You could be a food blogger, a dog whisperer or a lawyer, but if you work and you’re also the default caregiver for your children, summertime can be more stressful than the holidays. By setting expectations, routines and plenty of playdates, you can learn to enjoy this special time with your children rather than dread it.
Many neighborhoods now have email list serves. Google yours and join up. Browse previous posts for any mentions of summer camps and activities. Create a post introducing yourself and your children. Tell your neighbors you’re looking for ways to keep your children busy over the summer. Don’t be shy!
Communicate with the kids
Ask your children what they’d like to do over the summer. Are they interested in exploring any particular sports, arts or hobbies? Do they have certain friends they’d like to spend time with? Do they want to go to the beach every day, hunt for bugs or read books? Be clear with your children that you will accommodate as many requests as you can.
Work from home
Set up standing playdates with your children’s friends when you are working from home. Be sure to return the favor. When your kids are at home and you have a deadline, set them up with a project and use a timer to bargain for uninterrupted working time. If they give you an hour, you make them a pitcher of lemonade. If they give you two hours, you will take them to the swimming pool.
Hire a temporary nanny
Plenty of professional nannies find they have extra time in the summer to take on another family. Likewise, high school students on break from the summer make excellent babysitters, particularly if there is no driving involved! Again, get connected within your community, meet your neighbors and figure out who and what is nearby.
Sign up your child for a full-time summer camp. Community centers and the YMCA will have the best prices and often the longest hours. You can still enjoy special time with your child by designating one day per week to a summer tradition such as eating breakfast in the park and dropping her off an hour late or picking her up an hour early and going out to ice cream before dinner. Or maybe even playing hooky from work for the entire afternoon and spending it at the lake. Consistency helps so check with your boss on what is doable on a weekly basis before making plans.
Instead of assuming that your parents, in-laws, siblings and other extended family know that they’re welcome to visit, invite them! Be clear that the children will be home and you need to work, so this would be an unprecedented time for bonding. You might be surprised at the ways your loved ones want to help. Just one week with a family member is a great way to break up all of those weeks at camps and with babysitters.
It is normal for children to feel disappointed when they don’t get to stay home with mom or dad all summer, particularly if they’ve done so in the past. But they are also capable of understanding that parents must work in order to put food on the table. Parents, for their part, must know that children will possibly require more attention when they are not in school, regardless of how many camps and nannies have been paid for, and they should readjust expectations at work accordingly.
Respect summer as a break from school
Summertime is a precious commodity unique to childhood. Whether you work at home or outside the home, you can facilitate happy carefree summers for your children by making sure they get plenty of time outdoors for undirected imaginative play as well as social interaction with like-minded friends. Even if you don’t have the luxury to slow down, make sure that your children can. It’s all about having a break.