Summer brings different stress

Working parents shift schedules so children are always supervised

Family Matters

July 11, 2004|By Cindy Krischer Goodman | Cindy Krischer Goodman,Knight Ridder / Tribune

We finally get our work-family routine under control, and then summer hits. Sure, there are no lunches to pack, soccer practices or homework to review, but we have a bigger concern: adjusting to our kids' summer schedules.

For some of us, that could mean reshifting our hours, negotiating vacation time or trying to create new boundaries for a home-based business.

It's often a guilt-producing, time-consuming feat that can have you driving miles out of your way or can become quite expensive.

Most working parents will tell you that summer is when they most need to collect on the goodwill they've built with their employer.

"It's a different kind of stress than during the school year," says Patty Duenas of Miami. "Camps are expensive. It's hard for parents that work. Summer school is just for kids who are failing, so it's not even an option anymore."

Duenas says her son, Matthew, 11, will participate in baseball camp. Her daughter Jacyln, 14, will attend cheerleading camp and will put in community service hours as a volunteer at an animal clinic. Duenas, a recreational therapist, says she will take scattered days off, along with vacation, to keep her kids occupied. She's also relying on flexibility at work and help from her mom with pickups. Her husband, Ramon, a Miami Beach city employee, pitches in with drop-offs.

"I don't want them sitting home alone," Duenas says. "In summer, the stress becomes transportation."

Perhaps that's why an Urban Institute study found the expenses of middle-income and higher-income families rise 34 percent in summer. Low-income families are more likely to be relying on relatives during the summer or on self-care. Overall, the amount of time children 10 years and older spend in self-care more than doubles in summer.

Not only must working parents piece together child care for the length of the summer (having one camp one week, a vacation and then another camp), some must also patch together each day. That could mean using one sort of arrangement during the morning and another for the afternoon.

Some workers say they arrange to arrive later, work from home or bring kids to the office before camp starts or after it lets out. Other working parents connect with neighborhood teens for baby-sitting.

Nationally, companies such as AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company, are trying to help their employees cope. In recent years, AstraZeneca set up a pre- and post-camp at its company headquarters in Delaware to provide relief for parents who otherwise would not be able to send their children to camps while maintaining regular working hours. Parents drop their children off as early as 7:15 a.m. and buses transport the children to and from nearby day camps.

The buses return the children to Camp AstraZeneca at 4 p.m. and parents can pick them up by 6 p.m. This year, AstraZeneca has expanded its program to offer employees an on-site day camp, complete with counselors, field trips, swimming and other activities.

"We think it's going to have a very positive effect on stress reduction," says Andrea Moselle, senior manager of work / life programs for AstraZeneca.

For those who can afford sleep-away camp, Patti Roberts, known around New Jersey as "the Camp Lady," has a service geared to working parents. Student Summers does the research and places more than 1,000 campers at summer programs each year. For parents, the service is free. The camps pay her a referral fee.

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