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Summer Dreams: Before Kids vs. After Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

Once upon a time, I was 23 and single. I had a job, but not a career. I had only myself to worry about. I picked up extra shifts at my coffee shop and took a second job at a restaurant in preparation for the summer months so I had a bit of cash in my pocket and could skip down for a day or a week without much of a thought.

As this summer approaches, I can’t help but reminisce to that simpler time. That time before husbands and babies. That time when all I worried about was my tan and my drink in hand.

My how life has changed between then and now.

Then: Swimsuits must be cheap and colorful. I owned 27 bikinis that could be matched up into countless different top/bottom combos so as not to repeat the same look twice in one month.

Now: Swimsuits must have an underwire and tummy panel. I own precisely two suits—one from three summers ago that needs to last another year in order to be able to rationalize spending $112 on one piece of clothing and that goal bikini that I wore the summer of 2005 and looked so damn good in that I can’t bring myself to throw it out.

Then: I slather tanning oil all over body whenever not indoors and spray Sun-In all over hair for ultimate natural highlights.

Now: Excited that I finally found an SPF 100 lotion for optimum UVA and UVB protection (not that it matters much since I’m pretty much covered from head to toe with a sun hat and SPF-protected clothing.) I also pay $125 plus tip every six weeks for “natural” highlights.

Bringing kids near the water is only possible when I have at least two extra, childless adults to chaperone and help kid wrangle/avoid drowning...

Then: I decided spur of the moment to head to the lake for a couple days and shove my swimsuit, toothbrush and a couple magazines into my duffle bag and head out. It’s so beautiful out, maybe I’ll stay a week!

Now: I’ve been planning this trip to the lake since January when I mapped out summer plans on my calendar. I spend the better part of the week prior making lists of what I’ll need to bring, meal planning and setting clothes aside so none of my people wear them before we leave. It takes four hours to pack up my car and two of the three children have to pee before I get down the driveway. I will be back in two days. Any longer and we’ll run out of food rations.

Then: Heat spells are a treat that allow me to spend as much time as possible at the pool, beach, lake or any type of water source that allows me to relax and dip my toes.

Now: Heat spells that last longer than a day are miserable. Bringing kids near the water is only possible when I have at least two extra, childless adults to chaperone and help kid wrangle/avoid drowning, so my pool adventures are few and far between.I mainly deal with the heat by loading everyone up in the minivan, blasting the AC, going through the Starbucks drive-thru for an iced coffee and praying my children will nap so I can peruse Pinterest and catch up on social media while parked in the Target parking lot.

Then: Vacation spots are chosen on a whim based on the weather forecast. My time there is spent day drinking, reading Cosmo and dozing in the sun.

Now: Vacation spots are chosen based on air-conditioning, enough bedrooms to accommodate naps and whether or not there is a kiddie pool on site. I can’t drink on vacations because I have to be alert enough to reapply sunscreen, make sure everyone is hydrated and keep sand out of my toddler’s mouth. I haven’t read a book that wasn’t mostly composed of rhyming words in years.

Life looks very different than it did when I was 23, and while I sometimes yearn for my days of free-spirited summers, I can’t help but think that my reality now, crazy as it may be, is still pretty wonderful.

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