Here in the Midwest, many parents scrambled to make arrangements for yet another snow day this past Friday. It’s the 6:45am announcements of “School’s Closed”that makes me ever-so-grateful for my flexible work situation. While at home Friday, friends were chatting on Twitter about summer camps. Is it crazy to plan for summer camp in February? I assure you, it absolutely is not.
At first, when you’re a working mom, you’re concerned about time off after the baby comes home. Then you’re faced with the astronomical cost of infant care. Then you assess if your arrangements for infant care will work for your now mobile and verbal toddler. Then you have to decide what kind of preschool program your child will attend, and if it will be just for the school day or if you need a program with before and after school care. Then you double check to make sure the preschool option is also available for the summer months. Then you make a plan for kindergarten.
Then your child graduates from kindergarten.
And needs something to do in the summer while you are working.
To be honest, this is the first summer since 2007 I’ve worked. As a teacher, I savored the weeks at home with my kids while the weather was nice. That summer of 2007 I worked part-time, and my daughter simply attended her normal daycare center (she was two at the time). This summer, I’ll be working part-time, and while my son is able to still attend his daycare (where 50% of the staff has been retained since my daughter was there in 2006 ,which is amazing, and why we love it there so much), my daughter will need somewhere to go.
As I mapped out our options, I thought some of our readers might like a little tutorial on this very subject. It’s not something I experienced as a kid – my mom always worked nights and weekends until I was old enough to babysit my brothers. I digress.
In my opinion, my daughter is still a “little kid.” She’ll be six by summer’s end, but she still needs to be supervised by grown-ups when I am absent for long periods of time (teens being a fine option for occasional babysitting). I want real adults interacting with her and exposing her to interesting and fun things in a safe environment.
Here are the choices my husband and I have looked at, and at the end, you’ll see our ultimate decision.
Hire a Sitter: Since I just stated that I’d like a grown up to care for my kiddos, this would work out to cost about the same as finding another arrangement. Pros: No transportation on my part, the kids get to stay put, and don’t have to get along with others all day long. Cons: If something comes up for the sitter, there is not back up. If there is no sitter, I don’t go to work.
Send Her to My Son’s Daycare: As much as I just raved about the daycare a few paragraphs ago, I’m not a huge fan of their school-aged program. Most private daycares will run a “summer camp” program to attract school-aged enrollment during the summer months. In my opinion, it all depends on the number of children in the program and what the collective age span is. I know that at this daycare, there are never a huge number of school-aged kids. Most of them are siblings to the younger children. If she were to attend, she’d likely be hanging with a group of five to six 5th grade boys. Not the most ideal situation for any of those involved.
Send Her to a More Traditional Daycamp: The YMCA, local parks departments, and other youth organizations have all gotten into the business of providing thorough summer childcare for elementary-aged children. Some of the even work on a sliding scale based on income, which is a godsend to some families. Not all of them offer part-time/partial week options, which is something we are looking for this summer. Not all of them accept children who are not yet six. If I had to guess, most children who need full-time summer daycare attend programs like these.
Send Her to a Specialty Camp: If we were millionaires (or heck, thousand-aires) I could probably design a summer full of specialty camps. Most specialty camps, held at prestigious venues (like museums and zoos) hold incredibly enriching programs, staff by highly qualified adults. As a result, the prices are often double or triple the price of a neighborhood day camp. How cool would it be, though, to swim with dolphins or get to clean the resident T-Rex?
In the end, we’ve decided on sending her to our local healthclub’s summer program. We can sign up for individual days, field trips are involved, and swimming is offered daily. It’s reasonably priced, close to home, and a place with which she is familiar. Phew. Ok, this one’s covered. What’s next? Oh yeah, before and after school care once she starts first grade!
What have you done with your kids while you’ve worked over school breaks? What did your parents do with you?