Most children are in school 180 days per year. The problem? Those days aren't consecutive. There are many school break days built into that schedule. These breaks range from partial early-release days to single holidays such as Columbus Day and President's Day to full-week fall, winter and spring breaks.
For working moms, those days can present child care challenges. Here are some ideas and options for juggling the school break schedule.
Use Existing Child Care Providers
Most working moms use some form of child care during the regular work week such as daycare or before-and-after-school program. Many of these providers expand their services to coincide with scheduled days off at local schools. While using existing child care providers for school breaks may seem like a no-brainer, there are downsides:
- It's not really a break for your child as he still must be up and out of the house at the same time as a normal school day;
- While the facility may be well-suited for after-school care activities such as snack, homework and playground time, it may not have the space and resources to keep your child occupied all day;
- You'll more than likely have to provide breakfast and lunch for your child as many facilities are not equipped to provide meals; and
- Your budget may take a hit as you can expect to pay more that week or month for child care.
You have other options.
Take a Break Yourself
Consider saving some vacation or personal time for when your children are out of school, especially on early-release days and single holidays. Plan some fun activities and enjoy the day together. Let your child stay up late on what would normally be a school night, and you can both sleep in the next morning. Your child will appreciate the break from his normal routine and so will you.
Most working moms, of course, do not have enough vacation time to use this option for every school break. You'll need to call on others.
Tap into the Teen Market
If your child is off school, so are many of the local teenagers, many of whom would appreciate the opportunity to earn some extra spending money.
When my children were younger, they looked forward to spending the day with their favorite babysitter. They still got a much-needed break from their normal routine while I was able to maintain my regular work schedule. I also found that teen sitters did more "cool" things with my kids, like teaching them to make friendship bracelets and other arts and crafts, helping them improve their video game skills, and spending time playing outside with them.
As an added bonus, hiring a teenager for the day is oftentimes less expensive than the additional fees your regular child care facility will charge.
Phone a Friend
You might also consider making arrangements with a stay-at-home friend or neighbor to keep your children during the school break. Your children and hers will enjoy the day more by spending it with a friend.
You can either offer to pay her or return the favor by watching her children on the weekend. As long as each party gets an equal number of baby-sitting hours, it's a win-win solution.
Create a Child Care Co-op
Do you have several working mom friends with children in a similar age range? Consider starting a child care co-op:
- Get together at the beginning of the school year;
- With school calendar in hand, divvy up the school break days, with each mom taking responsibility for an equal number of days;
- Each mom requests off from work on her assigned days;
- When it's your turn, the other mothers bring their children to your house for the day; and
- When it's not your turn, you can relax and stay focused at work knowing your child is in good hands.
Don't let the words "school break" cause a working mom's breakdown. With a little advance planning, a day off from school can be something your child looks forward to and you no longer dread.