Alt-Parenting: Summer –- A Great Opportunity to Exploit, I Mean Make, New Friends (print)

If you’re familiar with my column, you know that last year I started out excited and optimistic for a fun-filled summer, and ended up broke, overweight and miserable, literally counting down the hours until that first day of school.

This year I’m more realistic. I know summer will be like running a marathon. Those first few miles are pure bliss, when you feel like you could run forever. As the miles tick by, you gently move from mild exhaustion to “Holy shit – I can’t do this anymore!” Then you hit the homestretch in which you’re dehydrated, delusional and possibly have diarrhea running down your thighs, but you’re just too tired to care. That’s summer with young children when you’re a stay-at-home mom, unless you can afford 8+ weeks of camp.

So how can we survive summer? There’s only one way: Spend time with friends. If you don’t have a host of fellow stay-at-home moms with whom to spend time, get out there and make some new ones. Forget about trying to find friends who are completely compatible; you’re in crisis mode so it’s time to start seeing the good in all types of parents — enough with the judgment and divisiveness. Here are some of the women you want to couple up with this summer:

1. The Pinterest Mom. She’ll arrive at every excursion with healthy, homemade popsicles frozen into whimsical shapes. She’ll engineer outings at places you didn’t even know existed. Every play date will come with a craft or fun activity and her parties will be off-the-charts fabulous. Why feel inadequate? Enjoy the free food and entertainment and appreciate that someone is actually executing the ideas you’ve seen – and coveted — on Pinterest (as opposed to the rest of us who practice “pin it and forget it”).

2. The Helicopter Mom. Don’t mock these parents as they hover over the kids. They’re wonderful companions, especially at the beach or pool where drowning is a real threat. You can break out your Kindle or focus on your fries while helicopter mom plays lookout. Everyone’s happy, and everyone’s safe – win/win.

3. The ‘70s Mom. Perhaps she’s a little too laissez-faire for you during the school year, but summer is the time to let go. This mom is so laid back she’ll have no problem adding your kid (or kids) to her brood. She’ll have no idea where they are, and will probably feed them popsicles with red dye number 10 and let them drink out of the garden hose, but guaranteed your kids will be outdoors having the time of their lives. The best part: You won’t even need to reciprocate because to her, “it was nothing” (and she means it … she didn’t do a thing).

4. The Gym-Rat/Diet-Obsessed Mom. I work out regularly, 10 months a year. Summer, however, is when my stomach begins to flab and chub rub becomes a serious issue. Having a friend obsessed with exercise and healthy eating would therefore not necessarily be a bad thing. She might whip up batch of bulgar wheat salad big enough to share and will probably be willing to swap kids so she can hit the gym (and you can hit Target). If nothing else, staring at her bikini-clad body and six-pack abs will inspire you to get off your lazy ass and do something other than sip cocktails and devour clam cakes like they were their own food group.

5. The Perfect Mom. She loves to regale you with tales of how her kids adore kale smoothies and absolutely love helping out with chores. She never raises her voice or swears in front of her kids. Fuck, she doesn’t even drink that much, especially during the day. Guess what? She’s the perfect designated driver for all of your summer outings. And, you might even learn some “firm but kind” discipline techniques (not that you’ll ever use them). If nothing else, spending time with her will enlighten you that she’s not actually perfect … and neither are her kids. She’s as insecure and confused as you are, and might even open up if you give her the space (and a mojito).

Perhaps all this co-mingling will continue through the school year and long-term friendships will form. Perhaps this is just a summer fling and you’ll each go back to your own tribes. Either way, I hope it moves all of us toward acceptance of one another’s parenting preferences and a culture of non-judgment. Together let’s work to make this summer — and motherhood — tolerable!

This article was inspired by something I recently read on a blog post on parenting in the ‘70s. A self-proclaimed “opportunist mom of 3” commented on the post with suggestions similar to those above. She allowed me to steal her ideas but preferred to remain anonymous. You know who you are…and thank you. From Kim – your friend at Conscious Unparenting

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