The snow is melting here in New England and we’re getting ready for the summer care surge. Here, Katie Bugbee, mom of three and Care.com Global Parenting Expert shares 7 ways to take the stress out of summer…and really make it the summer of awesome.
Remember when long, warm days meant more free time – and less stress? Vacations were relaxing. Daytrips to the beach didn’t include a carful of crap? You could eat ice cream for dinner.
And then those precious kids came along. And summer changed. It meant all days started at 6 am. It meant SPF 175 and pitching sun tents on the beach. And it meant patching together a summer care plan – in April.
Once kids come, summer takes on new meaning. We no longer long for the summer of our dreams, but theirs. We stress and work long hours putting together this patchwork-quilt plan of activities, vacations and care so they have memories that last forever. And when we get home – and see their smiling faces – it makes everything worth it.
But getting to those smiles, that’s the hard part.
So I’ve created a summer cheat sheet to make things a little easier for you this year. It’s your guide to getting to those smiles, without (as much) stress. Because let’s face it, when their memories last a lifetime – yours do too.
- Book your family vacation now. We typically rent houses using a site like HomeAway.com so we can use the kitchen and have separate bedrooms for the kids. Sharing a house with another family can cut down on the cost and be like a permi-sleepover for the kids.
- Find camp deals on local auctions. Camp can get pricey. But a site like BiddingforGood.com will display your local charitable auctions, to which great camps often donate a session or more. I’ve bought most of my kids’ camps this way – and you can feel good about the money going towards a local school or organization.
- Look for new sitters by May. If you use college kids or school programs for after-school care – you probably need to hire a new summer caregiver. You’re not alone. We see a surge of summer job posts start in April. Makes sense. College students coming home for the summer are starting to think about their work situation. And teachers are also planning ways to supplement their income. Get interviews (use Skype if they are still in school), reference calls and background checks taken care of now – so summer “vacation” isn’t a care crunch. (Tip: Find sitters who can do weekend date nights too!)
> Get tips for interviewing a summer sitter
- Tap into friends and local forums. Once you’ve outlined what you need for summer care, I always suggest sending out to a wide audience. Use a localized message board, such as BigTent.com to find a parent forum specific to your area. Post your needs there (and browse for recommendations). And email your parent-friends too. Just make sure you still interview, check extra references and run a background check. Just because a sitter was great for your neighbor’s kids, doesn’t mean she’s the right fit for yours. These local mom groups can also provide great inspiration for summer programs you hadn’t heard of.
- Plan special “family” weekends. Look at your summer calendar. If it’s anything like mine, it’s already filling up with extended family obligations and road trips. So use this time to block out “at-home” weekends where you can be low-key and memorable. Camp in the backyard. Host a family “luau”. Have a water balloon contest. Go canoeing. Blocking off fun down-time will make the summer seem less hectic, yet still awesome.
> Get 101 fun summer ideas
- Figure out the pet sitch. You know the week before vaca when everything at work seems to explode and you remember 10 more things you need to do before you leave? And then the dog boarder says he doesn’t have any spots. This is when pets become a lot harder than kids. So take a day in the next few weeks, look at your calendar and book the pet care you need for the entire summer (weekends away too!). And for first time pet owners keep this in mind: Holiday weekends like Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day book up fast at kennels and boarders so reserve your spot(s) now.
- Set aside one week night to splurge. And when I say “splurge” I mean, your time and energy. Not your money. As working parents, coming home at 5 or 6 means dinner and bedtime prep. The last thing we want to do is some excursion that will only delay our own peace and quiet. But every fall, it seems like summer passed by too fast. So this is the time to push ourselves -- not just for the kids, but for us -- to be more “summer-full.” I suggest choosing one weeknight to break out of routine. Let the kids know that Wednesdays are Summer Night. And plan fun outings. Have a picnic dinner in the park. Take the kids to a movie. Do something that helps you enjoy these kids and enjoy these moments – before it all passes by way.too.fast.
Some of the stress of summer planning will never go away. But it’s always easier if you start early. So look at your calendar now – and think how you can un-complicate things -- getting back some of those lazy days of pre-parenthood. But with the perk of giant-dimpled, often toothless, summer smiles.