For working moms, summertime doesn’t always mean the living’s easy.
From coordinating activities, camps and child care to planning vacations and family visits, scheduling your summer can be downright daunting. Don’t get me wrong: The school year can get crazy hectic, but at least it’s consistent.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the top 10 unexpected challenges working families face when summer vacation comes around.
1. Yup, Mom Guilt
Believe it or not, summer can be emotionally tough on us moms. You want to give your kids the best summer ever, but scheduling beach days, amusement park visits and fun in the sun can be a challenge to balance with your responsibilities at work. And that’s where the guilt creeps in. Once the kids get older and into school, the summer months are a well-deserved break from school, but before that, you feel like it’s on you to make sure the warmer weather isn’t July feels differently than January for the little ones.
2. Pressure of Planning Everything
When you have a school-aged kid or three, the schedule fills up quickly. It’s all you can do just to keep up, sometimes. But at least there’s a certain cadence to it. As much as you might curse the constant stream of field trips, carpools and lacrosse practices, you’ll be longing for that pre-programmed busyness once summer comes and you’re the one responsible for planning all of the kids’ activities.
3. Water, Sunburns and Other Safety Concerns
Whether you’re spending the day at the beach or laying out by the pool, the sun and water aren’t just fun – they’re safety concerns. Parents constantly find themselves needing to stay alert when they’re spending time with their kids – or their kids’ friends – by the ocean or the pool. And that’s not to mention the bee stings, playgrounds and other safety concerns associated with spending long days outdoors.
4. Adjusting to Activity Schedules
Once you fill your calendar, the next challenge arises. Swimming lessons, specialized sports camps and other recreational activities often begin mid-morning and end during the early or mid-afternoon. Not exactly convenient for parents working downtown, who need to figure out drop-offs, pickups and child care arrangements.
My town in Massachusetts, for example, offers a great, affordable summer program for children, but it doesn’t start until a week after school gets out and it ends before school starts. Programs like this are the norm across the country and again, forcing working moms and dads to find short-term supplemental coverage.
5. Your Summer Care Situation
As if the camps and rec programs aren’t enough reminder already, child care providers often offer another reminder that, yes, it’s summer for everyone. Many college nannies return home for the summer, leaving families to find other arrangements. Family day care providers will often close for a week or two during the summer to take their own vacations. When it comes to figuring out your summer child care situation, do yourself a favor and start planning well in advance, because good help can be hard to find.
6. Those Weekend Crowds
Part of summer is being able to take your children to the beach or hit up amusement parks for a day of fun, but if you want to do that and you’re a working mom you are stuck with only two options: fight the weekend crowds or take a day off from work. Some companies offer Summer Fridays, so at least you’re able to get a jump on the traffic heading when you’re the beach for the weekend of sun and sand.
7. Competition for Camps
If you want to get your kid a spot in a good summer camp, better start planning months in advance. Many camps – probably most, in fact – start signups for summer camps over the winter months to take advantage, offering early bird discounts and making sure they get the enrollment numbers they need in time to plan their programs and budgets. For parents, this means carefully laying summer camp plans, including coordinating which weeks your children’s friends are going to be where, is a challenge. Once it’s done, though, you can breathe a big sigh of relief – until summer rolls around and your parents decide they want to visit a week when your children are booked to be at camp.
8. Your Child is Too Young for Most Programs
In many towns, mine included, there aren’t many options for town wide programs if your child is under the age of 4. That can make keeping your child active and involved with other children during the summer that much harder. I was able to sign my 3 ½-year-old son up for two different weeks of sports camp, but they only run for a week from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. each day. It’s a win that he’s able to participate, but it means I’m standing on the sidelines for 45 minutes instead of being able to run errands or complete a few projects if he was at a three- or four-hour program.
Whether you’re paying for programs by the week rather than by the day or you’re springing to bring a carload of kids (yours plus friends) to the zoo for an afternoon, summer can get expensive fast.
10. Your Actual Vacation
Mountains or the beach? Long weekend getaways or a few full-week trips? Do you go with friends? Should you bring the nanny? For working families, planning a vacation can be as much work as the jobs you’re getting away from. But once you get there, it’ll be worth it to spend some quality time having fun with your family.
All this and we’re not even getting into the back-to-school craziness. … Yet.