May 2018

Dad Life: The Summer Childcare Dilemma

Author: Justin Jarrett

Spring is a special time in the Lowcountry, as we begin to thaw out from our two weeks of winter and pack away the hoodies for another season. Beach days become more frequent and our legs and feet are freed from the unnatural restraints of pants and closed-toe shoes.
Bees will buzz, kids will blow dandelion fuzz … sorry, too much Disney. Oh yeah, the kids. They love summer. The pool is open and school is closed.

Oh no, school is closed.

If you’re anything like me, or basically every other parent I consulted on the issue, you’ve recently come to the startling reminder that your children need to be looked after all day every day very soon, and you, dear reader, are responsible for making those arrangements.

At the risk of sounding all “get off my lawn” about it, this seemed to be easier when I was a kid and would ride my bike across town to the swimming pool every day and return some hours later with no way for anyone to make contact with me in the interim. Now we’re expected to know where are kids are and whether they’re alive at all times. Silly millennials ruining everything.

The thing about childcare is it’s scarce and, if you want to have a reasonable assurance that you’ll see your kids again at the end of each day, quite expensive. When the kids were in daycare, this wasn’t a problem. Life just continued right through the summer, and that direct deposit happily helped itself to its weekly snack. Chomp, chomp.

As they get older, the dynamic changes. Fulltime summer care is at least double the cost of after-school care (rightly so) and even more expensive by the time you pony up for all the field trips … and there are so many field trips.

You can try to piece it together with a mix of various sports camps and other activities, but you’ll need to get a second job to pay for it all, and it better be as an Uber or Lyft driver, because you’ll be spending all your time shuttling the little ones to and from camp. Might as well kill two birds with one commute.

It’s a double-edged sword, though, because while the cost of childcare is no joke, neither is it enough to offset an income and justify being a full-fledged stay-at-home-dad for the summer, even if you do work from home. My seven-year-old son is self-sufficient enough that we could pull it off without my productivity taking too much of a hit, but I would like for him to interact with something other than an iPad for the next two and a half months.

And in my particular case, he’s only half the problem (statistically speaking). The soon-to-be-five-year-old would majorly cramp my ability to hear myself think, let alone put those thoughts into words and type them for a living, if we were together all day every day.

Fortunately we found a tenable situation that won’t break the bank, but the pickings are slim at this point, so here are a few outside-the-box suggestions if you’re still looking for solution to your summer childcare needs:

• Why not donate your kids’ summer to science? Surely there are some child psychology or sociology grad students out there who need a research project and could break some new ground with a Lord of the Flies style experiment studying how children self-govern when left to fend for themselves.

• When the robots come for all of our jobs, the best career left will be reality TV star, and you don’t want your little ones to be behind the eight ball. Let them get their feet wet on MTV’s newest hit reality show Real World: Summer Camp, where former Real World stars act as camp counselors and try to balance the stresses of no longer being semi-famous by making sure your kids don’t fall out of a canoe and drown. (I better get an executive producer credit when they inevitably develop this idea into a series.)

• You could always start your own childcare service. Sure, one or two children’s tuition for the summer isn’t enough to make up for a full paycheck, but if you got six or eight together, you could flip the script. Hahahahaha. I almost made that suggestion with a straight face.

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