Balancing Work and Childcare During Summer Break

balancing work and childcare during summer break

With summer comes the childhood joys of swimming, ice cream trucks, water balloon fights, and the freedom to do whatever they want for weeks on end. As fun as the season can be, for parents working outside the home, summertime also comes with the added stress of finding childcare for their kids for 40+ hours a week until school starts back up in the fall. 

There is so much that goes into finding and securing childcare for your kid, and it requires a lot of budgeting, planning, and organizing that just isn’t quite as overwhelming during the school year. Some parents also have to find a safe and trustworthy childcare provider in the summer and ensure enough space in the program for their kids, which can be tricky (especially in a post-Covid world). 

How can parents make this task feel a bit more manageable? 

School is Not Childcare

Across the US, around 6.3 million parents rely on childcare centers for their kids (s) before starting kindergarten. Only 37% of children under five years old have a parent as their primary caregiver during the day–this means that most parents have become accustomed to having regular, reliable childcare for their kids while away from the house. So, when their child starts kindergarten, it can feel like a huge relief because they suddenly get “free” childcare after years of paying thousands of dollars for their kid to be cared for by someone outside the home. 

While the budget boost is undoubtedly something to celebrate, what so many of us forget is that school is not childcare. Kids have a constitutional right to an education, and school is what delivers it to them. School is to teach kids how to read, write, and grow into capable, well-rounded individuals. It is not intended to be a daycare center, which means working parents have to find ways to fill in the time gaps when school is out of session. 

In the US, the national average number of days kids attend school is 180, which leaves parents having to find a place for their kids to go the other 187 days out of the year (plus, the average school day is around 6.5 hours, so parents who work outside the home often have to arrange childcare for the additional 2.5 hours a day school isn’t in session throughout the year). 

It’s a pretty big shock — and inconvenience — for many parents. But, what makes summer so much different is that it’s much harder to find childcare for weeks on end than it is on a one-off day during the school year. 

Tips and Ideas for Childcare in the Summer

So, how can parents manage this situation a little easier? How can we find childcare that’s affordable, safe, and fun? Not to mention, what kinds of childcare options do we even have? 

Summer Childcare Ideas

  • Day camp or sleepaway camp (day camp programs usually last longer than sleepaway options)
  • Local daycare programs; many daycares offer special services for young school-aged children during the summer (though these tend to fill up quickly)
  • Local YMCA; most YMCAs offer different camps and activities throughout the summer months, and you usually don’t have to be a member to enroll your child (though the cost will be slightly higher for non-members)
  • Parks and rec or community center programs; most towns and cities have parks and recreation departments, and many also have some kind of community or art center that may offer fun camps and activities for kids to participate in (these are usually very budget-friendly, too)
  • Local babysitters; specifically neighborhood high school and college kids who are looking for summer jobs (bonus points if they’re studying education or another child-focused subject)
  • Friends and family members; if your schedules allow for it, team up with a couple of other parents and rotate who watches the kids for a week at a time

Tips for Success

Most busy parents can understand how, even though summer vacation comes around every year, it somehow still manages to sneak up on us. We know it’s coming, but we often find ourselves scrambling to find care at the last minute. To help avoid this panic, here are a few things you can do throughout the year to make summertime childcare a little less overwhelming:

  • Budget for your program of choice; if possible, set aside a little bit of money every month from September through May so that you aren’t left trying to figure out how to afford three months of childcare come June
  • At the beginning of the school year, ask fellow parents what they did for childcare over the summer, and ask how it went; keep track of the programs with high praise so that you can look into them for next summer
  • Set a reminder for March to start exploring your options for the summer and mark registration dates for programs you’re interested in on your calendar so that you can secure a spot for your kiddo (also, keep checking into April because a lot of programs don’t even post their information until closer to summer break)
  • Start talking to your boss about options for flexible scheduling for the summer earlier than later; the more time you give them to prepare, the better

Advocating for a Flex Schedule

If you don’t already have some flexibility in your schedule or hope to shift to remote or hybrid work for the summer while your kids are out of school, you’ll need to advocate for this change at work. Exactly how you do this will depend a lot on your role, your company’s policies, and your relationship with your manager, but here are some general tips:

  • Plan what you’re going to say, and prepare for questions and pushback 
  • Get specific; detail out exactly what you’re looking for, and don’t leave it up to interpretation
  • Bring back up materials if they will help (i.e., examples of work you’ve done working remotely before)
  • Don’t shy away from your need for this as a parent. But don’t make it the only focus (this will increase your chances for approval and increase your chances of extending the flexibility beyond summer)
  • Start advocating for it early to give your boss time to go through the chain of command if necessary, or it gives you time to revisit the topic later if they initially say no

Final Thoughts

Managing childcare throughout the school year is incredibly difficult for parents who work outside the home, but the summer months bring their challenges. The best thing you can do is be as prepared as possible. Still, if that ship has sailed this year, then that’s okay because your child is sure to have fun whether they’re at a fancy camp or running around with the neighborhood kids while you work from the back patio — because it will take a whole lot to take all of the joy out of sweet summertime for your kiddo.  

If your current job isn’t offering what you need to provide your child with safe, reliable care this summer, join The Mom Project and check out the many incredible opportunities available in the marketplace. 

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