Welcome aboard, you little shits. What can I do for you now?
I’m sure Julie McCoy, cruise director of the Love Boat, never spoke to her passengers like that. (She probably would have been thrown overboard by Captain Stubing.) But she only had to entertain an entire cruise ship. I am the point person for occupying an 8, 4 and almost 2-year-old for the entire summer.
But seriously, us SAHMs (and dads) are totally the modern day Julie McCoys, trading the navy suit with white piping and clipboard for yoga pants (or, in my case, sweatpants) and smartphones. We make sure all the passengers aboard our boat – or Minivan or SUV or whatever it is you captain – are happy and satisfied with their entertainment. I find it completely exhausting. And, to be quite honest, a little over-the-top.
At dinner, I’m already planning what we’ll do the next day and asking the kids – I’m asking the kids, for f*ck’s sake! – if it all sounds acceptable to them. I was thinking of going to the beach tomorrow. Is that all right with you, sirs? You won’t have to do a thing. Not a thing! I’ll take care of it all. I know the basket of beach toys is sooooooo heavy. I’ll carry everything, including the 25-pound 2-year-old in the Kelty on my back. I’ll put on your sunscreen and pack a nice lunch. And after, we could stop for ice cream. Does that sound good? And then when we’re ALL good and tired and have sand stuck in places where it won’t come out for days, I’m going to carry everything back to the car while you whine and complain that you’re hot and hungry. And then when we get home, YOU can relax with a movie while I do the chores, try and fit in some work and start dinner. How does that sound? Good? Good.
Then, I go to bed making a mental list of all of the crap I need to pack for our outing and setting my alarm for some ungodly hour so I can be sure everything is in order before we leave. Because all hell will break loose if I forget the goddamn Goldfish crackers.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. How could you say such things? Being a SAHM is the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s a gift.
And I know this. Really. I do. And I am grateful and blessed that I can stay home with my children – who I love unconditionally. Honest. I do. That’s why I had three – and spend my summer entertaining their every childhood whim.
The truth is, I really don’t mind being the family’s Julie McCoy. (I know you think I’m lying, by the way.) I mean, I could be stuck in an office studying spreadsheets. But instead, I get to see the little people that mean everything in the world to me enjoy themselves and make memories. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to me sometimes. That doesn’t mean it’s not completely exhausting and totally overwhelming.
And at least Julie McCoy got paid for her troubles.
I know. I know! My reward doesn’t come in monetary form. I know that it’s so much more than that. But when you’re in the thick of it, and you’re running yourself ragged doing everything humanly possible to make sure everyone is happy and having THE SUMMER OF THEIR LIVES, sometimes you have to remind yourself of that. And I guess I am. Right now.
For the remainder of the summer, the days of which are dwindling faster than I’d like, I’m also going to remind myself that the kids’ happiest times are the times when I actually do the least amount of work, Squirting each other with squirt guns. Splashing together in the blowup pool. Playing a game of Bananagrams. Taking a walk through the park. These may not be the events that kids will write about in their What I Did Over Summer Vacation essays once seated at their desks back at school but they are the times when happy moments come easy and stress-free. And these are the ones I want to make sure we have more of before the start of school.
I’m sure even Julie McCoy got pissed off at her passengers once in a while. (And, by the way, I am totally being her for Halloween now.) But for my sanity – and for my kids’ – I have to stop playing Julie McCoy once in a while. I’m not a cruise director. I don’t even want to play one on TV.
I want to leave you with a scenario to ponder. What if Julie McCoy, cruise director extraordinaire, jumped ship and rowed ashore on a lifeboat one day, leaving her passengers to their own devices. What if she threw in her navy suit and clipboard and syrupy sweet smile and said F-U, I’m not doing it anymore. Find your own f-ing fun. What then? Would her passengers turn into a boatful of lifeless a-holes, floundering in their own boredom? Or would they rally and find their own fun?
I hope it’s the latter, because THIS Julie McCoy plans to row ashore, at least a couple of times this summer.