Summer creates tremendous challenges for parents with school-age kids. Schools and daycares are closed, but work continues unabated. Parents are left to cobble together care for their children while still heading to the office. Providing that care is a huge challenge, as is evidenced by the fact that children between the ages of four and twelve are left alone three times longer during the summer.
The average American family spends about $7,000 on summer child care, about half their annual care budget, according to Sheila Marcelo, the founder of Care, a website that helps families find care. That estimate is probably low for lawyers. It does not account for the revenue lost because of time lawyer parents must take away from work and business development to fill in the gaps in summer care.
The solutions require some planning and can be expensive, but here are some ideas to help you and your family solve the summer child care dilemma. Planning early for next year can help pave the way for an enjoyable summer for everyone.
Some parents stagger their vacations, with one parent taking off a couple of weeks and then the other parent following suit. If each parent has two weeks of vacation, staggered vacations can provide a full month of child care. The upside is that parents get to enjoy summer with their children without depleting their budget. The downside is that this plan leaves very little time for the family as a whole to enjoy summer. And, if you work for yourself or have heavy business development responsibilities, it may not be feasible (or financially friendly) to take a full two weeks off. Nevertheless, juggling vacation time can be a useful tool for getting through the summer, especially if you have children who are too young for organized programs like camps.
Even if you do not stagger your vacations, you will probably have to (and want to) use some vacation time in the summer. To minimize the financial hit to your practice, consider vacationing in August when many others are vacationing, too. Courts tend to slow down and opposing counsel may be on vacation.
Develop a Deep Bench of Babysitters
No matter how well you plan your vacations and activities, there will be times when you need extra help. Something will come up at work or you just need a break. Cultivating a deep bench of reliable babysitters can help. Aim for four-to-five people that you trust and your children. This guarantees you will still have someone to call in case your regular babysitter is unavailable. The good news is students and many teachers are available to babysit in the summer, so it is a buyer’s market. Babysitting rates may be lower than at other times during the year because of the extra supply. Check here for the going rate in your area.
To find a good babysitter, many parents rely on word-of-mouth. Care is another excellent resource that many use to find nannies and sitters.There are also many agencies that can help you find summer sitters and nannies. Popular ones include College Nannies and Tutors and Sittercity.
To cut down on costs, consider sharing a sitter with another family or two. If you can find a sitter willing to watch several kids, and you can find families you and your kids are compatible with, this can be a great option. It may take some organization on the front end, but the kids will be happy and so will your wallet.
Grandparents and Other Relatives
Grandparents and other relatives can be a wonderful way to provide care for your children and a memorable summer. If relatives are willing and able to help out, consider allowing your kids to spend some time with them. You can rest assured that your children are loved and well cared for, and your kids will no doubt be making memories.
Once your kids are old enough to need and like playing with other children, you will probably have to sign up for at least one camp. Camps range tremendously in price, from the very expensive overnight camps to far more affordable day camps. The trick with camps is to figure out the duration. Some overnight camps last weeks, which can get you through a good chunk of the summer. Others may be just a week or two and only during the day. You may have to cobble together a few different camps and even arrange for pick-up and drop-off help, though some camps do offer that service. To help you find a good fit, the American Camp Association has a searchable database here.
For affordable camp options, check your local public schools. Many have extended care programs for the summers. Religious camps can also be very affordable. And the YMCA, which is in most locales, offers many programs at good rates.
Overnight camps can be pricey, but some of them can provide amazing experiences or specialized skills, like computer programming or sports.
The summer child care dilemma is not going to be easily solved anytime soon. But with some planning and work, you can make your children’s summers fun and memorable while still building your law practice.
Featured image: “Father and mother Teaching children to do their homework at home” from Shutterstock.