Welcome to mom camp

Perusing the long list of camp options for Chicago area kids this summer can trigger an episode of kid-envy. What camp can Mom go to make jewelry? Learn to prepare a few vegan dishes? Practice her high school Spanish?

Mom Camp is not likely to be offered at your local park district but a little creativity and planning can add a new dimension of fun and learning this summer, just for mom.

Here are some ways you can make that happen:

Fantasize. Start with a list of all the fun things you’d really like to do this summer. Don’t worry about how realistic they are, just put them down. Learn to scuba dive, go to a flea market, grow your own basil, ride your bike to Wisconsin. Add anything you can think of to the list without regard to practicalities.

Prioritize. What are your top choices? Recognize that it might take a few summers to get in all your great ideas, but what seems the most possible this summer? Choose something off your list that sounds like fun. Take into account your time availability and previous commitments and see where your best pockets of time are to add something. Most of us have an evening or a few weekend hours to take care of ourselves.

“Often moms feel guilty or selfish if they take time for themselves. Actually, having regular time to refuel enables a mom to be more loving, patient and emotionally available to her kids,” says Martha Sahyouni, a licensed Evanston therapist and mother of four."And that is a win for kids, too.”

Pick a theme. Instead of choosing a smattering of activities to enjoy this summer, pick a theme and stick with it from June to September. Ever wish you had time to read the complete collection of Mark Twain’s works or something more contemporary like all of Elizabeth Berg’s novels? Could this be the summer to visit all the galleries at the Art Institute spread out in weekly visits? Would you like to get to know the Chicago Botanic Garden so well you could lead tours? Do you want to schedule a regular weekly babysitter so you can enjoy a date at Ravinia every Saturday night? A theme sets the to-do list for fun.

Try something new. Susan Chaney, mother of three in Evanston, was curious about the variety of birds she noticed in her neighborhood so she decided to head out to the woods or the beach on early summer weekend mornings to see what she could discover. How long have you been waiting to try yoga? Wondering how to make homemade salsa? Interested in campaigning for your favorite candidate? By the end of this summer these experiences can be yours.

Stretch yourself. Tara Montgomery, mom to two young boys in Skokie, loves participating in a summer women-only triathlon."It doesn’t work out every year but this is a great summer goal and the best part is I have all of that personal time swimming laps, taking bike rides and running.” There are dozens of bike trails in the Chicago area. Wouldn’t it be fun to try a few of them? Canoe rides on the Chicago River are also available, as are sailing adventures on the lake.

Add the kids. Invite the rest of the family to do something you enjoy. Chaney invites her kids to join her in working the garden. She also recommends Family Camp at YMCA Camp Echo in Michigan, which provides fun activities for mom and dad while the kids are involved in their own activities. Try setting up your backyard for movie night and re-experience all your old favorites like the"Back to the Future,”"Indiana Jones” or"Lord of the Rings” trilogies.

Still having a hard time saying YES to you?

Gail Reichlin, co-author of The Pocket Parent and executive director of The Parents Resource Network, reminds us:"Summer is a great time for a mom to take a deep breath, close her eyes and place herself as #1 on her"to do” list… . This is a necessary gift to herself, rather than a selfish act, that will help restore a mom to an emotional place where she can be all that she would like to be for her children.”

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