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Summertime Blues and the Working Mom

Summertime is supposed to be about slip-and-slides, pool parties and popsicles melting on tiny tongues. We all want our kids to have great summer memories, just like we did. For working moms, however, summertime can be a nightmare.
08/17/2015 03:36pm ET | Updated August 17, 2016
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Woman in home office with child

By Jen Turrell, Entrepreneur, Personal Finance Coach and Working Mom

Summertime is supposed to be about slip-and-slides, pool parties and popsicles melting on tiny tongues.

We all want our kids to have great summer memories, just like we did.

For working moms, however, summertime can be a nightmare.

In so many of the forums and discussion groups for working moms, as the end of the school year approaches, there is a sudden flurry of panic.

Everything from "what am I supposed to do on all of these random Mondays and Fridays off to make up for not using snow days in the winter?" to "why is there always a two week gap between school getting out and summer camps starting?" appear in the discussions.

For moms who rely on school as the primary source of childcare during the school year, summer vacation throws a serious kink in the system.

Other breaks are hard too -- winter, spring and fall vacations, the other random half days, snow days, teacher prep days and a few totally unexplained days -- but summer is truly the mother of all childcare issues.

If we add up the costs of working over summer while the kids are home from school, the math can be crazy.

The combination of nanny care and various camps comes close to $1,400 per week in this example on The Huffington Post.

Not per month -- $1,400 per week.

Of course, every family is different and the expenses will vary (not every kid gets to train for tennis and ride horses through the summer), but it illustrates the point perfectly.

Isn't it time that our school system rethinks this massive break that lasts most of the summer?

I'm not saying that I don't want my kids to have a break, or that we shouldn't have time together. Far from it.

Summer is awesome, and I want them to have a chance to enjoy it.

However, the added cost and strain for all of the two paycheck families out there is costing our country a great deal.

Maria Shriver has explained how the stress of her kids' summer vacations puts strain on working mothers and families, saying summer break "is almost more stressful than everything else the entire school year for my family".

The act of juggling summer-long childcare costs, or the logistics of managing a long summer with various activities, visits, trips and schedules requires an MBA and a project management major.

That's without doing the actual work you are paid to do.

So, what can be done?

Well for one, schools could consider the needs of modern families and end term later in the year.

The government could take a look at the effect of families being out of pocket for afterschool care and summer camps affecting the financial well-being of all families.

Of course, families at the lower end of the scale are the ones suffering most. But even those families who can afford summer-long camps would benefit from not incurring those expenses all summer long.

Many mothers take on lower-paying, family-friendly jobs in place of better paid careers because they assume that the disruption from childcare will make ambitious full time work too difficult. Try making partner at a competitive law firm while taking off more than two weeks per year, getting home in time to eat dinner with your family and taking off Mondays and Fridays whenever your kids don't have school.

Entrepreneur moms who work from home are better able to absorb all of the requirements that schools place on parents for being available at hours - but what does that do to the moms' careers and their families?

And of course, for the most part, this is a mom issue. I rarely hear dads complaining about how their kids' summer schedule affects their work schedule.

But on the more practical, day-to-day level, what can we personally do the help ourselves and other working moms make it through the summer?

1) Pool resources: Have a back yard (or pool if you have one) party with a sleep over afterwards one day/night of the week so other moms can get in some extra work, and then plan times for the other moms to return the favor.

2) Plan some Daddy or co-parent/kid days on weekends so you can get another workday in. Your spouse will getting a fun break from the normal work week, and you can make a weekend day substitute for a workweek day if you have tasks that don't require other offices to be open at the same time. Schedule this as your content creation, data input, or other solo task day.

3) Carpool it. If your kids have friends who are doing the same day camps or other summer activities, ask their parents if you can either trade off whole days of pick ups and drop offs, or maybe you drop off in the morning and the pick them up from practice and drop them off at home in the afternoon, thus giving you a bit more time to get some work done in between.

4) Get grandparents, neighbors or other relatives in on the act. If your kids are old enough to go to the grandparent's house for a weekend, or even a week, you can use a visit to help fill the gap between school getting out and summer camp starting. If that doesn't work, see if neighbors or other relatives can trade times to give you some more solid blocks of time in which to focus on high value work.

Without policy change these are all just stop gap measures, so every one of us should take every opportunity we have to let leaders and policy makers know how difficult the school schedules are for working parents. But in the meantime, it is probably the best we can do to make the most of summers with our kids.

Jen Turrell is an entrepreneur and Personal Finance Coach. To learn more about her, go to jenturrell.com.