Summer is just around the corner, and while we are looking forward to sunny warm days and summer activities, millions of women are also worrying about childcare. While many of us put our careers on hold to make it through the remote school years, summer is an entirely different situation. Not only do the kids need supervision, but they also need a schedule of activities and things to do. Of course, this problem most often falls on a mother to figure out.
Finding affordable and available childcare has affected women’s work-life for decades. Women are just starting to get back into the workforce after the pandemic, and still, childcare is a barrier. Why? Because mothers with young children are 40% more likely than fathers to report that they had personally felt the negative impact of childcare issues on their careers, according to the Center for American Progress.
Cost is also an issue. Across the country, 72% of families report paying more for child care now than before the pandemic, according to a Care.com survey. Daycare costs increased 87% during the pandemic, according to estimates based on data from the Center for American Progress. In 2020, 57% of working families spent more than $10,000 on child care.
Many parents have had to find ways to bring down childcare costs during the pandemic, typically at the expense of their jobs. It was cheaper to stay home. About 42% of parents surveyed by Care.com reported reducing hours at work, while 26% changed jobs and 26%, left the workforce completely.
So what can you do to stay employed and find safe and fun summer childcare for the kids? Here are a few ideas to consider.
Have You Asked Your Boss?
You know what they say about assumptions, right? Don’t just assume your company will not help you with childcare. As The Great Resignation rages on, businesses are scrambling to find ways to keep their employees from leaving. This is a great time to suggest your company pay for childcare or start an in-house childcare service. If you are successful, you will not only solve your own childcare problem, you’ll be solving many colleagues’ problems.
If you can’t or don’t want to aim that high, ask your boss if they would work with you on a flexible and remote work schedule that will allow you to stay home with the kids. Again, if you are a valuable employee, your boss may be willing to work with you. This will not solve the problem of keeping the kids busy, but it is a step in the right direction. The next suggestion could be your solution.
If you know other mothers struggling with summer childcare, suggest a kid swap schedule where each of you takes everyone’s kids for a day. You know your kids will be well-taken care of and busy. For longer periods of time, consider using some of your vacation time to host a “camp.” Each of the moms takes the kids for a complete workweek. You can plan a full schedule of activities or just take the kids to the park and let them run while you sit in the sun. This will be significantly cheaper than sending your kids to a standard day camp.
Parks and Rec to the Rescue
Your local parks and recreation department most likely hosts arts and crafts activities, sports camps, sports leagues, music lessons, and day camps. If you live in the community, the costs should be affordable. If not, they may offer scholarships and grants for families who need a little help.
The Y’s and the Scouts
Y’s all over the country offer day camps and overnight camps for 970,000 kids and adults every summer. If your family are members of your local YMCA or YWCA, their summer programming is available to you at a very low cost. Also, most Ys can adjust the cost of their programming to fit a family’s income level. Also, the Boy and Girl Scouts typically host day camps. If you spent most of your Spring trying to sell cookies or popcorn for your kids’ scout troop, sending your kids to their camps would be a nice reward.
The nationwide organization offers free summer camps for low-income families. Their website says that many children from low-income families rarely experience life outside their immediate neighborhood. Campers learn to swim, play sports, create music, make art, and experience an environment entirely different from their home.
Your science-loving daughter or bookworm son may love to go to summer school, especially if they are still experiencing the isolating effects of remote schooling. Summer school does not have to be a punishment. Many school systems offer summer programs that include some academics and a lot of fun.
This one is close to our hearts. Girls Who Code is working to close the gender gap in technology. They host free virtual summer camps for high school girls. Participants learn the computer science skills they need to decide if a tech career is for them. There is a 2-week immersion program or a 6-week self-paced program. Students will meet peers who are also interested in tech and learn in the style that works best for them
Summer should be fun for everyone. Don’t let the issue of childcare ruin the summer for you. With some creative planning and assistance from your network, you’ll find a great solution for summer childcare. Meanwhile, let’s raise our collective voices to make our business and government leaders understand that childcare is a national business issue that affects the ability of women to work. We need their support to make childcare affordable and accessible for everyone.
Lady Bird Talent is dedicated to connecting moms with roles that are flexible and family-friendly, regardless of your childcare situation. Take a look at our open roles here.