As a working mom, I can handle a lot: sick kids, school projects, two guinea pigs, a fish, a very busy French bulldog, tight work deadlines, business trips, an aging mother, groceries, laundry. But June rolls around and the thought that my kids will soon be out of school just breaks me. I haven’t quite managed the ability to work from home with kids around and get anything done yet. And if I was in an office setting, things might be even more difficult. Many camps are half-days or end at 4 p.m.—impossible for a nine-to-fiver. It practically takes a flight controller to organize their schedules.
So what do I do when the school bell rings and my kids are out for the summer? I used to panic. But over time, I’ve created a plan that ends up saving my bacon every year. Here are a few tips to keep everyone happy.
Planning for summer starts in the fall for us. Camps are fantastic—my girls are rarely bored, go on new adventures and meet new friends, and my oldest learned to swim at camp. But all-day summer camps are expensive. Most of the ones we’ve looked at are hundreds of dollars a week per child, and sleep-away camps are even pricier. To be able to afford a few weeks of summer camp for two kids, we have to save thousands of dollars. Here’s how we do that.
For me, finding one camp that runs all summer long is important. It keeps my schedule simple (one location, one drop-off and one pickup all summer long), and I find one with a variety of activities so that my kids won’t get bored. But, depending on where you live, finding a day camp that runs all summer can be challenging. Here is a great list of day camps in Canada that you can filter by location and type. For camps in the United States, this database will let you search for type of camp (day or overnight) and filter by location.
We choose a camp that offers scholarships for families with limited income. Be sure to inquire about financial aid—most camps don’t advertise its availability, but if you apply and get even a small discount, it’s worth it.
As parents, we all learn to be resourceful, and it’s important to look for help wherever you can. For some, this may not mean summer camp; it may mean that the grandparents spend quality time with their grandkids once a week or a high-school student takes them every Friday. You can even work with other parents to schedule times where you can trade off on having each other’s kids. The kids will love being with their friends, even though it can get pretty taxing on the parents. It’s a great option for creative, available and very patient parents.
You could also alternate between this “co-op” summer schedule and several day camps that have week-long courses. This option takes a lot of planning, but it can create a wonderful and exciting variety for your kids.
What I struggle with most is coordinating and planning an entire summer’s worth of activities months in advance. Dates have to be locked in, vacations have to be planned and fees have to be paid. And if you have more than one child, this struggle can eat you alive. It helps to plot it out, either on paper or digitally—pick one that works best with your organizational style.
Either way you approach it, you’ll want to double- and triple-check all your dates. Paying for camp the week that Grandma and Grandpa are visiting isn’t something you want to do.
One of my biggest chores during the summer is packing lunches and keeping track of water bottles, sunscreen, sun hats and so on. Here are some helpful tips.
Your summers should be enjoyable! And with a little planning, even for a working mom, they can be. Have fun!