store window, paper coffee cup and pastry in hand, sunglasses, tiara and hair piled high with the reflection of a glittering chandelier in front and New York streetscape behind. “How did you know?” I asked. “We just saw it and thought it looked like you.” they said. The significance was not lost on me. My essence captured in the image of a wayward but strong, searching but steadfast woman with her wide-eyed gaze fixed on a place of glittering beauty and serenity while finding her way through the sometimes harsh and confusing chaos that is life. “Isn’t it wonderful? See what I mean, how nothing bad could happen to you in a place like this?”

The poster has since been framed and has been hanging in our dining room for years alongside other black and white photos of family members. It just seemed to fit in. When people see it, they say “That is very ‘you.’” And it has been. Until now. My daughter is turning 15 years old next week. For her birthday, we are redesigning her room. Her first request was a glittering chandelier. From there, she came up with a Hollywood-like color scheme. Hmmm… well, I’d been meaning to redesign the dining room anyway. I stood in front of the picture and looked at Audrey. She looked back at me. It was time. I was not wayward or searching anymore. I’d found my place of beauty and serenity inside of myself and no longer needed to gaze into jewelry store windows. My daughter’s  journey down Moon River, however, has just begun. I can think of nothing better to accompany her on her way than the picture.