Watch any kids on the last day of school, and you’ll see total bliss as they focus on their immediate futures. Pools. Beaches. Carnivals. Unhealthy foods. A three-month sabbatical lies before them, complete with zero homework and lots of lounging.
Now, look at their working moms. They look like deer in the headlights, both nervousness and stress playing in their eyes. They’re not focused on summer being a playland; it's a logistical landmine — not to mention a potential fiscal disaster.
Fifty-eight percent of parents view summertime with dread because they can’t figure out how to occupy their kids’ time safely. How will they transport them to and from recreational activities? Who will watch them? In some cases, their only option is to leave even elementary- and middle school-age youngsters at home for up to 12 hours if childcare isn’t available.
All this pressure and more falls upon moms’ shoulders year after year.
The Summer Challenge Is Real
I don’t know many working moms who actually enjoy summer breaks. We have more work to do, and scheduling multiple kids’ activities can be frustrating and difficult. And camps? They’re a solution that doesn’t always start when school ends.
Let’s not forget about financially absorbing the excitement of festivals, movies, and more. Summer entertainment costs families an extra $471, on average. For a family on a budget, that’s a significant chunk of change. I've also done the math, and it's an average of 10 forms for every different week of camp. In our desire to give our kids the "best summer ever," the number of forms could easily be enough to fill a magazine.
Now from May (because schools mysteriously are letting out earlier and earlier) to August, we become a magical superhero I'll call the "Schedulator" because not only are we managing our own family's new schedules, but everyone in our office is also on summer break. Making sure that all of the work still gets done and is balanced is certainly something that only a superhuman can do.
Sometimes I just want to skip to the fall.
How to Successfully Navigate Summer
It might sound like I'm a "Debbie Downer" for summer, but I know it's a rite of passage for kids. We all remember shoving our backpack into the back of our closet, not to be touched for months. And when I was a kid, I loved going away to overnight camp for eight whole weeks — my parents would actually cry when the bus for camp would pull away. While they knew I was going to have the best experience of my life, making new friends and learning how to be independent, they both realized how quiet the house was going to be without my sister and me (and our junk) lying around the house.
But now, as a mother myself and the head of a household, I owe it to my kids (and, who's kidding, my own sanity) to navigate summer by applying a few strategies:
1. Plan for summer early.
Before the kids are even out of school, put together a comprehensive calendar showing all the days your kids will be at home. Mark any holidays and planned travel arrangements first because those dates are already accounted for. Then, flesh out the rest of the calendar, noting days and weeks with lapses in childcare or events. Be sure to include any planned business trips or times when you know you won’t be available for something like a camp pick-up or drop-off.
Not only will having this calendar help you get a handle on how to give your kids the best experience you can, but it will also give you a road map to follow. Additionally, you can share it with older children who might be able to assist in the planning.
2. Find new caregivers through online babysitting apps.
Technology has made it so much easier to find a sitter to meet your needs than it was when I was a kid. Now, with sites like UrbanSitter, Sittercity, and Care.com, you can find a sitter who meets your family's needs. Some of these sites also help you with tips for face-to-face interviews, which I always recommend.
3. Take a day or two off.
Take a day or two off so you can kick back with your kids. You'll be able to connect with them without the frenzied "school pace" and unplug a bit. My kids love filling up water balloons by the bucketload and having a good ol' fashioned water balloon fight! (If you haven't bought into the hose attachment, trust me, it will save your fingers — and give your kids hours of giggles.)
Kids at overnight camp? Schedule a day or two off to spend with yourself or a group of friends. It's never selfish to focus inward once in a while.
4. Bring the kids to work.
It’s bound to happen at some point: Your kids’ afternoon activities get canceled, your sitter is sick, and you’re left scrambling trying to figure out what to do with your children. As a last resort, your well-behaved, independent older children might be able to occasionally come to work with you if the office allows it. Many organizations are more open to this option than you might think. If you have a good relationship with your boss or human resources personnel, see whether it’s a possibility.
Some workplaces even accept high schoolers as summer interns, which means you don’t have to worry about what your teen is doing because he or she will be in the cubby down the hall! Bonus: Colleges appreciate applicants who have interesting résumés.
Your kids deserve to have fun during the summer, but their excitement shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental health or the family’s bank account. With a little forethought and creativity, you can come up with summertime solutions that satisfy everyone’s needs.