For the first time in my short time as a working parent (just over 4 years now), I actually wish I was a stay-at-home mom, or maybe even a teacher. Not because I think either of those jobs is any easier—far from it actually. Personally, I think both of those roles are up there as some of the toughest jobs in the world. But right now I’m craving those jobs, simply because as a working mom, summers are the worst! And something that’s supposed to help our work-life balance (“summer Fridays”) actually isn’t that helpful at all.
Here are just a few of the reasons the summer season adds so much to working parents’ mental load:
- Figuring out your childcare schedule is next to impossible and gets progressively worse as your children get older. Yes, daycare runs through the summer and when your child is still in the baby phase, there likely isn’t much change to their daily routine. But once you hit school age, suddenly figuring out childcare for working parents is nothing short of a nightmare. Camps can be outrageously expensive and there are often gaps between when school ends and camp begins. Camps may not offer “after-care” hours and many parents are stringing together one-week and two-week camps to fill the summer, making it a constant juggle of logistics! And for even older kids, figuring out what to do during the summer can be even more difficult.
- Summer Fridays sound great in theory, and more and more employers are using this as a tool to attract and engage employees. The kicker, though, is that you are still expected to do the same amount of work, leading to longer hours Monday-Thursday (while still juggling aforementioned camp pick-up times!). With this schedule, there will likely be more “logged-in evenings after bedtime. Plus you’re always still reachable during those “summer Fridays,” making it more stressful. You’re trying to enjoy a Friday afternoon with your kids, but then you have to jump on phone calls or respond to emails.
- What pre-school/elementary school-aged child is actually easy to put to bed during the summer? Okay, this might be a problem for many of us working parents all year long. But come summer time when it’s still light out well beyond 7pm, it becomes next to impossible. It doesn’t matter how much you stick to the routine and use blackout shades, because children know it’s still light outside and will fight you on it with everything they’ve got! Plus there’s the side of you that’s finally enjoying some outside time with your kids after work, only to realize you’ve completely blown past said bedtime. Now getting everyone out the door the next morning is going to be a disaster!
- The jealousy factor. As I said, I’ve never actually wished I was a stay-at-home mom, at least not seriously anyway. I enjoy my work. I think it makes me a better mom. And quite frankly, I live in a very expensive city so I really do need to work. But now that it’s summer, I have flashbacks to my own childhood, spending day after day at the local pool. Now I’m wishing that was the plan for my own girls and I this summer.
- The “Mental Load” is on overdrive in the summer. We all know that moms tend to shoulder the majority of the mental load, but in the summer it only piles higher (check out some tips to reduce parental stress here). Between changing logistics of all those camps, all the things you need to bring and prep for all the camps, enrollment forms, medical forms, specific apparel (dance camp, sports camp, “wacky wet Wednesday” at day camp) and even the start of back to school shopping (which starts pretty much the day school is out for the summer), it’s just plain exhausting. Add potential vacation planning to the list, and guess who’s likely in charge of the planning, the packing, the organizing – yes, of course, mom. Not to mention the other nagging side of all of this: You still have to be productive at work!
While summers are great, we need to recognize that the wind-down of school, planning and juggling the summer schedule, and then (in what feels like a time warp), the start of the school year again, summer is far from a break for your working parents. What may seem like perks to some of your staff can actually be more difficult for the working parents on your team.
The mental load is a constant issue for working parents, but especially so during the summer months. The concierge team at WRK/360 supports the working parents at your organization by taking some of these burdens off their plate. From researching camps to helping parents fill their childcare gaps, our team is here to make it easier.