Three kids, three camps

This fall, all three of my older children will be going to the same school. They will be getting on the bus together in the morning, and getting off together in the afternoon. This blissful confluence of events warms my efficient heart. Alas, that’s in another 6 weeks. We still have camp to get through now.

This week, the three big kids are in three different camps. Yes, I signed them up, and yes, I knew this might be logistically complex, but there were particular programs they each wanted to do, which were offered only certain weeks, so there we go. Fortunately, the arrival times and pick-up times are slightly staggered. Two start at 9, one at 9:30, and then they end at 3:30, 4, and 4:15. The 9:30-4:15 one is quite working parent friendly; they have free (or built-into-the-cost) before and after care that you don’t have to book ahead of time. So it’s not quite as crazy as it could be, but it’s still a lot of running around, and the two camps starting at 9 a.m. means the routine requires two drivers. This morning, I took 2 kids and G (nanny) took one of the big kids, plus the little guy. We went in separate directions. With first-day drop-offs and check-ins with counselors, my morning run took 50 minutes (plus the time to help get my half of the kids ready). The afternoon run, which we also split, took only 20 minutes for me, but that’s because I picked that kid up on the early side to avoid the car line stack-up. I’m only traveling one night this week (hubby will be as well; we’ll see how G pulls that day off!) so presumably I’ll do this the rest of the week too.

I’m cool with it; we have some good chats in the car. But I was just thinking back to ten years ago, when I was new to the parenting thing, and I read a lot of Mommy War articles and discussions on internet forums (fora?) where people made such helpful comments on using childcare as “I can’t imagine letting other people raise my children!” And here I am, with more than full time childcare coverage, seemingly still involved in my children’s lives, to the point of doing 50-minute camp runs. However, what childcare does allow is that I can let my kids do the camps they want to do, which I simply could not pull off solo as a stay-at-home mom of four. We have such childcare because I work — flexibly, but still full-time. These things are always more complex than they appear in trolling comments.

Does childcare enable anything in your life (besides working) that you couldn’t do otherwise?

In other news: An excerpt from my City Journal article on working stay-at-home moms ran in the New York Post this weekend.

15 thoughts on “Three kids, three camps

  1. The camp thing is huge. It hasn’t been an issue this year since my daughter has been going to a local camp, but she’s already expressed interest in art camp, swimming camp, the camp at school, all of which are more expensive (of course) and require extensive schlepping. It’s also after school activities. At some point I’d love for her to start music lesson. Without a babysitter to schlep, that would never, ever happen.

  2. Yes! I am the treasurer of our PTA, so I have to do something at almost every school event. My husband often has to work evening events, so without child care one of us wouldn’t be able to fulfill those obligations. This is the first year my kids will be in the same school and I am beyond pleased to avoid the cross town pickups!

  3. My kids are only 2 years apart and I always put them in the same camp. (Sorry boys!). What I need are more camps that start in the 7:00 hour. That is the limiting factor for us. Many daycares open in that hour and my need for childcare coverage in that hour hasn’t changed now that my kids are both in school. Oddly enough, I can’t find a babysitter that only wants to cover an hour in day in the 7:00AM hour 🙂

    1. @beth – yes, oddly enough, right? Although I do know one person who for a while had a nanny work 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. (pre and post school) which worked for her since the nanny was starting a business and used 9-3 for that, with the childcare hours financing it. I can envision a few other scenarios that might work like that — maybe someone was writing a novel or attending classes during the school day.

      1. This was another reason why we switched to an au pair recently. They can work a split shift and the in-between hours they are off. The downside of course is an additional person living in your home–not possible or desirable for everyone.

  4. Yes! Last year at this time I lobbied my husband for more childcare hours. We had childcare only for the hours when both of us were away from home. This meant 3 afternoons per week I was home alone with 4 kids. This meant if a child had an acitivity I had to pack all 4 into the car to take them there. It also limited the types of activities in which they could participate. Last summer my daughter started Suzuki violin and we were paying or nanny overtime so I could take her to her lessons. Flash forward a year and we have gone from 46 hours of childcare to 61 hours of childcare/household support including an au pair (schedule can change weekly) and I finally feel like we are adequately staffed. Not only can our 18 month nap uninterrupted, but I can actually fit in a workout and we use extra au pair hours for date nights. At least while the kids are little I feel we need this level of help.

    1. @Gillian – as a fellow mom-of-four, I am with you on this. My husband travels a lot, and so often I’d have all four kids in the evening and with the little guy demanding much attention, all I could do with the others was put them in front of the TV. We now have 60 hours of coverage. I only work for about 35. The others are mostly about for sure having 2 adults on hand for kid activities and supervision.

  5. Childcare allows me to come home and cook for my children (all school aged) after work each day. I pay someone to entertain my more difficult child (which he is thrilled with) while I cook dinner and do homework, visit, etc with the other two. Then when the babysitter leaves I have energy to devote to my child that was earlier entertained by the babysitter. I have also found it works to hire a college or high school student for him, that way he doesn’t feel like he has a babysitter, more of someone to play with.
    I’m fortunate enough to have flexible full time hours and I think being able to hire a babysitter enhances that also, ensuring that my time at home is high quality and allowing me to have time either 1:1 or 1:2 at home with my kids. My oldest is also able to babysit for me (16) and I do pay her for that, so that works well for when I am wanting solo errand time or need to go in to work unexpectedly for a couple hours on a weekend, etc.

  6. I LOVE childcare. I remember one of my attendings at Duke raving about how she loved day care (this was before I had kids) – and now I get it. I love our nanny, love the kids’ school, and truly feel they benefit from the combination of loving caregivers they get to interact with every day.
    Working (almost) full time and having childcare allows us to afford more in terms of activities + family vacations, and it allows me to be present with the kids when I get home from work instead – not doing housework/cooking/cleanup. It also allows me to pursue some of my own hobbies, and that makes me a happier person which translates into a better parent.

    1. @SHU- we loved aspects of daycare too. It was great for my son; it was a little harder on us with logistics (drop off/pick up with hard stops, managing the illness aspect — plus daycare doesn’t do the cooking and grocery shopping for you…) The day-care we used in NYC taught my son to read and write at age 3. He was into it, they let him run with it, and many of his classmates were similarly skilled. When someone referred to it as “baby prison” to me I just had to laugh. If our prisons were like that people would be lining up to hire inmates coming out of them!

  7. I don’t generally mind the driving that comes with older kids who have activities, except when traffic is unusually bad and I’m late. We were 15 minutes late to a 30 minute swim lesson yesterday because of an unexpected and unusual traffic jam that ate up not only my 10 minute buffer but 15 more minutes as well! I’m also struggling to figure out how to make it all work the week my husband is out of town. If he traveled more, I’d probably have a college kid lined up to help with the driving. As it is, I am debating whether to have my older daughter skip a piano lesson or use the child care service we sometime use to find someone who can shuttle her for me while I drive the younger daughter to art lessons. We’re fortunate to be able to afford all of this and also for both of us to have the flexible schedules that makes it possible. In my dream world, some of this (like art!) would still be part of public school. Why should kids’ opportunities to explore beyond the core academic subjects be tied to their parents’ ability to pay for extra classes and solve the transportation logistics to get them there?

  8. This year is a little different for us as we seem to be moving backward in the need for childcare. My oldest has after school band until 5:30. I don’t get out of work until 6 MTR. My husband can be home anytime from 3:30-8:00. Although most nights he’s home by 4:00. But then he’s home alone with a houseful.
    I have a lady who will be at my home from 2:00-7:00. She’s coming early to do light cleaning, grocery shopping, and dinner prep. Then when the little kids get home she will give them a snack and homework gets done. By then my husband is home and can take a child to an activity while the other gets to hang out at home with our helper. Or she may take the other to an activity. While they are gone, I will run home. Finish up dinner and have it ready so we can sit down together.
    Childcare has allowed me to work, go back to school, volunteer, exercise, operate under less stress and pressure to be multiple places at once. It has allowed for one on one time with my children.

    1. I should mention that is far more affordable than one might think. She requested $200 a week for this service. (I offered more, but this is what she wanted.) Since she will be doing some cleaning, I no longer need a housekeeper. Because she will be doing grocery shopping, I won’t pay extra for delivery, and because she’s prepping dinner we won’t be eating out/take out.
      She’s a retired former teacher with no children/grandchildren close by. My children are a little older so that may be why she didn’t charge me as much, but worth looking into working moms.

  9. I’m planning to go back to workforce full-time after being a stay-at-home mom for a year. Our daughters are not that excited to attend daycare because they got used to be with our care 24/7. I know the transition won’t be easy but yes, having daycare (nanny, or any help from family/friends) makes schedule flexible and easier. The school starts three weeks from now and we’re a little bit worried (including my husband) on how it will go. But all in all, I know everything will be okay!

  10. Besides work, childcare allows me to sometimes get a run in when I can’t drag my butt out of bed in the morning. Childcare has also allowed my kids to do activities, like camps and other summer programs, that they would not get to do because I am out of the house at work.

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