Working parents - what do you do about school breaks?

I have 4 kids, and ever since they were born I’ve had a very flexible, part-time job and I can take time off almost whenever I want. It’s been great.

But times are changing and I need to get a full time job, probably an 8-5 type. Looking at the school schedule with new eyes, it seems all the time there is no school next Friday, then there is fall break for a week, then early out for three days.

How the heck do full time working parents deal with this? I get that you sign them up for summer camp for the long break, but what about the shorter breaks?

You pay. Out the nose. Every time. Not to mention the babysitter inevitably gets the flu for days one and two, then expects you to pay for the whole week if you want to be covered for Wed Thrus and Fri. Then the kids get whatever she had and you end up home all the next week anyway.

Not that I’m bitter.

Are you friendly with a family that has a teenager who is also off those breaks? Around here, most of the high schools have the same breaks as the elementary schools.

You may discover that child care costs eats up any extra income you make working full time. Especially since you have 4 kids and summer & Christmas break is a long time to cover these costs. Plus you need a babysitter from 3:30-5 after school.

My wife worked part time until our oldest daughter was 11. Then she became the babysitter for the other two siblings. Freeing up my wife to work full time.

Our school district afterschool program and local parks and rec run daycamps for the shorter breaks. It’s spendy, just like summer camp is, but is a workable option. Otherwise yeah you need a willing family member or a reliable babysitter.

I have a teenager! The oldest of the lot is 15, but the last thing he wants to do on his break is hang out with his siblings, and they are equally unhappy about having him boss them around all day.

He may have to suck it up. And the siblings too. Are you really going to spend $700 or more for childcare during fall break, just so you don’t have a pissy 15-year-old?

Ok yeah maybe you are, having once been a pissy 15-year-old myself but I’d find a way to make it work. Even paying off all your kids to be civil to each other would probably be cheaper.

Our town is full of working parents, and there are several choices for care. Most give a sibling discount, so costs are more manageable. Our local Y’s program was the best for years, providing after-school programs right on school grounds.

Hell, do you really want to work? Tell Mr. 15 that he likes to eat. And it’s probably appropriate to mention packs of starving wolves at this juncture.

You might bribe the teen with driving lessons, or some other privileges, such as a later curfew or more outings with his friends. The other kids can get other bribes.

I suggest drawing up a list of things that need to be done while you’re at work, by ALL the sibs. Things like laundry, dishes, basic housekeeping, and such. Assign chores specifically to each child, and check them off each day. Make sure that the kids understand that they WILL have to do basic clean up each day. Even fairly small kids can do things like mix up Kool Aid, unload a part of the dishwasher, and sweep a floor. The kids who have completed all or even most of the tasks get the bribes, errrr, rewards for the week. At the end of a month of good behavior by EVERYONE, then a larger treat for working together. Video games, movies, whatever, it’ll be cheaper than babysitter fees. Plus, since you’re working longer hours to bring in money, you’re going to need some help with the housekeeping. And these are skills and habits that the kids need to learn anyway.

May I point out that I was cooking full dinners by the time I was 15? Not just stuff like Hamburger Helper, but a meat dish, two or three vegetable dishes, and cleaning up afterwards. Mr. 15 can at least do things like peel potatoes and cut them up and start them boiling, and prepare a salad. And the younger kids can help. Again, you are going to be exhausted when you get home, and you’re going to need some help with meals as well as housework.

Make sure that you don’t give them too much to do, though. Kids need free time, as well as chores.

A 15-year-old should (ideally) already be accustomed to babysitting his younger siblings. Unless he has after-school activities that prevent him from coming home on-time, then he’s your childcare solution. If that’s not a functional solution, then you’ll have to get a babysitter or daycare.

I agree that going from part- to full-time may eat up most (or all) of your pay increase for child care, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do it. Some mothers *prefer *working full-time. And, it can make spending time with your children better, because they’re in your face less. But that’s a personal choice nobody else can make for you, of course.

I’m not a parent, but my mom worked part-time until my sister was 10 and I was 11 (and therefore old enough to watch ourselves). On holidays and half-days before that, we would go to the YMCA sometimes or (more often) her sister would come over and babysit us.

When I was growing up, I either stayed with a stay-at-home neighbor (presumably for a reasonable fee) and her kids, with family members (Spring break was my annual week at great-grandma’s), or participating in various summer activities.

He might be happier if you paid him. Much less of course than you would pay an outsider, but increasing his allowance for the weeks he’s babysitting his siblings seems fair to me.

My daughter does several things. She will take part of her vacation and work a couple days from home (which is possible, but she also has a lot to do at the office). Or her husband will take some of his vacation. Or she will ask her parents (my wife and me) to come visit. Or she will pay one of the day-care attendants to baby sit. She will not ask her in-laws for which she has good and sufficient reason. She has just one child and when he starts school next month, they will still have to pay a service to take him after school. This costs them probably $20,000 a year.

If you say you’re going to pay them be sure to actually follow through, though. When I started babysitting my younger siblings (at age 10, and no, I was not given a choice) I was told I would be paid the princely sum of $1 an hour. After about six months my mother stopped paying me, with the explanation that I was “too bossy” to my siblings.

Being required to continue babysitting without pay for the next few years really did not do anything to make me kinder to my siblings, and was probably worse than if she’d never promised to pay me at all.

You could strike a deal with the 15-year-old that he gets paid only when there’s no fighting and you don’t come home to a war.

I started working a real job when I was 15. Perhaps it’s time to start discussing real-life expectations. He should be getting a job soon, which could be a “real” one or a babysitting one. The sitting one might be less pay, but he doesn’t have to get to another location and there’s a lot more freedom with the one where he stays at home. I think it would be weird for someone to have to watch a 15-year-old, so he needs to be either watching the others himself or doing something productive that’s not at home.

We have two young kids, one school aged, the other in daycare. For my son, who’s in 1st grade this year, there is aftercare through the YMCA at his school. It’s obviously not as much a problem with my daughter since the daycare is there for the purpose of providing childcare for working parents. When daycare was closed for a week unexpectedly due to a fire, one of the ladies who works there watched our son (this was before my youngest was born) during the week he was off (for extra pay, of course - pay, pay, pay).

Because my factory shifts never matched up with the hours professional daycare offered, I paid stay-at-home moms to watch my kid. Part of the contract with each new sitter was complete availability on school holidays, sick days, half days, etc. That meant I paid full price all year round, even when all they were doing for weeks was feeding him breakfast and taking him to school, but offering the same steady paycheck they could count on was what made taking the job worthwhile for them.

From what I remember my mother alternated between Grandma, Other Grandma, Maiden Great Aunt, and the TV.