Monday, June 12, 2017

Making the Most of Summer: For Working Moms

Ahh, summer! That idyllic time of year. The days are long. The nights are warm. The kids are out of school. And mom and dad still have to work...

I know it's not like that for every family. Some families have a parent that stays home full-time year round. Some families have a parent that teaches, or otherwise has a job with summers off. Some families have parents that are able to otherwise adjust their work schedules to tag team the child care during the summer.

Not the case in our house. I work full time and so does Ken. My job is the more traditional 8-5 and his varies throughout the week. Regardless, there's no way for us to handle summer care just between the two of us, so we turn to other solutions.

At one point, I had considered a nanny or babysitter for the kids. This is a solution that could work great for families with multiple kids who need care over the summer. I live in a college town and work in a educational setting. I have a wide variety of kid-loving college students to choose from, but I've decided a nanny wouldn't really work for us. My main concerns were money and behavior. My kids tend to get tired of each other rather quickly and I've always been scared that they would fight with each other constantly and make life miserable for the nanny. It would be possible, of course, for the nanny to take them out to different places, but the free options would run out rather quickly and the paid options would add up to more than would be feasible for us.

The option that I have found for us is one that might not work for everyone, but it's worth considering if you're looking for new summer child-care options. Again, I work in a college town and there are lots of different activities going on all summer. There are actually two universities, a college and a community college in my area. This makes for a great variety of cultural and social events, but I don't think higher ed is a necessity for this plan to work.

I call what my kids do in the summer "camp hopping." Each week my kids go to a different local camp. There is a lot of juggling involved to find a camp each week, but once it's done I'm super excited to see all the fun things they get to do.

Here are some places to try when you're looking for summer activities:

Try your local recreation center, karate places, or sports' teams. You can often find sport specific camps for your kids to try out during the week. This summer Henry gets to try out skateboarding camp! We considered soccer camp as well, but it didn't fit in the schedule this year.

Local businesses exist to make a profit, and some of them had have gotten creative. Our local fabric shop has sewing camps all summer long. They are a bit pricey, but Frances has really enjoyed the classes and gotten some fun new clothes and room decorations to bring home. The art store also has camps all summer. The kids get to try out a variety of types of creative expression.

The local university runs a really fun poetry camp each summer. I worried at first that Frances would struggle writing with poetry, but it turns out this camp is much more than that. The kids spend all week engrossed in creative expression, from art work to dance moves.

The kids' school system has a week-long enrichment camp for kids. There are a wide variety of topics the kids can choose from. The classes are taught by school-teachers and other community members who love working with kids.

I have a friend who is very involved in 4-H who passed along some info about a 4-H sewing camp to me. Frances isn't able to make that one, but Henry is excited to try it out.

Are your kids musically inclined? Mine play violin during the school year and also have a violin camp one week each summer. This particular one is tied onto a local music festival that the kids get to perform at as well.

The local children's museum has different camps each week. I've seem Lego camps, princess camps, STEM camps, and many more. A lot of these are half-day camps, so they aren't ideal, but I've found a way to make them work in the past.

When people think of summer camp, one of the first things that often comes to mind is sleep-away camp. Both Frances and Henry have had a chance to try these out. It's a good experience for the kids to spend a week away from home. They make new friends and have a great time!

There are often weeks that I can't get filled in with this plan. That might be a good week to plan a vacation from work if you've got that flexibility. I've been fortunate that each of my kids has been able to spend a week at "Camp Grandma and Grandpa." I've split it up so that each kids gets their own personal week to spend with my parents. It's obviously fun for that kid to be and only child for a week, but it's also neat to see how the dynamic changes around here for the other two kids.

If vacation and grandparents aren't an option, it might be worth calling a few friends. If you can arrange play dates a few times during the week, that could really go a long way in filling out your plan. Also, there's nothing wrong with getting a nanny or sitter for one or two specific weeks when other things aren't going on.

This plan can be a headache to set up, I'll be honest. There are some weeks that I just can't find anything and some weeks when I've found two really great possibilities that I've had to choose between. Some of the weeks are more expensive than others, but I try to keep the average to less than $100 per kid per week. This budget allows me to know when I can splurge on some more expensive things like the horse camp Frances went to one year.

When I start looking for camps, I ask on local Facebook pages to see what other people are doing. I've also made and kept a spreadsheet of our plan that I can go back and look at when I need to remember a camp from previous years. Once it's all planned out, it's such a relief to know that my kids will have a great summer with a wide variety of fun experiences. And I can go to work each day and not worry about my kids.

What do you do to keep your kids cared for and entertained for the summer? Are you a working mom looking for child care, or a SAHM trying not to stay at home too much?

The June theme for the Blog with Friends Challenge is SCHOOL's OUT. Check out how others interpreted the theme.

Karen has a frozen berries and cream cocktail!

Kia has some great reads for ESL teachers.

Lydia has some great non-screen ideas if you're home for the summer.

Dawn has a frozen mocha coffee.

Melissa has some fun flower cards.

Tamara has a great summer bucket list.

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