Our life has been a bit upside down these days.
If you’ve followed our story, you know we had an amazing nanny for our triplets from the time they were three months old until they finished kindergarten. This is our first school year without a nanny.
And last summer was our first summer without a nanny.
Since summer can be particularly expensive for childcare, Bray decided to delay the job hunt a couple of months and teach the kids important things at the farm and the ranch. They came back as expert fishermen, horseback riders, cattle workers, and hay balers. Having them gone much of the week at the family farm killed me, but I know they will treasure that summer for the rest of their lives.
When it looked like Bray was closing in on job options this spring, we tried to figure out what to do for the summer. A college kid was a good option. Our kids swim on our neighborhood swim team, and we need someone to run them to practice every day. But a fulltime college kid (or teacher or summer nanny) is expensive. Summer camps are options. However, they leave none of the flexibility we need with my work schedule and a husband starting a new job. Plus, camps can be more expensive for three kids than child care.
It got us to thinking, how do people manage the cost of summer care?
Especially if they have more than one child.
I’m curious what the majority of Americans do who don’t have one spouse at home to watch the kids. We could afford it, but I can only imagine so many people could not. And I’m not even looking at the super expensive camps like ones offered by elite schools or Houston museums. I’m looking at gymnastics or cooking or nearby clubs. Once you add on extended care, because who only works from 9 am to 3 pm, it’s bananas.
It made me acutely aware of what a childcare crisis there is in America.
I remember making my way through a United Way exhibit and you had to pick where you spent “your money:” safe housing, healthy food, or stable childcare. When you saw the “average” family salary, there was no way you could do all three.
I’m grateful for options, but I wonder how working moms handle the stress of summers. Ah yes, summers have a lovely reputation for fun and relaxation, but if you work full time and have to shuttle your kids from yonder and thither (and mine are at least the same age so I don’t have to deal with three separate camps), how do you coordinate it?
Do you have family come in? Do you hire someone? Are there affordable options? Have you found you end up working less hours in the office because of a restricted schedule? Each summer, do you try something different? How do you budget for the additional costs?
I’d love to hear working moms summer tips on budgeting, choosing options, and juggling the stress of summer care.
Sound off so we can figure this thing out together.
Church day camps are the best, they are well run and free some run for weeks at a time. VBS is also an option, I know families that run their kids to all the VBS in their area. YMCA is no joining fees on Monday for a week. It works out cheaper to sign up for free and pay the monthly dues to get the big member discounts. The summer camps are usually open 6.30am-6.30pm with swimming, sports, study and crafts/fun!
Zoofari, HMNS and some of the other camps offer scholarships.
I think geography is one of our biggest obstacles in Houston b/c I live on the westside and work on the northside so I have to find something that logically fits with my commute and our nearby churches don’t offer anything…
My rising 6th grader has been blessed with an amazing after school program at school that also offers summer care for a reasonable price (~$125/week) for 7am-6pm care. Unfortunately, that means he’s there all day (they do fun weeks and field trips) and things like swim team aren’t an option unless I could find someone to pick him up and return him. We also have turned down the pricier “tech” camps offered by our local university for this same reason. A full day + lunch there is ~$375/week so even the one week he wants to do is a real cost-benefit juggle.
The real struggle is approaching. In our large city (nearly 20 middle schools) there are very very few options for summer care once you finish 6th grade and the convenience factor definitely goes out the window as their locations aren’t tied to the schools.
That is so amazing that your school offers a summer program too! With all the dual working families and the single parents it seems there would be more logical and affordable options than there are… Thank you Laura!
Missy Robinson says
This has been a HUGE factor for me, especially during my single mom years. Eventually, I found a hybrid of two days in “Mom’s Day Out” and three days with a sitter/nanny at home was the most affordable and flexible option for me. At the time, my budget was approximately $2,800 per month take home pay and I spent more on childcare than housing expenses. It was really difficult.
Now that the children are in school, I am able to plan ahead for summer childcare by saving each month from January – August under a “Childcare” heading. From September – December, I save that same amount for our “Christmas” fund. It works.
With three in elementary school, I found it most convenient to hire a college-aged sitter/nanny who could come when I left for work each morning. I love that my children still get the sense of lazy summer days at home, but she manages their screen time, makes sure they get outdoors and is creative with activities. We live near parks and pools, and she takes them to VBS during that week, too. Basically, she is my partner in mothering for the summer!
I am grateful to work a partial schedule and can be home by 3 pm each day. I pay our “person” $75 per day for 7:45 am – 3 pm childcare, meal prep, light cleanup and pay additional when there are extra activities (trip to the zoo, movies, etc.).
This is an ENORMOUS issue and I’m so thankful we are now entering Middle School years where full – time childcare isn’t as essential.
Thank you for bringing attention to this topic!
Missy Robinson says
Note for reference, This is for three children grades 1, 3, 5.
Thanks Missy for this insight – with triplets the same age, I have a while to go so the idea of the college kid is definitely what appeals to me the most b/c of the flexibility it would afford us as well as minimize the stress of getting all of us out the door at 7 in the morning!
Missy Robinson says
That is my thinking, let them (and me) enjoy a more relaxing summer schedule while we can. The key is to find a reliable and trustworthy college gal!
Thank you for bringing this challenge up. I’m a mom of twins plus a singleton, and I’m worried about how to preserve the lazy, carefree days of summer while working FT. I don’t have any good ideas that haven’t already been mentioned. But thank you for talking openly about the realities of working with a family.
Yes, that is super tricky – it’s amazing how many comments I got on FB and how every family’s solution is a little different!