Once I was divorced and did not have the financial resources I’d previously had to send my children to enriching or fun day camps and away camps, or hang out at a local pool with them all day long I had to sew together a patchwork quilt of summer child care options to get us through the summer while I worked.
It was always a near miss in which I was thinking, “Oh no, what will I do for this week or that week?” But, somehow, by using every single one of the options below plus some I may have forgotten, we made it through, mostly in one piece.
12 Options for Summer Child Care Options:
1. Counselor in Training: If your kids are 13 or 14, they may qualify for some counselor-in-training programs. I got my 14-year-old into one and it has served her well ever since (even though she opted not to continue that program the following summer). Most of these DO cost something. Swallow your pride and resolve to sit down with the financial aid application for these programs. We got an excellent deal. I did pay some of it, but my ex also chipped in seeing as he couldn’t babysit either.
2. Camps Offer Financial Aid: Even if you don’t think you qualify for summer camp financial aid, you might. I did not think I would, but I did qualify. No matter what the child’s age, there are camps all over the place and the issue is deciding which ones work for your kids and for your situation. Most of them offer scholarships and financial aid. Again, try to jump over the pride hurdle. And do your best to jump over the “I don’t have time to fill out the paperwork” hurdle. I say this in a loving way, of course. I had to give myself pep talks over and over again. I never liked asking for help, but, lo and behold, I needed help and so did my children. I did what I had to do.
3. Neighborhood Teens: Babysitters in my area make more than some of the divorced moms I know. However, one thing I have learned in business is that you can negotiate anything. ANYTHING! You just have to ask for what you need and tell people what you can and cannot afford.
4. Craigslist: Post for a sitter on Craigslist. I tried posting on college campuses but the youth in my area responded to the Craiglist posts. I had some excellent candidates. Of course, I couldn’t pay top dollar but they were still willing to work with me. Somehow, someway, you can find a sitter who will work within your parameters. This doesn’t come challenge-free, but you can find a solution—even if it is a stop-gap measure. One day I will write about the fiasco of hiring a sitter to pick up my 12-year-old child who refused to answer her phone and refused to be where she was supposed to be for pickup. That was one frustrated and unhappy babysitter. But, it worked for a little while.
5. Tweens can be Mother’s Helpers for Others: Line up mother’s helper gigs for tweens and younger teens. This worked for one summer with my middle child and has served her well.
6. Get a Job: I strongly suggested to my son that he get certified as a lifeguard. I had to make it all happen, but this has provided income for him ever since. Even now in college, he lifeguards on the side.
7. Swim Team: Swim team is a mixed bag. On one hand, your child gets good daily exercise and something to do. On the other hand, you’ve got those five-hour-long meets. And our teams wanted all parents to work the meets. Eventually, we had to bow out of that commitment. But for some of you, it might work out.
8. Grandma Camp!: First I had to package the idea of my kids coming to visit as “fun.” Then I had to package going to their grandparents’ house as a “vacation.” Somehow, when we could manage it, it all seemed to work.
9. Friends! I never would have thought of this one myself. However, I had several friends offer to have my kids come to stay for a week with them over the summer. Thank goodness for friends, is all I can say.
10. Vacation Time: Save your paid vacation time for summer as much as you can. It’s great to go away for holidays and all that but the summer is more pressing. You will probably be providing your own childcare for some of this time.
11. Dad Camp!: Don’t withhold time that the kids can spend with their dad. Use it! Let HIM do some of the work. You need a break. Also as a child of divorce, I can say that even though my dad was/is a piece of work and not the greatest dad, I still relished the time I spent with him. Parents can be jerks, but we still need them. Your kids will like extra time with dad as long as he isn’t truly neglectful (legal definition) or truly abusive.
12. Vacation Bible School: Hear me out on this one if you are not particularly religious. Most of the VBS’s I have observed operate much like any other preschool or daycare program. They color, they sing, the eat watermelon. It isn’t usually a bigtime dose of religion. And if you are desperate, churches are good for things like desperation. This is actually where they excel. They can be a safety net.