Do You Change Your Work Schedule for Summer?

Now that the school year is almost over (um, how?), it’s a good time to ask the readers this question: Do you typically change your work schedule for summer — or your childcare schedule for summer? If your kid goes to a typical childcare center, you may not have to deal with any summer schedule changes, but for moms with school-aged kids (or, for example, if you have a college-age nanny who goes home for summer), it’s a different story. For many working moms, unless you have a kid who’s willing to do the same thing every week, you usually end up cobbling together various day camps to cover July and August (if you’re the default parent, that is … which, as a mom, you probably are).

Summer camp registration is so stressful: It often feels like putting together a puzzle with a bunch of missing pieces — and for the most popular programs, you have to make sure you sign up your kid early enough before they fill up (which means March in many cases, or even earlier — and that’s assuming you KNOW which are the popular ones). If you’re lucky, you’ll manage to find a camp for the week(s) in June after school ends and the final week or two of August when many camps have closed up shop. (Good times for a family vacation, perhaps?) To complicate things further, day camp schedules aren’t always working-mom friendly, especially for younger kids. Here are a few schedules from camps in my area:

  • Zoo camp: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with before care and after care, $50/week extra)
  • Science camp: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with before care and after care, $45/week extra)
  • Music camp: 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (8:00 to 5:30 with before care and after care, $75/week extra)

Fortunately, about 18% of employers offer some kind of summer hours (half-day Fridays, etc.). Does yours? If you change your work schedule for summer, do you use any of the following options?

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How to Level Up Your Childcare/Personal Help (When Money is No Object)

how to level up your childcare | extended options for very busy momsIf you’re a busy working mom, good childcare is a must — but what happens when a nanny doesn’t even begin to cut it? How can you level up your childcare and household management? (Warning: this post is not terribly budget-friendly.)

I’ve wanted to talk about this ever since I read this post from Penelope Trunk (written in 2008 but I first read it more recently than that) about hiring a house manager — an entire position I never knew existed but would love to have if money and time allowed. So if you need more than a nanny, let’s review the “additional childcare options for very busy moms” that I know of (beyond, obviously, getting your husband to be an equal partner and sharing parenting duties)…

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The Cost of Daycare: What Do You Spend?

The Cost of DaycareA couple of months ago on Corporette, we discussed how much you should spend on housing costs, and today we’re going to talk about something that often looms just as large in the minds of working moms: the cost of daycare. Lately, the news seems to be full of articles about the cost of daycare (e.g., “U.S. Parents Are Sweating And Hustling To Pay For Child Care,” NPR), so we thought this would be a great time for a discussion. How much are you spending on daycare? Is the cost of daycare more than you expected?

For a quick review, the recent Corporette post covered the 50/20/30 rule for budgeting, which recommends that you spend no more than 50% of your take-home pay on fixed costs, use at least 20% for saving money and reaching your financial goals, and spend no more than 30% of flexible costs. How does the cost of daycare fit into the ratio? In the comments on the post, several readers shared their childcare numbers, and their responses ranged from 10% of their take-home pay to 30% (for a child with special needs). The average childcare spending among readers who shared information was about 18%.

The Care.com 2016 Cost of Care survey found some striking statistics:

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Backup Childcare

Backup ChildcareWhat does your backup childcare situation look like, ladies? How many backup layers do you have, how did you decide on those, and has your backup plan ever failed you? 

In my experience, there are two main times this can come up: your sitter/nanny can cancel — or your child may be too sick to send to a group care situation like daycare.

When Your Sitter Cancels (But Your Child is Well)

When my older son, J, was about a year old, I got invited to speak at a local event for fashion bloggers. It was a big honor, and I was looking forward to it — and my babysitter at the time, a girl in her early 20s, knew that I was worrying about what to wear, getting my hair done, preparing my speech, and more. Still, the morning of the event, she called to cancel, complaining of a headache. Um… great. (We later fired her for other reasons, but man, her frequent, last-minute work cancellations based on headaches and other vague health problems should have been a sign to us that she was not cut out for regular childcare work, at least for us.)

My backup childcare plan at the time was: 1) My husband or I would stay home — in this case, it was my husband. That was it. At the time, my nearest relatives who could have watched the kiddo (my brother and MIL) were both working full time. I suppose in that particular instance, where I had a speaking gig, I could have begged one of them to take the day off at the last minute, but I would have hated to do it. I suppose another plan would have been to ask another friend who had a full-time nanny if her nanny could have taken my child — but it would have been a totally foreign situation for everyone, since he’d only had a few playdates with her son, and both boys were so young they were more of a social outing for me and my friend.

Fevers and Green Snot: When Your Child is Too Sick for Daycare

On the flip side, if you’re in a group care situation like daycare, there may be strict rules about when you must keep a sick child at home — at J’s old daycare you couldn’t send him until 24 hours had passed since he last had a fever. Taking care of a child sick with a head cold can be low key — turn on Winnie the Pooh, keep a full cup of water/juice in front of him, and set up shop with your laptop or Blackberry to keep an eye on work. But some kiddos (or is it all kiddos during some phases?) can be clingy and whiny and want to snuggle in your arms, or get upset without your full attention… which can make working a challenge. (As my boys get older I’m already starting to miss those NEED-MY-MOMMY moments!) As we’ve noted before, this is one of the downsides to daycare.

So, ladies, what do you do about backup childcare? Particularly for those of you who don’t have family nearby — what’s your Plan B? And for those of you who’ve been around the block a few times, do you have any tips for younger moms? I remember one working mom advised me, “say you’re sick yourself — a working mother should never say she can’t do something because her kid is sick” — an interesting perspective that I’ve always remembered.

backup childcare

Daycare: Near Home or Work?

should you choose daycare near home or workIs the best daycare near home — or work? We’ve talked in broad strokes about the pros and cons of different childcare options, but not specifically this.  A reader wrote in pondering this question a while ago, so let’s discuss.  First, here’s her question:

Kat, I’ve searched the site but I can’t see that you’ve addressed this question before. Is it better to have a daycare near home or near work? Near work sounds attractive because I could visit the baby during the day or at lunch, and we could spend time in the car together on the way to and from. But near home is attractive, too, for times when my husband or mother will have the workday off and can drop off/pick up the baby, or if she gets sent home sick, etc. Plus, to make friends close by.

Interesting question!  There are definitely some pros to having daycare near home:

  • The BIGGEST pro I see is that you and your partner can much more easily share drop off/pickup duty if it’s near your home — unless you both work at the same company or in the same area, you’re going to end up doing everything
  • It’s definitely a pro to have friends nearby your house — whether they’re mom friends for you or playmates for your child
  • If you forget something kid-related you can run home quickly
  • A short commute for your child (whether by walk or by car), which reduces the risk of him or her falling asleep in the car at a time other than naptime
  • Your own commute is unencumbered by kiddo, which may mean you can start focusing on the workday ahead of you — or that you get a bit of personal time to listen to a podcast or some music — also, if you run errands on your way home you don’t have to worry about bringing your kids in with you
  • If your work situation changes you don’t have to worry about moving your daycare as well

On the flip side, there are some pros to having a daycare near the office:

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School Break Camps: Open Thread

School Break CampsDo your kids go to school break camps during winter and spring school vacations? With day care, you usually don’t have to worry — just send them to your regular provider. But parents of school-age kids need to find an alternative child care situation.

Good sources for information about school break camps include local parent magazines and websites, and local parent email lists/groups. Last month I asked about camps in a Facebook group for parents who live in my town and got some great ideas. (They included unexpected options from a chess center and aerial arts studio!) Depending on where you live, you might find school break camps from providers like these:

  • Cultural attractions: Check museums, art galleries, zoos, and other institutions. (Think outside the box: Even our local animal shelter offers break camps!)
  • Kid-oriented businesses: Good bets include martial arts centers, dance studios, climbing gyms, or places like The Little Gym.
  • STEM & arts centers: Your kids could spend a week enjoying photography, creative writing, robotics, Lego building, or Minecraft.
  • Grocery stores: Larger stores may offer kids’ cooking classes during breaks.
  • Libraries and bookstores 
  • Gyms/pools/YMCA 
  • Community centers/rec centers
  • Academic/tutoring businesses 

So, let’s talk about what you do during school vacations! Do you ask family for help or hire a babysitter? Do you ask your nanny to work extra hours? Do you enroll your kids in camp? Do you take time off, or go on a family vacation? Also, how do you find out about camps? When you’ve chosen a school break camp, does it usually fit your work schedule? (Or does it seem geared toward families with a stay-at-home parent?) When do you think kids are old enough to stay at home while you’re at work?

Pictured at top: Lego Club — 2012, originally uploaded to Flickr by Clearwater Public Library System Photos