The Stress of Summer Break

My kids are officially out for summer but I refuse to call it a “break”.  My husband and I both work so any time school is out we are scrambling to find reliable, safe, fun child care for our 2 kids.

The childcare options that working parents have are limited and expensive.  Remember that time Twinkies were discontinued and everyone was going crazy trying to stock up?  Yeah, it’s like that.  And trying to navigate all of the options to find the one that’s right for your family is no less stressful than trying to find a life partner.  All you need is one bad date to realize that you didn’t REALLY mean you were “up for anything”.

You can choose from day camps, overnight camps, baby sitters.  Do you need full day coverage?  Good luck!  My favorites are the “full day” camps that start at 9 am and end at 4 pm.  It’s cool… my boss likes paying me for an 8-hour workday when I can only really work for 6. (Please read that with the level of sarcasm with a tinge of anger that would make George Carlin proud).

It was easy when they just went to daycare.  No decisions to make, no change in routine.  But then it happened.  My daughter said the magic words, “I’m too old for this”.  We knew we needed to find an option that she would be excited about.  All kids deserve to have the type of summer they look forward to!  So we saved up, talked to friends who had gone through the same thing, and planned ahead (something I never do).

Last year we were so excited.  We got ourselves a NANNY (ok, really a babysitter but I feel fancier when I say NANNY!)!  Finally, our rising first grader and rising fourth grader could stay up late, sleep in, go swimming whenever they wanted, have play dates with friends, HAVE A REAL SUMMER BREAK!

But our hopes for the type of summer that my husband and I grew up experiencing were crushed in the most wretched way when I discovered just a few weeks into summer that the babysitter physically assaulted my son!  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  We VETTED HER!  She seemed nice, had references, was just graduating from high school and going to college.  She was supposed to be FUN!  Not SATAN!

Ugh… there goes us EVER trusting a nanny/babysitter.  Back to square one.  The promise of a fun summer was replaced with waking the kids up before Jesus wakes up (you know, the “unGodly hour”), to get them dressed and ready so my hubs and I could take turns dropping them off at the local YMCA.  It was the only place that checked all of the boxes: close by, fun activities, won’t beat my kids, extended hours (that’s what “they” call “true” full day camps).

It turned out ok.  A few lice outbreaks but nothing that couldn’t be remedied.  We decided to stick with what works so that’s where we went back to this year.  And to my surprise, the kids were actually EXCITED!  They had friends that they already knew, they had fun, they were exhausted… #yay!

All of this to say, if you see a working parent out and about and it’s summer, buy them a coffee and give them a hug.  They’re prolly a little defeated.  And broke.

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Finding Summer

It’s Summer!

Summer changes when kids are “School-Aged”.

For one, they are a whole year smarter now than they were last summer.  So they remember what happened last year.  “Mom, are we going to the beach again this year?”  And they have better communication skills to discuss plans with friends.  “Hey, Melissa has a baby sitter so she doesn’t have to wake up early!”  “Hey, Mia’s mom takes her to the pool every day!”  “Mom, Jaden’s mom takes him to Hair Styling camp!  It starts at 11 am and ends at 2 pm!  Can I go, too, Mom???”

Dam you, Jaden’s mom.

And they make plans on their own without consulting you. “Mom, I told Ms. Celina that I’m going to see Winter and Hope.  You know, the dolphins?  We can go tomorrow.  Also, I need you to call for when we come back from Florida.  Only baby sitters with 4 or 5 stars, OK?  I already told Ms. Celina that today is my last day at Primrose.”

Before kindergarten there really weren’t any summer “expectations”.  We could go on vacation whenever we wanted without having to work around the school schedule.  The kids were too young to know what was happening.  They’d go to sleep in Atlanta and wake up in Florida wondering what the white, grainy stuff was on their feet and why we were putting them in water for fun.

I got used to that.  And then it changed.

Last summer the kids still had their established bed times.  They still had to be up at their normal times to get to daycare so that my husband and I could go to work.  We made it to the beach for a week and we would go to the pool after work and on the weekends but that was really the only indicator to our kids that it was “summer”.

When I was a kid, summers meant staying up as late as we wanted.  It meant playing outside at night and catching lightening bugs in jars without adequate ventilation and sleeping until 10 am.  We didn’t have to wear anything other than a bathing suit if we didn’t want to.  We drank sugary drinks in containers shaped like a barrel.  We played in water hoses and sprinklers and ate popsicles and ice cream and pizza rolls EVERY DAY.

This summer it hit us.  Our kids need a real summer!  It’s hard when both parents work full time to take a risk that could throw off schedules and work obligations.  I’d love to have a baby sitter come to the house and stay with Bella.  But what if the baby sitter is sick or can’t make it for whatever reason?

The city has all kinds of super cool camps.  But most don’t start until 9 and end at 2 or 3.  If they offer extended hours it’s usually 8 or 8:30 until 5:30.

I am supposed to be at work by 7:30 (ok, ok, I usually get there around 8.  FINE!  8:15.  Happy now???) and sometimes I can’t leave the office until 5:30.

Or can I?

When Bella was little and I was a single mom I worked from around 7 am until about 4 pm so that I could bypass Atlanta traffic as much as possible and so that I could spend as much waking time as I could with her.  The company I worked for was VERY flexible with work schedules so it didn’t really matter.  I got used to that.  Then we had Roman and it still made sense to keep the same schedule.

{Let’s face it, I’m masochistic and love being yelled at, hit, kicked, pinched, and punched by a three-year old as much as humanly possible.  And I love being told by my seven-year old that no one gets her and that I don’t care about her when I tell her that we’re going to the park instead of watching an episode of Jessie.  Even more than that, I love waiting until they fall asleep and giving them a million kisses on their faces so they can’t wiggle away, and watching them breathe, and smelling their hair (don’t judge me). My little slice of Heaven.}

But maybe Bella’s onto something with this thing.

Or maybe I could pretend to be a high school girl and infiltrate groups where I might meet someone I’d trust with my babies.  What?  Isn’t that what Drew Barrymore did in that movie that one time?

Change is so hard for me.  Even when I know it’s for the best and necessary.  But going from what is comfortable and functional for ME to what is comfortable and functional for my KIDS is something that I must do.  Bella is beyond bored at daycare summer camp and desperately needs to have FUN!

Folks, in the same way that Michael Scott declared bankruptcy on The Office, I’m declaring that my kiddies will have a SUMMER!!!!!!!

Am I the only person in the world with the work/kid schedule dilemma???

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