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

Teacher Gifts, Floater Gifts, and More

Teacher Gifts at the Holidays | CorporetteMomsHolidays bring a special stress for parents: teacher gifts.  So let’s discuss, ladies — what gifts are you getting for your child’s teachers, floaters, and other folks? If there is one “group gift” to which you’ve contributed money/energy, are you done with it? Do you feel stress to “keep up with the Joneses” in terms of end-of-year gifting?

For my $.02: In Brooklyn it seems like every time one of Jack’s little classes end (karate! science class! Paint and Glue Crew!), mothers have an envelope with money for the teacher. At first I had no idea (the classes are mindbogglingly expensive anyway!), and then I would dutifully send him with an envelope for the last day.

It gets even more complicated for school teachers because there is the holiday gift and the year-end gift.  For Jack’s preschool last year — where we loved the teachers — it almost seemed as if any gift was never going to be enough because they really did mean so much to us. So we contributed to a group gift for both December and May, and I didn’t want to go above and beyond because, well, if that’s the group’s gift, that’s the group’s gift. And yet, sure enough, lots of people were giving the teachers personal envelopes and more on the last day of school.

I don’t know — it’s a tough thing to wrap my head around. How do you ladies think about it — and what do you get them? Do you dislike the idea of “tipping” being customary for salaried professionals, or do you think a bonus or other material form of thanks is necessary?

Pictured.

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Diaper Bags: What’s In Yours?

What's In Your Diaper Bag | CorporetteMomsWhat’s in your diaper bag? Who stocks it, and who usually carries it? I know a lot of people keep their cars and/or big strollers well-stocked — and some have the nanny in charge of the diaper bag — but I’ve always kept the bag stocked and ready for us to go out to eat, to a museum, or to the airport. (While our big City Select Baby Jogger has a nice big basket, we find it way too large for the subway, so that nice big basket is never of help to us while we’re on the road!)

I actually planned to write this post a while ago, which is when these pictures were taken (last fall maybe?!). Because we had two kiddos in diapers at the time (thank GOD that isn’t the case anymore), I thought I’d use these pictures to show you what I’ve always carried. (Our bag is much more pared down with just one in diapers now — although we still try to have a spare set of undies and pants in case of an accident or tempting mud puddle.) So let’s hear it, ladies: what’s in your diaper bag? Perhaps more importantly: who uses your diaper bag (you, your partner, your nanny, grandparents-as-nannies)? Who restocks it when supplies run out? (Oh — and which diaper bag is your favorite?)

For my $.02: I’m a big fan of the “giant ziploc” system of organization, so at any given time we had one big ziploc filled with diapering stuff, one filled with snack stuff, and then some loose items like clothes and toys. All of this fit in our trusty Georgi diaper bag from Baby Cargo, which sadly looks like it’s been discontinued; Amazon has a few left for $60ish.

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Grandma the Babysitter: Grandparents as Caregivers

grandparents-as-caregivers2017 Update: We still stand by this thread on grandparents as caregivers, but you may also want to check out our newer discussion (a guest post by a manager mom in Houston!) who has a “granny as nanny” situation.

We’ve talked about childcare pros and cons, but we’ve never directly talked about childcare with family as caregivers — and I keep seeing stories about how grandparents move to New York to help raise their grandkids — so I thought we’d discuss. There are obvious pros — love! money! — but the logistics strike me as something that may need a bit of finessing, particularly if we’re talking about in-laws.

For example: childcare is inherently a “shift” type of job (you’re on, I’m off), but when people aren’t being paid it can be difficult to have that initial discussion to create the routine. Another con:  if you’re working with a third party like a nanny, there is no dispute that Stuff Happens Your Way — there should be none with family, and yet (especially with in-laws), it can feel a little like biting the hand that feeds you to make too much of a fuss if small rules aren’t followed. Third, the place of care can become an issue too — one girlfriend I knew had a mother who wanted her to travel, with her baby, for about 60 minutes each way (think Brooklyn to the UWS) so her mother could watch the baby in her own apartment three days a week. A super generous, amazing offer — but a PITA no matter whose place of care was chosen.

So ladies, let’s hear it — do you rely on grandparents or other family members for some or all of your childcare? How formal is your arrangement — and how did you go about discussing some of the touchier subjects? Did you (or family members) move to make such an arrangement possible? 

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Daycare Tips for Working Moms

Daycare tips for working momsHere’s a fun topic: what are your best daycare tips for working moms? What are the things that only friends will tell you about daycare (such as dress your child as cute as possible); what have you learned the hard way by the way of daycare tips?

When readers were discussing baby clothing and daycare a while ago (I think in the post where I noted that one of my mom efficiency tricks is to dress my babies in footed sleepers for the first year), a trend emerged. Among working moms who send their kiddos to daycare, a lot of people noted that they purposely dressed their child cutely (headbands! overalls! tiny outfits!) for daycare, in part because they hoped the clothes would help give the child a personality for daycare workers to relate to. A lot of commenters reacted against this idea that you have to spend MORE money, time, and effort at a time in your life when none of those things is really in ready supply — but it makes sense to me.

This is also the kind of thing that isn’t going to be in a welcome packet from your daycare — only passed down among friends and other women. So I thought we’d discuss today — what are your best tips for daycare (other than regarding daycare waiting lists)?

Readers, Share YOUR Daycare Tips for Working Moms!

Some specific questions for readers:

  • What’s the #1 thing you appreciated about your daycare after you were in it — but didn’t know to look for during the interview process?
  • What’s the best tip you’ve gotten from another mom about daycare?
  • What are your specific tips for: the infant room, the toddler room, the preschool room?

All right ladies, over to you — what are your best daycare tips for working moms? (that no one else will tell parents)?

Psst: here are our general thoughts on pros and cons for different kinds of childcare.

Pictured: Family Portrait, originally uploaded to Flickr by Arturo Sotillo.daycare tips for working parents

 

Your Kids’ Activities, Overscheduling, and Working Parents

overscheduling-kids-activitiesA while back, some readers were discussing the difficulty of scheduling your kids’ extracurricular activities — and homework, and family time — without overscheduling your kids, all while navigating hours/timeslots that may or may not be favorable to working moms. As one woman noted:

Kat, could we do a discussion on overparenting/overscheduling when a working mom? My kids are getting to the age where I want them to experience soccer and piano and whatnot. But they’re in school all day, so my only hope is scheduling their weeknights and weekends. Then we’re running from activity to activity with no downtime for just play or boredom. I feel like I’m trapped as a working mom. If my spouse or I stayed at home, or if I could afford private nannies, I could maybe schedule this better. Or I could schedule some of those summer camps that run only from 9-2 on alternating Tuesdays and Fridays. Or heck I could let them run the neighborhood with the rest of the kids that are home all summer. But as it is, our limited time as a family is dominated by homework and/or extracurriculars. Is this only me? Is it this bad for SAH parents too? What is the solution? No extracurriculars, and telling teachers too bad but we’ll only spend an hour a night on homework until they’re in high school?

This is such an amazing question — and I’m only starting to feel the pain, so I’m curious what other people have to say. First, as some other readers noted:

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