School will be out soon, and summer, beautiful as it is, can be a challenging time for single moms. Summer’s requirements for keeping children busy and safe can present problems not easily resolved without extra financial resources. However, taking care of the kids during the summer on a single mother’s budget is possible. It requires some thinking, some planning, and some resourcefulness, and it can be done.
Here are some tips for surviving the season while providing care and fun for the kids.
1. Put parental heads together to create a neighborhood or community plan for helping each other. Married and partnered moms might welcome this opportunity too. You can juggle schedules depending on who works when to provide coverage for the children at the various homes, yards and streets. You may need to include weekend times for some of the moms and/or dads to take a turn, and it may prove worth it.
2. Invite relatives, when available and willing, to take a day (or more) with the kids each week. Retired or part-time working grandparents, aunts and uncles might relish an opportunity to do some fun things with the kids and get to know them better. You and the caretaker might plan the activities in advance to be sure things go as smoothly as possible. Parks, recreation areas, and even the backyard or the street, can become fun places with a little creativity. If you cannot pay them, you might offer an exchange to help them with something they need help with.
3. On the weekends, you might want to consider organizing a neighborhood or community activity group. Things can be more fun when other adults and their kids joining together in an event. You might organize games, and/or theme days when the kids dress up and create activities or a show. Kids love to get involved in planning a neighborhood carnival, a yard sale, a festival or a picnic. Lots of fun can be had, and lots of learning can take place.
4. You can take your vacation in the summer and plan some day trips with the kids, doing easy things like going to a museum, a park, a community garden, attending an evening concert, or simply taking a walk around the neighborhood to pick up rocks, sticks, and leaves. Later the kids can make treasure boxes to store their “finds,” or make collages out of items they can glue on paper or cardboard.
5. If you are able to work at home, you might plan with neighbors for their kids to come over to play. Play dates provide the children with social experiences, and offer the gift of reciprocity. When care taking needs come up later, you will have some favors to call in.
6. If you can afford it, you might find an older adult in your community who wants to earn a bit of money with some summer care taking. Besides being sure that this is a safe adult for your kids to be with, you can be involved in the planning the activities that the children will do with this person. If you cannot afford to pay the caretaker, consider discussing a barter. It is likely you will have some skills and talents that can give something to them.
7. If you are in a location that offers the Big Brother/Big Sister program, you might locate your local chapter of this fine organization. These wonderful volunteers can offer your children precious time for learning and fun, and time when you know there is coverage and enrichment for the kids.
I bet that you can think of a bunch of things I haven’t thought of. Feel free to share your ideas and tell us what you have already discovered that gives you summertime survival.