Friday, June 26, 2009

The Long Hot Summer

School finished for my children two weeks ago. Like millions of kids throughout the United States, my trio is now home from school, and will be for nearly three months. Three months!

My question for all of us (parents, employers, politicians, educators) is “Why?”

Few families need their kids home these days to plow and plant the fields for a fall harvest. And unlike in the past, parents can’t let their kids loose for the day to find and make their own fun until it’s time to come home for dinner. Although some families can still afford to ship mom and the kids off to the beach house while dad stays behind at the office, the vast majority can’t.

It seems that all summer vacation does these days is make kids lazy and dumb, give teachers time off (to regroup or take on a second job), put money into the pockets of the summer camp industry and add to the stress levels of already stressed-out parents.

I’m a stay-at-home/self-employed work-from-home mom, so my biggest summertime challenge is keeping my children occupied and my sanity intact. Parents with “real” jobs (the kind with an actual paycheck, schedule, workplace, boss) have the added burden of finding a person or place to keep their school-age kids (including teenagers) safe and cared for.

Both parenting scenarios are costly. I live in a Maryland suburb of D.C. Babysitters here earn at least $10 an hour (more if they drive). Full-day summer camps typically cost $250 per child per week. And although adults imagine camp as being all fun and games, not all kids like camp, especially when it involves being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people or spending the entire day outdoors regardless of the weather.

To save my children from dying of boredom, which my son claims can happen, I’ve signed each one up for a few weeks of day camp. (Fingers crossed that they go willingly and have fun.) I know I’ll have several days during which I’ll need child care in order to work, keep doctor appointments and free one or two kids from having to endure the schlepping I do for another. Starter price tag for my children’s daily summer activities and occasional child care: $2,500.

One friend who’s employed part-time (25 hours a week) spent nearly $10,000 last summer to keep her two preschoolers in camps or with sitters while she worked. Parents who work a regular 40+ hour week have the added costs of full-time care or sleepaway camp.

Other summer expenses: Gas, admission fees, snacks, lunches, and the trinkets gathered when out and about by day to keep the kids away from the TV and computer—and, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford one, an actual summer vacation getaway.

I’m not against summer fun or giving kids time to just be kids. But I think many of us would be happier if summer vacation could be six or eight weeks of cherished fun and relaxation rather than 11 weeks of increasing irritability and weariness. Also, since the United States seems to be falling behind in all sorts of academics (science, math, languages …) it may be in our national interest to keep kids in school more, or at least more consistently. Make summer shorter, add a week or so break during other times of the year.

Do you love having the kids off from school for a long summer, or would a shorter summer be sweeter?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book drawing winner + a great review

We have two winners in the book drawing!
Attention: "Boston Shumways" and Rebecca, please email me at melissa at (of course use the @ symbol instead of 'at") with a mailing address.

Speaking of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide, I want to share the following review, which a reader posted on over the weekend. "A No Longer Struggling Stay at Home Mom"
made my day. Whoever you are, thank you for the great review and for taking the time to write it. (I know the value of a stay-at-home mom's kid-free time.) I'm so glad the book was so helpful.

5.0 out of 5 stars It Certainly Helped Me, June 20, 2009
I wanted to be a Stay at Home Mom but I was struggling with it. Alot. When my son was about 5-6 months old I decided to try reading some books on stay at home parenting hoping maybe one of them would help. I bought 4 different books on the topic, and ONE did help. This one. More than that it was a lifesaver. I felt like I wasn't alone in the struggles I was facing. This book gave me confidence. Staying at home with your kids is a struggle and no, not everything is going to get done and to the extent you thought it would (and were sure other moms did.) After reading this book I had a conversation with a fellow mom at a play group with two kids. Now knowing that I wasn't the only mom who struggled with all the tasks of stay at home parenting I confessed my struggles to her and you could see her great relief. She even told me her husband suggested talking to other moms about it but she said she was afraid to because they had more kids than her and seemed to be doing so well. How would that make her look??? This book could easily be titled "The Secret Confessions of Stay at Home Moms". I loved it and would recommend it to anyone and everyone thinking about staying at home with their kids. Most important, this book does not peg employed mothers and non-employed mothers against one another. It respects the decisions of both. It just helps the later to cope better with theirs.

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