February 23, 2020

An Ode to ‘Mommy Camp’

Photo from PxHere.

Ask children, “When is the best day of the year?” and they may respond excitedly, “The last day of school.”

Ask mothers the same question, and they may respond with even more excitement, “The first day of school.”

Most parents experience relief when their precious children are finally out of the house for the day.

I recently overheard a husband complain that he had to work while his wife stayed home during the summer with their three children. “She gets to chill out for three months,” he said.

I understand why the man may have that perception. 

I also believe he was an idiot. 

The amount of tireless, invisible work involved in caring for children — especially those younger than 3 —for three months is incredibly hard.

A parent must prepare hundreds of meals, and then watch as some of that effort ends up either on the floor or thrown at your head, as toddlers sometimes do.

That was $17 worth of wild Alaskan salmon, you beautiful, little terror.

“Mommy Camp” is the answer to the question, “What are your kids doing this summer?”

Many families can’t afford summer day camp, particularly in the Jewish community, where costs of tuition, kosher diets and the high price of living near synagogues strain family budgets. Others prefer to have their children home in order to bond and create lovely memories. Either way, mothers do it with love and hope for appreciation.

Kids should learn to adapt to a little idleness but too much of it can turn them into monsters which prompts many moms to scramble to fill each day with activities.

In the end, it matters less whether a mother is running Mommy Camp with delight or dread. She is essentially an unpaid camp director, and some parents who have never done it, fail to appreciate the work it entails.

Kids should learn to adapt to a little idleness but too much can turn them into monsters, which prompts many moms to scramble to fill each day with activities. 

Imagine how much planning and execution goes into keeping children entertained. There are trips to pools, aquariums and kids’ play spaces, as well as a lot of schlepping back and forth to play dates. For families that keep kosher, all of those outings feature half a dozen containers of homemade food because they can’t stop at Carl’s Jr. on the way to the Santa Monica Pier.

Given the massive amount of work involved with caring for children during the summer, why do some people assume that Mommy Camp is so easy? Perhaps they were too young to be aware of their mothers’ thankless work and tireless devotion to ensuring their kids always had something to do during the summer.

In a 2017 article on Today.com titled, “Mommy Camp Has Arrived!,” a mother suggested that one benefit of being home all summer with your children is that it “allows you to take a much needed break from the everyday grind and enjoy yourself as well.”

I don’t know how many butlers that mother had on staff, but the “everyday grind” she referred to is even more acute during the summer. 

And as far as “enjoying yourself” goes, that often happens during summer nights with a cocktail and some Netflix, long after the precious children have fallen asleep, leaving you with 45 minutes to yourself until you pass out in a heap of exhausted gratitude and mismatched kids’ swimsuits.

My friend Rena Mavashev is running “Mommy Camp” for her boys, ages 5 and 4, this summer. “Some days are harder than others,” she said. “But there are some moments that are so special, like watching your kids run into the ocean or discovering something new at a museum. Those moments make the nonstop stress worth it.”

Mothers have an indescribable love for their children. They should also be praised for running the three-month circus known as Mommy Camp. After three months, every mother deserves a case of wine and a massage.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker.