Finding reliable, reputable childcare has consistently been one of the most stressful parts of being a working parent. So today I want to pose a question to the other working parents out there: What do you do for summertime childcare?!?
The place we’re currently at operates on an academic year schedule (not surprising, because its preschool through 8th grade so it’s a real school campus, albeit a private religious one). Their last day is May 24th and they don’t reopen again until the second week of August. But here I am, working full-time at my day job plus part-time at my online job and I have NO childcare!? Yikes!
After doing quite a bit of research, here’s what I’ve found. I’ll go ahead and tell you from the get-go: no good options exist. Especially in the under 5-year-old age range. (Disclaimer: a TON of options open up for school aged kids age 5+, so this problem may be specific to parents with younger kids).
- Option 1: There are lots of different one-week long summer camps at different places around town. This would be perfect if I was home all summer with the kids and just wanted to send them somewhere educational a couple weeks out of the summer. But I need childcare every week. I know my kids and I know they do not thrive in that kind of instability (a different camp at a different place with different people every single week). This won’t work for us.
- Option 2: Half-day camps. There are two places we know and trust that offer half-day camps. Half-day is far from ideal (one is from 8:30-12:30, but the other is only from 9-12. A total of 3-4 hours per day!) They’re pretty pricey for being such a limited amount of care. The three hour camp is $100/week/child and the four hour camp is $175/week/child. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1500/month for 20 hours per week.
- Option 3: JCC. We loved the JCC while we were there and only left because they were too far from our home. The commute wasn’t realistic after I started working full-time. But I thought that maybe we could go just for the summer. It’s someplace we love and the girls are familiar with. Wins all around, right? Nope. Turns out as non-members the prices are exorbitant. And there’s not an option for a short-term membership just for the summer. Getting childcare 3 days per week for 7 hours per day would run us OVER $2100 for our two kids!!!! Holy cow, that’s expensive! This would be my favorite option in terms of amount of childcare coverage and the enrichment activities/opportunities for the girls. But at that price, it just seems cost-prohibitive to me! For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $2100/month for 21 hours per week.
- Option 4: Part-time Babysitter. We’ve got a high school babysitter we really love (and the girls love her, too)! We’re friends with the family and have talked to her parents a bit about whether she’d be a good choice for some summer childcare. What we discussed was 3 days per week (a couple weeks with only 2 days of care), 8 hours per day at a rate of $250/week for 3 day weeks or $175/week for 2 day weeks. This is the most cost-effective option and also the best in terms of actual childcare coverage (looking at number of hours per week), but I don’t love the idea of the girls being home all the time and not interacting with other kids. Also, I worry about babysitter fatigue/burnout and having no reliable back-up if the sitter is sick. For comparison purposes, this amounts to roughly $1100/month for 24 hours per week.
(side note: for comparison purposes, we currently pay roughly $1100/month for full-time childcare, approximately 40 hours per week. So really ALL of the options discussed are nearly double our current rate of pay per hour of childcare coverage).
I’m thinking we might hodge-podge care a bit. I like the babysitter option, as it’s the cheapest and largest amount of care. To try to add in some enrichment and other child-interaction for the girls, I think I might also enroll them in a couple of one-week summer camp programs. That way they still have the stability I’m looking for (they’re not going to a new camp every single week; they’ll mostly be in familiar surroundings with a familiar babysitter), but they’ll still get to go out of the house a bit and experience some enrichment with other kids.
Also, I still worry that 3 days per week (even at 8 hours per day), might not be enough time. My jobs over the summer are definitely more flexible than during the academic year. For example, my main job dictates that I teach 3 classes per semester during the academic year. In summer I’ll still be working full-time, but only teaching 1 class (and it’s fully online). The rest of my time is being paid to prep other classes and oversee our grad student teaching. There’s really nothing that requires me to be on campus aside from a sporadic meeting here or there. So it’s possible the 3 day per week childcare scenario could work. But what if I get into it and discover that’s not enough time? We really have no other back-up or alternative arrangements, which is scary to me.
What do other working parents do? What suggestions do you have? As of now, we haven’t signed any contracts or put deposits down on any camps. We’re still trying to figure out the best course of action. What do you think?