The adults at the neighborhood’s annual Memorial Day Cookout reminisced about how, as school children, Memorial Day was the final countdown to the end of the academic year. Whether this meant camp, summer jobs, family vacations, or just free time, it almost always involved many days of being home and sleeping late. Now, as parents, summertime creates more stress, especially in households where both parents work. What to do with the kids home from school?
This is not a summer-only problem, of course. Children become sick and need to stay home from school. If a willing relative can’t be found, one spouse would be required to stay home. One couple reports that they switch off at noon. Single parents have even fewer options. During the COVID pandemic, there was greater leeway, and often one, if not both, parent(s) were already working from home. Either way, this schedule juggling was mostly short-term. More than 10 weeks of summer is a scale above caring for a child with a 24-hour virus. Parents, particularly those with young, school-aged children, quickly develop a sick child coverage routine. What was needed, one parent proposed, was a summerlong childcare routine.
By the end of the event, the following ideas surfaced:
- Summer Daycare or Extended Hour Camp: Some parents had access to and could afford such coverage that approximated the school day hours. However, the additional cost was more than other parents had in their budgets. One single mother shared that she had received a scholarship from the church that ran her children’s daycare. An older couple shared that their parents had helped with the additional cost of daycare in the summer for a few years, until their oldest son reached an age where he could supervise the younger ones.
- Summer Help: High school students, college students, and perhaps some teachers who are on summer break might be a good resource. Also, sharing a summer sitter with close friend(s) and/or alternating homes, is a way to split the cost and minimize the kids’ summer boredom that may creep in. Keep in mind that they, too, might have multiple-week vacation plans. Also, teenagers may be less reliable and less dependent on the job for income and may lose interest. A backup plan and a backup to the backup plan may be needed.
- Work from Home: Some employers may be amenable to allowing a trusted employee to switch to remote work for the summer. Many workers proved they could work effectively from home, often while their children were also doing remote learning, so this might be an easier sell post-pandemic.
- Hybrid Schedule: This might involve couples developing complementary schedules for days at the worksite and days at home. In cases where summer help cannot commit to five full days a week, this could cover those “uncovered” days.
- Summer Schedule: In certain job roles, there may be an opportunity to change schedules to work four 10-hour days, three 12-hour days, or odd shifts to supplement the availability of summer help or a working spouse. Where there is job flexibility and personal resources, schedules can be cut back over the summer to fewer hours.
The cookout attendees also agreed that whatever single or combination of strategies are selected, it was vital to keep the employer informed of the situation and the proposed approach(es). Managers and supervisors might well empathize with the situation, perhaps having had summers with school children, too. Better to be open about the need for some schedule irregularity than have management concerned that there might be a more nefarious problem.
As they said their goodbyes, one woman quipped, “I do love summer, but still, I can’t wait to see you all at the Labor Day Picnic!”