“So, what are you doing this summer?” This seemingly benign question left me tongue-tied in June of 2010, when my son was 2.5. The friend who asked me already knew about the major highlight of our summer that year, a week in northern Maine for a family wedding. Beyond that, I really didn’t have much of an answer, at least not one that would interest her. I mumbled something about hoping to go strawberry picking, and then, as I sensed her eyes glazing over, decided not to mention things like playing in the sandbox, running through the sprinkler, etc.
Compared to the lifestyle of the friend who asked this intimidating question, my family would be considered homebodies. This is partly due to finances. Gas prices are high, and even budget-friendly outings cost more than staying home. Furthermore, since my son’s arrival, my husband and I have always worked opposite schedules (currently mine is part-time and his is fulltime), which doesn’t leave us much time for outings and roadtrips. We feel like family downtime at home is limited enough as it is, without constantly being on-the-go.
This isn’t to say that we never go anywhere. On the contrary, my son and I have playdates or structured activities (Kindermusik, Story Hour, …) almost every day of the week. On the weekends, there’s church, walks to the playground of the neighborhood elementary school, etc. We do occasional overnight trips and an annual vacation every summer. My son still naps in the afternoon, so in between our outings and activities, sometimes I actually have to make a concentrated effort to give him time for unstructured play in the yard and the house.
But compared to my friend, and many other families, we are still homebodies. I like traveling, dining out, going to concerts, book groups, you name it, and I would probably prefer to do these things more frequently and less sporadically than we do now. The irony is that if I worked full time, I would be able to afford to travel a lot more, yet I would have less energy for it. Full time work outside the home doesn’t automatically have that effect on all mothers, but it does on me. When I worked full time, I craved time at home, relaxing with my family.
For me, the bottom line is that financially and time-wise, things like travel take second priority to the privilege of being my son’s primary caregiver. People have different thresholds for how they would ideally like to balance downtime at home vs being on-the-go. If money were no object, in my home the scales would probably tip a little more in the direction of travel/outings, but truthfully, not much more. There is something to be said for being able to enjoy family time without bells and whistles.
What do you like to do when you and your family stay at home?
Claire is a contributing writer at Catholic Mothers Online.
photo by james.thompson