Three Summer Childcare Options for Working Parents
Many of the moms I know are celebrating the arrival of summer while worrying about a big issue all working parents face: childcare.
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 of my friends that work spend a lot of time finding places for their children to go and things for them to do over the summer months.
The following are just a few options that might be available to working parents who are in need of childcare for the summer. Most of my friends use a combination of these three.
Camps. An obvious option, camps offer a variety of activities for children to participate in, from horseback riding to crafts to gymnastics and tennis. The upside: the kids are entertained with a variety of daily activities. You can choose to do things they will want to do. You can often get discounted rates for siblings, too. The downside: the cost. In fact, the camps in our area seem even more expensive this year than last, and the hours aren’t always conducive to working parents since some camps only last half a day. To find camps in your area, check with local schools, recreation departments, the Y, and places that offer kids’ activities, like gymnastics and karate. Local theaters often offer camps, as do museums and zoos. Most newspapers run a local camp directory at the beginning of summer that lists available camps in your area.
Shared Sitters. This is probably one of the best options I’ve found. Several working parents in my neighborhood got together and hired a local high school girl. She will sit several children at once. She is certified in CPR and took a babysitting course through the local Y. The pros of this arrangement include cost, which is a huge plus. Since she will be watching kids from several families, and each family will pay a certain amount per week, the families are cutting down on the cost of childcare. At the same time, they are paying the sitter more than she would make if she watched just one family’s child(ren). Plus there will be a variety of kids to do things together each day. The cons: If you don’t want your sitter to have more than your kids to watch, this obviously won’t work. Also, it could become a problem if some of the kids tend to clash or if the kids are of varying ages and are not interested in the same activities. To make this work, the sitter takes the kids to the local activities, like bowling, story time at the library and the free summer movies. She switches houses each week; the ‘host house’ pays for the lunches for that week by purchasing sandwich stuff and drinks. To find sitters in your area, check with high schools, the Y and ask other parents in your neighborhood.
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, the lady’s 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. The pros: Hiring someone you know and trust. This way you don’t worry while at work. The 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 family and your spouse, 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?
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