Mom defends her decision to send daughters to sleepaway camp for 7 weeks

Rachael Potash’s two daughters are 11 and 13, so spending seven weeks of their summer at sleepaway camp several states away is certainly unusual. But that still didn’t prepare her for the backlash she received when she posted about it on TikTok.

“I started sharing how I spend my time with my daughters and what we do before they leave for summertime. It was this beautiful thing of me making their favorite dinner for their last dinner and having their stepsister come over when it wasn’t even her week to come say goodbye to them. It was about making these really special moments with my kids, and it turned into ‘You’re a bad parent for sending them away for seven weeks,’” Rachel told People magazine. 

Rachel admitted that at first, the idea of sending them away to camp for so long was foreign to her, too. But her daughters’ dad, who died four years ago, spent his summers at a sleepaway camp, and told her about his amazing memories there.

“He’d tell me, ‘No, you don’t understand. It was the best time of my life,’” she said. “Before he passed away, when he was in remission, we went to visit his camp in Maine. We took my daughters to his camp and got to see his bunk and all that. We went to the sister camp and my older one was interested. We went to go see other camps too, but she decided she wanted to go to his sister camp. So this camp, in particular, has a ton of meaning because it’s the sister camp of where her dad went. I think it’s truly a connection for her to her dad, in a sense.”

So while many people in her comments question Rachel’s parenting and motives for sending her kids away for nearly the whole summer, she laughs it off because the experience is so great for her daughters, who are now in their fifth year of making the trek from South Florida to the camp in Maine.

“My daughter wrote me a letter the other day. She said, ‘My shower is outside and I feel so at one with nature.’ We live in this digital world where so many of us are literally living our lives online. These girls are getting to experience life living in the moment, outside making s’mores and going water skiing, and making lifelong friendships,” Rachel said. “They’re learning how to tackle some issues in life. They support each other when someone’s having a problem, or someone is homesick. They’re dealing with issues that most kids don’t even think about until they go away to college. To me, it’s like what better gift can I give them than having them literally be present in life and be out in nature and not worry about makeup or who went to this party and whether or not they were invited. I think that kids now need that more than ever.”

According to Psychology Today, summer camps are great places for kids to gain resiliency as well as the experiences they need to learn coping strategies. “There are the simple challenges of learning how to build a fire, going on a hike, or conquering a high ropes course,” the article reads. “There are the much more complex challenges of getting along with a new group of peers, learning how to ask for help from others, or taking manageable amount of risks without a parent following after you.”

Amid the backlash from some parents, Rachel said she’s heard from others—including some moms who went to summer camp themselves and spoke up to support her.

“Some of them met their husbands at their camp and now they’re sending their kids to the camp where they met. The love for summer camp goes deep,” she said.

The best part for her? Seeing how the experience transforms her daughters each summer.

“It’s so life-changing to see my daughters come back more independent, more confident, having become more of who they are and not being apologetic for it,” she said. “It’s amazing because young girls need to feel confident and independent and strong, and proud of who they are. We chose this camp because it’s really focused on empowering young girls and embracing all kinds of strength.”

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