“Hello there!” my neighbour chirped, breaking my trance. I looked toward her voice which came from the road at the back of my cottage.

“Hi,” I responded dully from the love seat on the side deck.

“Everything ok?” Concern laced her question. If she was someone I knew better, if I wasn’t exhausted, if I could find the words, I might have told her how utterly sad I felt. But nothing came out except a mumbled excuse about being tired.

It wasn’t a lie. I was tired – tired of feeling the way I had been feeling for most of the summer. Even at the lake, my happy place, I couldn’t drum up an ounce of cheer; faking it was out of the question. I was way past that.

I felt this struggle every summer. I’d start off optimistic, even determined, that the approaching season would be different. That I’d not only survive the long days but also thrive. I was the mom, right? I’d be in charge of how the day went and what I was able to accomplish, and my kids would line up in a row like little goslings. My children would be fed and entertained, I would tend to my writing business, and there would still be plenty of time for family adventures. So many people envy the work-at-home mom because of exactly this scenario. I have to say that in 10 summers of trying, I have not quite come close to that pretty picture.

And last summer was the worst.

It took me nearly the entire month of September to pull myself out of my funk. I think I spent the first two weeks of school, sprawled in bed or on the couch, willing the fatigue out of my body and mind. This was in direct conflict with that part of me that was excited to have some kind of freedom again to create and work and grow my business; at the end of the day I was always disappointed by what I hadn’t done with those precious hours when they were finally in school. Looking ahead, I want something entirely different for these next few months.

I hesitate to say this…but I have a plan. My hesitation comes from the fact that I spent much of yesterday afternoon refereeing fights, witnessing tantrums and wishing I could sail to an island far, far away. Nevertheless, the show must go on and this introverted writer and mom of 3 is pulling out some tricks to give me some sanity this summer (for you, too, if you need it).

Three Things I Will Do For Some Sanity This Summer

1. Call in reinforcements. I have a teenage babysitter available much of the summer and boy, do I plan to use her. Whether it’s for my anniversary dinner or just some coffeeshop writing time, I will not hesitate to dial her number! (Or text…whatever). I also hope to get together with my friends and their kids; this allows my friends and I to see each other and for our kids to have some playmates while we catch up. The more kids are around, the more entertained mine are. The more moms are around, the more relaxed I am. Win-win! I also have the two oldest ones in a couple camps each. I basically took my credit card to the local community centre and said, “Charge it.” It felt So. Good.

2. Have quality time with my girlfriends. This, of course, means time without our kids. This was hugely lacking for me last year. I saw two friends the entire summer! One in July and one in August. It was not enough. My girlfriends are the ones who get me, the ones I can be messy with, and the ones I can belly laugh with. I don’t know what could be better for my mental health than time with other women who understand what it’s like to be a mom who’s also trying to maintain her individuality and womanhood. I am booking in dates with girlfriends weeks in advance so I ensure I am not going too long without that precious time. This Thursday, I’m taking my friend to a media night of Avocado Toast at Vancouver Theatre Sports League. I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple weeks and honestly, just knowing I have it planned lifts my spirits in those trying moments.

3. Take a few minutes to myself each day. Yesterday, it was a drive to the gas station. And then a 15 minute phone call with my cousin from the car…parked in my garage. But you know what? It helped. By the time I got in the house, the kitchen was cleaned up from dinner (strategic timing on my part, I know) and the two younger kids were in bed. This allowed me to spend a quality half hour with my oldest before tucking her in and then relax for an hour before calling it a day. The drive gave me a little sense of freedom and a chance to play my music loud. The phone call allowed me to connect with someone I care about, talk to her about something positive in her life (which made me feel inspired and proud) and then vent a little about my own day. By the time I got to my oldest daughter’s bedroom, I almost felt like a new person and I could give her the best part of me. Some days, a few minutes to myself might look like a walk (alone or with a neighbour), reading in our home library, journalling in my studio or sitting outside in my backyard. I used to feel guilty ‘stealing’ these moments because I felt like once the family was all together after my husband got back from work, I shouldn’t split. But for a little more sanity this summer, I am splitting.

I’m an introverted mom of 3, and any introvert or mom of 3 will tell you that that is some messed up kind of paradox I am living. All year-round it’s a bit of an extra challenge for someone like me to pull myself out of my head and remember who is supposed to be where, anticipate their needs, find opportunities for their growth, support them each emotionally at various stages of development, forge into unknown territory (hello, preteenhood!), ensure their wellness (and so many more things that I don’t have time to list because skating camp is almost ending and my window for writing is closiiiiiiiiiing). But the number of summers I have left with all my babies under one roof goes down by 1 each year. I want to make them as fun for all of us as possible and I now see that my mental health is a prime factor in all of this.

Do you have tips for introverted moms who work from home during the summer? How do you keep your business afloat, get space to recharge and enjoy your family over the summer months? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear!

taslim jaffer writer