When the kids were younger, Summer break was always a good time for us to spend a lot of quality family time together. We were able to make things work so that one parent was home, or we would enroll the kids in different programs that would work around our schedules.
When I became a single mom in 2015, life suddenly got so much harder trying to juggle the balance between work and family. I suddenly had to find alternatives for childcare so I could go back to work full-time just to support the three of us.
I dreaded the Summer because I had no idea what to do with the kids while I was working. They weren’t old enough to stay at home by themselves, childcare was getting so expensive for both kids, at a young age there wasn’t really many camps or programs they could join. It just became this big ordeal in trying to find something I could afford at their age.
I searched constantly for a work at home job or childcare that would work around my schedules. I juggled friends and family helping me watch the children or get them to where they needed to be. After looking for a few months, I finally found a job that after a few months would allow me to work at home. I live in a small town, so this was a huge deal for me.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Summer break may not be the first thing on your mind, but it should be right up there on the list. Save up your vacation days and any earned time off work. Use those days off during the Summer when you may need them. Another option would be setting a little bit of money back each payday to go towards daycare or camp costs.
Ask about changing your work routine or schedule
Do you have a lot of college kids or younger adult coworkers that may be able to switch their hours or days around? Does your employer offer a work from home program that you can work towards? Don’t be afraid to ask your boss about changing your schedule or days to fit your summer break schedule. Be open and honest with your boss and maybe they can offer some help.
Ask Other Parents
You probably know or work with other parents. Start up a conversation about the kids and what they may be doing for Summer break. They may know of friends and family who own an affordable daycare or know of some not so expensive programs that you can enroll your child into.
If your child has made friends with a student who has a stay at home parent, check with them to see if they would be willing to help watch the kids during summer break while you work. You can set up a payment plan with them that would fit within your budget.
Check with your parents to see if they would be willing to help with summer care. Maybe they can watch the kids while you are working. They may also be able to help get the kids to different activities around town. My mom was able to help during the school year, luckily, she only lives 30 minutes away, so she was able to help on her days off.
Last Summer, our family who doesn’t live close, was able to take the kids for a few weeks at a time. This worked out well for both of us because they were able to spend quality one on one time with the kids and it gave me the opportunity to work without worrying. I could also work extra hours at that time for a bigger paycheck.
You can check with other members of the family as well. Maybe the kids have an aunt or uncle they can visit for some of the Summer.
Low-Cost Local Programs
Many places such as the YMCA, schools, and other organizations offer affordable day camps. This was another lifesaver for me. It was both affordable and they often ran until the late evening, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get the kids from one place to another while I worked.
These programs often offer a low-cost option or can point you into the right direction of receiving financial help to pay for the program costs. Also, check with the state programs or local community or colleges to see what they offer. There is a local college here where they offer a discounted day program to qualifying families so that students get hands-on experience with kids for their degree.
High School Students and Siblings
When Summer hits, there always seem to be high school students looking to make a little extra money. This can be a good thing for working parents. You’ll often find this is cheaper than daycare or camp programs. Of course, you don’t just want any high schooler watching the kids so be sure to do your research and ask around to see if any friends or family can make a recommendation.
If you have older children who are responsible you can recruit them in as well. Since they are on summer break as well, they can babysit.
As kids get older it can get a lot easier to find things for them during the summer. Check with your local and state laws to see how old a child must be before you can leave them on their own. If they are old enough and responsible enough to take care of themselves that is another option. If they are at the right age, you can test their responsibility level throughout the year to see if you can trust them being home alone. Work on a few hours at first then move up to a weekend night. After you know they can handle it you can try it for a full weekend.
As a single mom, it can be tough throughout the Summer. Trying to juggle kids and work can be extremely hard and expensive. Start planning early and looking at different options to see what will work best for your family.