To kids and students, summer means two months of freedom from classrooms and school books: "Yippee! We're done!" To working adults with no kids, it means: "Great. Let's plan a week or two of vacation to get away." For working Fathers, it's a shrug: "Whatever, I'll still be working. Maybe I can fit in a week away with the family." For stay-at-home Moms with husbands at work, it's: "Great. No more school runs, packing lunches, after-school activities and early mornings. Off to Europe for a month." (Where I live, this is actually a normal conversation.)
For working Mothers though, it's a death knell. Carefully honed logistics while the kids are in school fall apart in tatters. "What on earth are the kids going to do for two whole months while I'm at work? Who's going to take care of them? I need daycare/ a nanny/ a camp/ all of the above and I need them NOW."
If you're a single working mother it's even more difficult. "How can I find the extra money to pay for all this? Maybe the dog sitter can help? What if I hire someone to look after the kids AND the dog? But then I'd lose my dog sitter because she'd be pissed off, and what do I do after summer...?"
I can tell you from fourteen years of experience that all this and a heck of a lot more, goes through the mind of a working mother every single year. It's always a juggling act to get everyone through the summer intact. Vacation? Yeah, maybe you can fit that in somewhere. But by the time you've scheduled all the camps and the day trips and the sports and maybe a couple of educational things in there for the kids, you've spent thousands of dollars already.
I've been through this both from an office worker point of view and a work-at-home point of view, and I can tell you that the latter is definitely easier. Getting coverage from 7:15am to 6:30pm when you work in an office (stand down the business travel when you're not even there,) is tough. Could someone please tell me where the concept of "9am to 5pm" even exists any more? Not in my world.
Working at home gives you more flexibility, but you still have emails, conference calls, meetings, deadlines and actual work that needs to be done. I've carefully honed my breezy response to the question: "So, are you going anywhere this summer?" such that it comes out very well now. Living in Laguna Beach I can truthfully answer that since I live in a place where others come on vacation, I will be trying to do a little of that myself here and there.
I met a lady once when I was walking my dogs whose child attends one of the private schools in Laguna so I didn't know her (and yes, our town is so small that you do end up at least recognizing most parents.) She told me about the time her husband was working in Dubai and every summer when school ended, all the kids and the Moms in the expat community would literally leave together on a two month world tour, leaving the Dads working. When I expressed surprise and asked her how the working mothers were able to do that, she looked at me like I was from a different planet. "Well none of the mothers work of course," Of course. Silly me.
The last time I truly looked forward to a summer of ease and relaxation was probably after I graduated from university before I started work, when I was 21 years old. During my pre-child adult years there was still that sense of liberation that came with sunny days, but one year, I would absolutely love to live like a child again during summer: two months of fun, activity, exploration, relaxation and freedom. Until then, I'll be tapping away on the computer, sneaking off for a stroll on the beach or a latte in a cafe when I get the chance. And the dogs get to stay with me too.