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Every summer I live at camp with my kids. As a working mom, I don't have to think about logistics as much.

Brianna Bell   

Every summer I live at camp with my kids. As a working mom, I don't have to think about logistics as much.
  • My husband and our three kids move into summer camp to live there.
  • My husband is the camp director of a camp in Ontario.

I never would have imagined that I'd be living at a children's summer camp in a tiny cabin all summer with my husband and three kids — yet here I am.

Last year, my husband was offered a job as a Camp Director at a small children's camp in remote Southwestern Ontario. As picturesque as that sounds, we both had to sit down and discuss how we'd logistically live at the camp for two months every summer. I work as a Senior Manager for a Toronto-based tech firm, and while I am a remote worker, I absolutely need excellent internet and an uninterrupted workday. I'm also a freelance journalist and need privacy for interviewing sources.

In addition to my busy work schedule, we have three growing daughters, ages 7, 10, and 12. The camp is located two hours from our home, which would mean uprooting them from their community and missing out on fun with friends and family over the summer months.

The biggest almost dealbreaker was the tiny 350-square-foot cabin we'd all share. The first time we walked into the cabin, we all almost ran out screaming. It was old, musty, and completely unlivable. Thankfully, my husband managed to "renovate" the space enough that we could comfortably live there. The small cabin consists of two bedrooms (our three kids squeeze into one bedroom, and we share the other room), a small bathroom, and a living area. While there's no kitchen, a few feet outside our front door is a large dining lodge.

"You won't have to cook all summer," my husband told me when he was first offered the position. No grocery bills and no cooking all summer made the occasionally mouse-infested, very tiny cabin mostly worthwhile.

It gave us the option to slow down

Eventually, we agreed that this would be a good opportunity for our family. It offered us a chance to slow down and enjoy a quieter pace.

The camp is located at the top of a bluff overlooking Lake Huron, which some consider the most beautiful and pristine sunsets in the world. In the absence of the city's light pollution, the night sky is beyond breath-taking. While we were entering a completely new experience, our kids would get the chance to live surrounded by new friends and fun activities for two months straight, all against the backdrop of a rustic campground.

In a few weeks, we'll be entering our second summer at camp, and we're all eagerly anticipating move-in day. As soon as we step foot into camp, our rhythms and routines will shift.

I have to worry about less things

Instead of meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, we'll all sit in the red dining lodge with staff and campers and eat signature camp fare. The cacophony of utensils clinking and the occasional burst of singing makes mealtime a very jovial affair.

During the day, I'll work inside the camp office, which is mostly empty since my husband spends his days riding around on an ATV, ensuring the programming is running smoothly. The internet is surprisingly excellent — last year I even managed a live TV interview on Canada's national news station without interruptions.

Instead of worrying about paying for summer activities, our kids will spend leisurely summer days at the camp. They'll make crafts, play games, go on hikes, enjoy daily swimming lessons (they're excellent swimmers now), and reunite with camp friends.

Our kids sleep so much better at camp

One of the most unexpected bonuses of summer camp life is our sleep habits. Our kids have always been notoriously bad sleepers, but at the cabin, everyone sleeps like a rock for the entire night. The combination of fresh air and active days seems to make everyone feel safe and warm in their respective beds. Every morning, I wake up refreshed, clear-headed, and ready to tackle the day.

I never thought I'd be in my mid-30s living at a children's camp. Some days, it feels like this lifestyle is much more suited to a younger person who doesn't have the commitment and responsibilities that we do, but most days, it feels like a dream come true.

There's a simplicity about living in a small shared space. In the summertime, I'm not thinking about a Pinterest-perfect kitchen (because I don't even have one); when the floor becomes covered in beach sand, it doesn't bother me, and I have a very small space that can be quickly tidied and cleaned. Besides, most of our day is spent outside under the clear blue sky or in other, larger buildings.

At camp, I've found a closeness with my family that I didn't have before. But I've also found community with others. When we're short on kitchen staff, I'm more than happy to fill the space, chopping a heaping pile of carrots for chili or flipping burgers on the barbeque. I'll gladly jump into the lake on a hot summer day with my girls or play a game of beach volleyball.

When I go to bed at night, my pillow smells like a campfire, sunscreen, and sweat — all signs of a perfect day at summer camp.

Brianna Bell is a Canadian freelance journalist with work published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe & Mail, and more. Brianna is currently working on her memoir.


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