True life: Summer stresses me out as a mama

I feel so much pressure to make it magical for my family.

I live in New England. The winters can be tough. Whenever that first magically warm, sunny spring day finally pops up, I still feel like I should be meeting my friends on the quad to sit on a blanket and drink cheap beer…. But I'm not in college anymore.

And as summer inches closer, I still feel like I should be heading home to Long Island for break. Ready to pick up some babysitting shifts and spend every moment of freedom at the beach or at my friends' house... But I'm not a single human anymore. In fact, I have three tiny humans to care for now.

Let's just say, both scenarios are very far off from my current reality.

Instead of day drinking, while chatting with friends on a blanket, I'm breastfeeding my 8-month-old while blowing bubbles and discussing why bees are important for our planet with my older two.

And instead of just hopping in the car and zooming over to the beach, I am crawling there like a snail—after I pack All. The. Gear.

Even though things are wildly different at 32 vs 22, I still get excited about summer. I mean, I'm not a total monster. But I have to admit—I'm a little stressed about it, too. I think mostly because I am totally behind the eight ball.

I've been meaning to sign up for the town pool and want to commit to it but also am reminding myself that even though my kids don't have school, I do still have work.

But I don't want to feel like I can't balance work and fun. Like it has to be all or nothing. I need to plan a flexible schedule that works for all of us. Isn't that what motherhood is, anyway? Plan as best you can and then be sure to leave room for detours or interruptions?

I haven't even considered any camps for either of my older kids and by the time I do they'll probably be the late-fee price of $1.5 million to sign up versus the early-bird price of $1 million.

But I don't want to feel like I have to get them into ALL the camps (or go broke doing so…) when I've realized that kids don't need much to have fun. As a friend said to me recently, "Give your kids a ball and a box, and see what they do…" (It can entertain them for much longer than one would think!)

I am continuously adding things to the calendar and somehow it's as if I blinked, and our summer weekends seem to be completely planned already.

But I don't want to feel like the summer is over before it has already begun. I don't want our plans to feel stressful, forced or unfulfilling. I want to be intentional about our time together.

I always feel pressure to make things magical. I am the mother; therefore I'm the magician, right? The creative mind? The fun-finder? The memory-maker? Something about the summer is making me raise the stakes even more, too.

I don't want to feel worried about "having enough fun" or "doing enough creative things" or "making the perfect memories." When I read these things back to myself I feel ridiculous, to be honest.

You don't have to look too far for magic—especially in the summer. Especially with kids. Especially when you're a good mom.

Because in the summer, trying to catch fireflies is magical.

Because in the summer, eating ice cream for dinner is magical.

Because in the summer, running around barefoot is magical.

Because in the summer, meeting friends at the playground is magical.

Because in the summer, blasting the music with the windows down is magical.

Because in the summer, having picnics in the backyard is magical.

Because in the summer, watching the waves crash (and squealing with delight!) is magical.

Because in the summer, feeling exhausted from swimming and sunshine is magical.

Because in the summer, the smell of burgers on the grill is magical.

Because in the summer, chasing butterflies at the park is magical.

Summer is magical just because. It encourages us to be a little more laid back with our schedules and inspires us to find fun wherever we can. And so much of it is just naturally there—right in front of us.

So I vow to ease up on the pressure and instead, look for the fun. 😎

You might also like:

This 'mama' necklace is a bestseller for a powerful reason

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama.

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama. No matter what is going on at work, what decision you make about heading back to school, or how you're caring for your family right now, we know you're the best mama for your family.

So in case you need a little reminder of just how incredible you are, we love this sweet necklace from Tiny Tags. And other mamas do, too, because it's been one of our top sellers for weeks.

Whether you're coveting it for yourself or want to gift it to your favorite mama, it's one of those gifts that'll keep on giving years later. It's dainty enough to easily layer with just about anything you have in your jewelry collection, but is just as beautiful as a standalone piece to wear daily. And in these tough seasons, it's honestly a gentle, much-needed reminder that you were made for this. You can do hard things. You are doing the best you can even when it feels like you can't make one more decision.

Tiny Tags script 'mama' necklace

tiny tags mama necklace

The charm is 1/2" long and the chain is 16", falling just above most mama's collarbones. All Tiny Tags personalized jewelry is laser engraved by highly skilled artisans to make the most elegant pieces.


And, don't worry, it's totally low-maintenance. Simply polish with a polishing cloth every now and then for extra shine. Now to decide: gold or silver?

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play