Summer is right around the corner. If you were at my house last weekend, you would have sworn from the weather it was already here. The kids are a couple of weeks (they'll tell you in days) from summer vacation, and everything should be laid back and wonderful.
Unfortunately, when you're a single working Mom, summer isn't much about relaxing.
I began months ago trying to figure out how I was going to cope with my kids being out of school for 11 weeks. First, you have to tackle the financial aspect. Back when their father was still around, we used to put the kids in full-time daycare every summer. Of course, the cost of full-time daycare was nearly equal to our mortgage, so summer left us painfully thin on money when it came to things like vacations away. We didn't get much of that, but that's the price you pay for having a full-time job.
According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, since 2000, child care has increased twice as fast as median income for families with children. In their 2010 report, they further concluded:
Unlike free public education for children in kindergarten through grade 12, or tuition assistance for college students, there is no universal financing structure to help underwrite the cost of child care. The average annual cost of infant care in a center exceeds the cost of public college tuition and related fees in 40 states.
Now, as a single mom with two jobs and 1/3 of my former household income, finding someplace for my kids to be all summer is crucial, and a full-time daycare center is completely out of my reach. I'm very lucky though, because my little town has a wonderful summer camp that runs for eight weeks, Monday through Friday mornings. It's a little over $100 for each child for the whole session, and I'll only have to pay a babysitter for the afternoon on top of that.
Oh, and she has to drive.
And she has to come over for an hour in the morning, since camp doesn't start till nine and they don't allow early drop-off. She'll have to drive them to camp, pick them up at one, and then bring them home and stay with them till I get back from work. And when the school's summer reading program begins, her hours will have to adjust so that she can put get my son on and off the bus they send for him.
You'd think that wouldn't be too hard to find, but it is. Most adults don't want to work a split schedule like that, or they want a lot more money than I planned on paying because my son is autistic.
He's very high functioning and as self-sufficient as any eight-year-old boy, and he's smiley and friendly and low-maintenance as a kid can be. Still, they hear the word and the price goes up.
Teenagers and college students? Hard to find one who drives their own car (so no one else has a claim on it when I need it to be in service) and at some point over the summer, they're going to need a week off for their family's vacation. This rarely coincides with the two individual vacation weeks my ex and I have picked out -- weeks carefully chosen because camp stops exactly two weeks before school begins.
And of course, I have to plan a vacation that will most likely be a "staycation" with a day-trip to the beach and a weekend camping in a tent... if we're lucky.
So here I sit, two weeks before school is out without a babysitter yet hired, or a plan for how I'm going to save up enough money to pay for her and a few activities for us to do over the summer. And when I do hire someone, I'm likely to be scrambling with the neighbors, trying to figure out how to cover any time the babysitter needs off, since it's summer and people like to go do fun things over the summer.
People picture summer as someone kicking back on a porch swing or in a hammock with a big, frosty drink. That'll be me in late August, as soon as that school bus drives away. The balance on my checking account goes back up, my schedule returns to normal, life is good.
And I can finally relax -- at least, until next year.
Photo Credit: M Car.
More from parenting