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Summer Childcare Blues


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).

My Thoughts:

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?


    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, very cool! Thanks for sharing! They aren’t 4 yet, but they turn 4 in late June so maybe I could look at some of the July classes as options. This looks very reasonably priced compared to what I’ve seen!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I looked into it, but its not cost-effective. It’s a 9-month minimum, at $120/month for our family and I know for a fact we’d literally never use it after the summer ends because its too far from our home. Plus, we missed the member “early bird” discount timeframe (would’ve had to sign up by May 1), so currently there’s not as big of a difference between the member price and non-member price anyway. It represents a HUGE difference from what we paid last summer when we were there, but that’s because last summer we were still members and we got the early bird price, which offered additional savings.

  • Reply AY |

    I agree childcare is definitely the hardest part of being a working parent!! I just work two days a week so it’s much easier for me. The kids (1 and 3) go to Mother’s Day out 9-2 one day a week, I pick them up and take them home, so snacks and naps and a babysitter comes over and I go back to work from 4-8 and my husband comes home and does dinner and bedtime at 630. The other day I work the kids are home with a babysitter from 815-315 and then me or my husband come home depending on their schedules. My kids do so much better bring at home in a consistent environment and with a consistent caregiver and I try to get them out for play dates or activities on the days I’m home. But finding a reliable caregiver is so expensive and time consuming! The one we are using now is $15/hr! Ugh. But I haven’t been pleased with less expensive/younger sitters since my favorite one went to college and moved away. I hope this schedule works out for you this summer! And even tho it might not be as social as the girls are used to I think they will be just fine!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yeah, I thought I’d be able to supplement the educational activities by doing things on the days I’m home (e.g., play dates, story time at library, going to the zoo since we have a membership). Sounds similar to what you do, too! I’m just hoping it all works out with my job!

  • Reply Jean |

    Does the babysitter drive? Maybe she could take them to the library for story time, etc.

    Does the babysitter have a friend that might ‘job share’ with her? My nephew did this last year; he worked 2-3 days/week, and someone else did the other days. If one of them went on vacation, the other covered. He was 17, so most of his time was spent driving the kids (school age) to their activities.

    Are there college students staying in town for the summer that need a job? I’m in a college town (one private, one state, one community!) and several mothers that I know have gone to the university for childcare providers. Maybe ask around the education department, see if they have any recommendations/someone looking for a job/somewhere you could post a job?

    • Reply Ashley |

      The babysitter is 16 so she drives, but I don’t think she’s legally allowed to drive minors (isn’t that the law? Or it might just be her parents’ rule, but either way she’s never driven the kiddos anywhere). We do live relatively close to a park. Kind of a far walk for the kids, but they could be pushed in a stroller. At least that’s an option to get out of the house and have them run around a bit (though, keep in mind, in Tucson the summer temps are often 100+ degrees, so outdoor activities can be tough). I’ve used college students before but it’s so hard because as soon as I find a good one they move away!! Sigh!

  • Reply Taira |

    If you don’t have to be on campus, does that mean you would be working from home? I don’t know how your kiddos are but I couldn’t be working at home with my toddlers there, even if there was a babysitter there also.

    There are usually elementary school teachers that do daycare exclusively in the summer. You should ask other parents of small children in your area or the parents of the other children that go to school with your girls.

  • Reply Katie |

    This stage is one of the hardest and most expensive. Although, I hate to tell you that scrambling for summer care will continue when they’re in elementary school. The camps around us average between $375 – $450/week. Most only go until 3:00, or you have to pay additional for after-care;. Yeah, for 2 kids, it’s easy to spend $8,000 for summer childcare. We do a week of “Grandma Camp” and some vacation to cut back. A summer nanny would cost about the same. If you can swap with another parent in the same boat for a week each, that can also help. I’ve yet to find the perfect arrangement.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Ouch! That sounds ROUGH!
      If things go according to plan I’ll typically have summers off, so hopefully I won’t be in as much of a bind. It will be more about picking a camp here or there for fun/education rather than actual childcare that’s needed. But who knows what the future holds – we’ll see!

  • Reply Hawaii Planner |

    Summer childcare is insanely expensive, and my boys are 9 & 10. They are in a variety of summer camps, but for the 6 weeks we need full time camps, it’s over $6K. I live in the Bay area, which is crazy expensive. Also, many of the camps are 9-3, which means I still have to have my nanny available in the afternoons to pick them up & shuffle them home. Not awesome, because I pay the nanny $22/hour for the two hours until I get home. Basically, the struggle continues. It’s really by far and away the biggest challenge of working parenthood.

    • Reply Ashley |

      WHAT IN THE WORLD!?!!!! That amounts to nearly a grand a week! Talk about painful! The big deal-breaker of the JCC to me is that I’d basically be working for very little $$$ after childcare costs were considered. It was such a big deal to me to get my summer contract extended from my full-time job and I didn’t want all that money to get eaten up by childcare (after accounting for $2100/month, I’d literally be making the type of money I made working part-time waiting tables. I wasn’t going to have that). I bet there are a lot of parents who end up making next-to-nothing over the summer since they’re paying for childcare. It’s like just treading water and not making any real financial progress on anything!

    • Reply Kerstin |

      At least you are treading water though and not going deeper in debt and your kids are well taken care of. The “cost” of that is worth way more then the value of money I think.

  • Reply Jac |

    Does the university you work at have childcare options? The university I work at has 3-4 different day cares but I don’t know if that is standard across universities.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Nope. Crazily, they have nothing whatsoever. I was once told (though never fact-checked) that my employer is the largest public university in the nation WITHOUT any childcare options available to parents.

  • Reply Joe |

    I know it’s not helpful, but I envy the cost of all your options, which are about one third the cost of equivalent around here (Northeast)…

  • Reply Sarah |

    I second the college student/teacher possibility. My daughter has nannied for the same family during the summers since she was a junior in college – she’s now 27, married and a first-grade teacher. She has loved spending her summers with these two kiddos and she is happy to have guaranteed summer employment without scrambling for a short-term job. Because she is an older sitter (i.e. not high school), she takes the kids to local museums, parks, movies, neighborhood pool etc., so they are not sitting at home all day. Last summer, one of the kids went to a day camp and she took him and picked him up. Put up an ad in the university’s early childhood education department – some schools even keep a list of willing sitters; my daughter’s did. Good luck!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, what a fantastic set-up! I’ll have to look into this, thank you!

  • Reply Louise |

    That sucks a lot! I hope you find something that works for you.

    In Aus it’s the other way around, in that child care for preschoolers is readily available, good quality, up to 50 hours a week for around $30 a day. My son started school this year and finding holiday care for him while I continue to work has been an expensive nightmare. Day camps for older children are around, but he’s not old enough to cope with the unstructured ‘chuck 40 kids in a hall with activities and two supervisors’ way that they are run. I haven’t found anything that will work so far – last holidays were a patchwork of friends stepping in and taking time off work (!!! Amazing friends) and me missing a heap of work. I identify with your pain!

    • Reply Ashley |

      So hard! I often think that about school holidays in general because they have so many (not just actual national holidays, but all sorts of days off). We’re always left scrambling and, luckily, with advanced notice we’re able to manage since we have fairly flexible jobs. But it must be hard for people who work typical work hours! If people don’t have flexible jobs and don’t have reliable family or friends to rely on, what do they do!?

  • Reply Anon |

    It’s really tough, I know. The whole childcare thing. But keep in mind that daycare people are making a living too. Long gone are the days when some woman made $15/week to care for a child. I hear a lot of complaints about this in my workplace. For some reason, many people think that childcare providers should be paid a lot less than the going rate or should work for peanuts! Sometimes, I’m afraid, you do have to work for very little actual take home pay to get over the rough summer months. I understand because I have been there. My children are grown now, but there were many times childcare ate up a big chunk of our income, even if it was just for shorter time periods over the summers. Of course, we were a two-income family like you, so we could weather this. I really don’t know how single parents do it, though. You may have to slightly adjust debt repayments over the summer.

    • Reply Kerstin |

      I’m so glad you mentioned this. I would happily pay the most my budget allows for high quality care to know my kids are in good hands. I want my child care providers to be well compensated and enjoy their job and know they are valued. I wouldn’t want to cheap out on daycare costs!

      • Reply Ashley |

        I definitely agree! I’ve done research on accreditation processes for daycare facilities in the U.S. and one of the markers of quality childcare is compensation structure for staff. Obviously it makes sense that money is tied to quality. I’m definitely not arguing for paying childcare providers peanuts. But it doesn’t make it any easier on the budget! And I, too, wonder how single parents do it!?!

  • Reply mary m |

    I would try to find a college student to watch them. An experienced driver, and someone who can take them to activities. It might end up costing as much as a few of those camps, but I think it’d be a better option for you.

    Luckily our youngest is in a year round daycare, so our only difference for summer is more fieldtrips and free time. But the cost is the same, and the schedule is the same.

    Good luck!

  • Reply mary m |

    Oh yeah and I would ask the teachers at their current school if any of them do summer care. When our older 2 were in a school that closed the month of August, 2 of the teachers did a nannyshare type thing for a few families. It was a good option!

    • Reply Kerstin |

      That’s a great idea. A lot of my friends do this with their older kids.

  • Reply Kerstin |

    We just pay for full-time care all year round, so we don’t have the issue of summer care. We do an in-home day care as with an infant every center was cost prohibitive for us. What if you had the high school sitter for 4 days a week every other week and a college student for fill in times? Any friends or family that would want to watch the kids for a few hours? When you work are you out of the house? Could you be home for part of the time while the high school sitter is there just in case you are needed? Not sure how that would help though. Best of luck! I’m amazed at people that can afford even the prices that you mentioned in your options!! What kinds of jobs do these people have?? I’m an attorney and make a decent living but could never afford those prices! 🙂

  • Reply Angie |

    Is your neighborhood set up on NextDoor.com? Its a message site that lets you post to your neighborhood and others nearby. Mine has consistently had posts for families looking to set up nannyshares for the summer months or school year. In addition there’s been multiple postings from teachers, retirees and college kids offering their services for the summer. Maybe you could hook up with another family that needs care on opposites days of the week as you. Or maybe with you? I have no kids so I’m not sure whats normal.

  • Reply Amanda |

    I remember having this problem when my kids were under 5, too. I did end up doing several different camps because their personalities could handle it. One thing I would suggest is churches and YMCA. For example, our YMCA has a different camp every week, even one for 2-3 year olds, but the counselors are the same all summer. So it looks like different stuff, but those counselors work there all summer. Same with church camp. Different camps, same counselors. In the south I can expect to pay $200 per week per kid for 9-3 care.

    I don’t know that I would use a babysitter that could never take a kid anywhere all summer (unless it was my only option). There are so many free activities that would provide enrichment if she was able to drive them, like the library, museum, etc. I am assuming your area offers those things. (I also don’t think 3 months without other kids is going to harm them for life if you have to go this route.)

    I have found college sitters on care.com who were specifically looking for summer work, but you may be too late for that now. The ones I’ve found have all worked out wonderfully, although I am sure there are less than great experiences for some people.

  • Reply Hope |

    I am so glad the days of childcare are behind me…well, for the most part. But my two little ones always had a ‘nanny.’ In most cases it was a neighborhood girl, but eventually college student and single mom. I have to say they had phenomenal care! Lots of outside time, lots of crafts and lots of one on one time. I wouldn’t have done anything else.
    I determined how much time I needed for work on average and then negotiated a rate we were both happy with.

    • Reply Hope |

      I will add that I was never comfortable letting their nannies take them places, just my fear with teenage driving and having two going different directions (like you I suppose.) Later on, those same nannies would drive them, but not til both they and the nanny were several years older. We had the same family of girls nanny for 8 years off and on, the continuity was great…of course, they had three girls so as one aged out another aged in.

So, what do you think ?