On the Clock

The Dog Days of Summer: The Childcare Conundrum

School’s out. But for working parents, the pressure is on. Second in a series.

For many professionals, the period from June through August is a happy stretch of barbecues and beach days.

But for working parents, summer can be one of the most draining times of the year. According to a survey by Korn Ferry, 68% of working moms and dads say managing their kids during the summer is harder than managing their employees. What’s more, 30% say they have to take unexpected time off due to childcare issues. 

If your child throws a fit one day because he or she doesn’t want to do a particular activity, don’t let it throw all of your plans off course.

And while shipping kids off to camp or to Grandma’s house might be the most obvious solution, not everyone is so financially or logistically blessed. After all, camp costs can tally up to more than $5,000, depending on the activities and location. So what’s a working parent to do? We asked several career experts for their best advice on creative ways to manage childcare during the summer.

Flex your flexibility.

Many people struggle with asking for a change in where or when they work. But in today’s tech-enabled workplace, organizations are more open to it than ever. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, the percentage of companies that offer telecommuting benefits alone has tripled since 1996—from 20% to 60%.

If your current schedule won’t be sustainable when summer comes, have a conversation with your team to figure out an alternative. Perhaps you come in earlier and leave earlier, or work from home several days a week. The key is to have the conversation as early as possible to minimize disruptions in the business itself, says Joanne Jastatt, a leadership coach in Burlington, Vermont. 

Connect with your community.

When seeking childcare options for the summer, it’s important to stretch beyond your close circle of friends. “I hate to tell anyone to go on Facebook for anything, but this is where it’s really helpful,” says Philadelphia-based career coach Rita Friedman. “Going through local Facebook parenting groups is a great way to cobble together a childcare effort.”

Indeed, there are bound to be other parents in similar situations to yours, and often a solution can be found together. Parents who have children around the same age might do a nanny share, for example, or work out an arrangement where parents with the ability to work from home one day a week take turns watching one another’s kids. The key is to be honest about what you need. “Make your problems known to those around,” says Nancy Von Horn, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “It’s not unlike a job search. People want to help you.” 

Let the guilt go.

Whatever option you choose for your child, remember that you can only do so much. If your child throws a fit one day because he or she doesn’t want to do a particular activity, don’t let it throw all of your plans off course. If you can’t find backup care and you have to put your daughter or son in front of the iPad while you take a conference call, don’t let the extra screen time make you feel like a bad parent. “It’s easy to fall into that mommy/daddy guilt, but it’s OK for kids not to be happy every day,” Von Horn says. “I can say this in retrospect: they really will be OK.”

Check out part one of our summer guide to work: the guilt of vacation.