A few years ago, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and isolated in my role as a stay-at-home mother. I was still relatively new to the area where I live, so I didn’t really know many people. My daughter was a preschooler at that time and still required a lot of attention and interaction. Summer was approaching fast, which meant that I would now have my third grade son home all day, as well and I had no idea how I was going to keep my children from getting overly restless and bored while maintaining my sanity. Money was definitely an issue, as my husband had lost his job six months before and then had taken a huge pay cut to take another position. Trying to pay for daycare or a summer program was out of the question and so I was simply stuck for awhile.
On a whim one day, in my need to get out of my house for awhile, my daughter and I ended up at the children’s department of my local library. I had been there before but not regularly and I wasn’t fully aware of all that was offered. As we were standing in line waiting to check out her books, I saw sign up sheets for free summer programs. It was as if I had just found a lifeboat to guide me through my dilemma. I was overjoyed as I took pamphlets for everything that they had to offer.
The librarians were so helpful and pleasant that I almost wanted to hug them and jump up for joy. Thankfully I contained myself, but I assure you my happiness was visible. As I signed my daughter up for a preschool story time on Tuesdays and my son up for a similar age-appropriate program on Thursdays, I also signed them both up for a summer reading program. It gave them each a record folder to keep track of anything they read over the summer to earn points for prizes at the library.
I scheduled myself around those classes and it drastically improved my attitude and my children’s summer. While my daughter was at her preschool class, my son made friends with the older brothers who were also tag-alongs. He looked forward to her time slot as much as his own. On Thursdays, my daughter was invited to participate in some of the activities with the older children which was absolutely wonderful. On the days when she didn’t want to, she was able to log into a computer and play educational preschool games.
I was so surprised by the activities that my children were able to participate in over that summer and the interesting things they (and I) experienced. One day, the librarian showed short silent films on an old-fashioned projector featuring pie-in-the-face comedy and stick figure animation, drawn by hand. Another day they did an art project that had them blowing food-colored bubbles in glasses and pressing their paper to it. Each class also offered them a snack and more importantly a sense of community and socialization.
For me, its benefits were countless. It made me feel so good to be able to offer my children some educational and social stimulation over the summer. It gave me something to base my routine around, a starting place to build upon. It also helped increase my confidence as I met new people and felt my world open up slowly. It also gave me time to breathe, when I really needed it, knowing that I had somehow found a make-shift village to help me raise my children (if even for an hour, twice a week).