For parents who work outside the home, summer can be an awkward time when it comes to finding appropriate and affordable childcare. The good news is that parents in this situation have lots of viable options at their fingertips. The one (or ones) you choose will be largely dependent on the amount of care your kids require (time), their ages and your budget. During the school year this doesn’t present as much of a problem once the kiddos are old enough to attend school. When school is out though, most working moms spend a lot of time finding places for their children to go and things for them to do over the summer months.
The Boys and Girls Club has nearly 4,000 clubs throughout the United States that provide summer programs for children ages six through 18. They offer a variety of programs including everything from leadership and educational programs to sports and art programs. The local school districts also often have summer programs for children with specific interests such as cheer, drama, science, and football. Other options include vacation bible schools. These programs are offered for one week during the summer and are usually free, only catch is they aren’t all day.
Some other options for summer childcare needs include:
Having a dedicated in-home caregiver during the summertime is the ultimate ideal for many parents who feel more at ease knowing that their child is spending time in familiar surroundings when they aren’t home. Many college students home on break offer their time and services for this purpose.
- Pros: Kids stay where they are familiar, fewer transportation costs, and dedicated care for your children alone.
- Cons: You provide the food and snacks, kids may not get out as often as they would at camp or elsewhere, and can be cost prohibitive.
What does your child enjoy doing? Playing soccer? Acting in plays? Painting? Whatever it is, you can bet that there is a summer camp for it. These camps are often less expensive than full-bodied summer camps because of the narrower scope of activities.
- Pros: Specific focus and community for the child and generally less costly.
- Cons: Sometimes have shorter hours and can be boring for kids with a wide variety of interests.
A good daytime summer camp is the perfect solution for many parents. Day camp is a good middle ground between a home-based babysitter/nanny and sleep away camp and in terms of hours of care during the work week, is often about the same as the regular school year. This provides both parent and kids with little schedule adjustment.
- Pros: Same care hours as the school year (in many cases); structured fun.
- Cons: Sometimes more costly than a shared sitter.
Grandparents, Friends and Family
I spoke with one friend, a teacher, whose neighbor was able to find camps and childcare most weeks. The rest of the weeks she enlisted the help of her friends and family. My friend will babysit one week and will get paid for that. Another week, her children will go to a family member’s house during the day. While it’s difficult at times to ask for help, the people who love us the most do understand and are often willing.
- Pros: Hiring someone you know and trust. This way you don’t worry about the welfare of your children while at work.
- Cons: Family and friends may not want to take your money, or it may be awkward when it comes payment time. Also, you may feel obligated to them to do something in return, even if you are paying, since they are helping you out.
In order to solidify a plan and let go of some of the stress that comes with the summer arrangements, you should:
- Plan in advance. Don’t wait until the last day of school to figure out what your kids will do this summer. Start planning a month out or so if you can.
- Organize activities visually. Use a calendar or your phone. For each week of summer, write down where your children will be. Share this with your spouse and family so everyone knows the plan.
- Ask around. Find out what your friends and other working parents are doing. Sometimes they can offer ideas you might not think of otherwise.
- Let your problems be known. We often want to keep our issues to ourselves, but if you tell people you are trying to determine a way to keep the kids busy while you work this summer, you’ll likely get some responses that will help.
What are your childcare arrangements for the summer if you are a working parent? Have you made them in advance?