Finding the right camp or sitter for the summer has never been easy for working parents, but this year the COVID-19 crisis has made those decisions downright daunting.
Do working parents send our kids to camp or daycare and risk exposing them to the virus? Do we ask Grandma to watch the kids, knowing she’s especially at risk if she catches COVID-19? Or do we continue to watch them while working from home, feeling guilty about all the screentime they’re getting? Not to mention, it’s not exactly the best time to be perceived as distracted at work, in an era of mass layoffs. Or do you (gulp) quit your job or take a furlough just to get through this challenging time?
There are no easy answers, and each family will have to weigh the risks and benefits of each option and make the decision that works best for them. As for my family, we’ve decided to cancel summer camp for our son, because it would have required a commute on the subway here in New York City, and instead we will send him to daycare with his baby sister when it reopens. We aren’t great (read: really bad) at working from home while taking care of a 4-year-old and a 9-month-old.
Here’s what other working parents plan on doing, and why:
Going back to daycare/preschool.
“My kids start preschool on June 1, with lots of extra protocols and smaller class sizes. We are looking forward to some normalcy and them having friends to play with. And I’ve read a lot about kids not likely being good spreaders of the virus. It’s a risk we feel we have to take for our jobs to remain stable.” —Samantha Walsh, mom of two, officer of advancement and development at a Jewish day school, Denver, Colorado
Working from home without childcare
“Our daughter was going to go to camp before starting kindergarten in the fall, but it has been canceled. For now, our plan is to keep her home this summer. My husband is a firefighter/paramedic so he is off enough that I can get work done—as a freelancer, I can be flexible with my work hours. Plus, we just don't feel safe sending her, and we wouldn't have sent her to camp if the decision wasn't made for us. There's still so much unknown about the virus, and we'd much rather make do this summer, create "camp" experiences in our backyard, carve out some time for kindergarten readiness activities and hope that things will feel better/safer come fall so Mila can start kindergarten.” —Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal, mom of one, freelance writer, Fairfield, Connecticut
“I’m working the summer without childcare. I already paid for a spot in summer camp—as of now, they are planning on opening, but I’m not optimistic. Honestly my summer plan is not to have a nervous breakdown.” —Italia Granshaw, mom of one, chief of staff at Office of New York State Assembly, North Bellmore, New York
“We are still undecided, but leaning toward not sending the kids to camp. Our daughter's June dance camp has canceled, and we're still waiting to see what the sports and dance camps do for July and August. My kids are older, 8 and 13, and my husband is also working from home. We can easily keep up our current arrangements. I just feel badly for the kids—while we have a big backyard, they miss their activities and hanging out with friends.” —Jacqueline LaBrocca, mom of two, senior director of conference operations and logistics, Salisbury Mills, New York
“Most of the camps near us are now canceling. Some have canceled only for June right now and plan to do virtual camps. That just seems like more work for us, and I don't think my daughters would appreciate it or find it interesting. Some camps have said they will be open for my older daughter but not my younger daughter, a 6-year-old. This also is not helpful. We've come up with a system that works for us while we are working from home, so we'll just continue that. With the new data coming out about how this virus impacts kids, it just doesn't feel safe.” —Marianne Drexler, mom of two, university program coordinator, Durham, North Carolina
“I'm going to keep working from home with the kids, even though it's bad for our mental health. Our daycare for Zach, 2, so far, is taking more children as of June 1 (they've been open this whole time for essential workers with up to 10 kids at a time), and I haven't gotten word about camp for Jeremy, 6, but I'm not comfortable sending them into any group situations yet. We all had some sort of virus in mid-March, but we couldn't get tested when we tried. Because there are reports of reinfections, and experts say it could take as many as six weeks to know whether cases are truly going up or down because of reopenings, I'm going to continue on as we have these past nine weeks. I already wish I had kept the kids out of daycare and school those first couple of weeks of March. I don't want to regret sending them in again. And maybe by keeping my kids home, I'm keeping other families healthy.” —Meredith Bodgas, mom of two, Working Mother editor-in-chief, Bellmore, New York
Hiring a sitter
"Still no word on camp. Some are opening, some aren’t. We have a nanny starting today. That does freak me out, but the daycare/camp suggested reopening instructions were far freakier: Temperature checks twice a day. Kids in groups of five max. Everyone masked all day, including kids 3 and over. How can I ask my 3-year-old to be masked ALL day? He’d flip out." —Rachel Stuhler, mom of two, screenwriter, Los Angeles
Relying on grandparents
“I’m hoping summer camp/daycare opens. If not, Grandma will come to babysit some of the days. I can’t have the kids inside on an iPad all summer long.” —Nicole Beniamini, mom of two, vice president at Edison Research, Hillsborough, NJ
“I’ll be honest. Up until now, we quarantined. My in-laws also quarantined. Since we know no one in the two households has seen anyone, and we tested negative, they will help us once summer break hits. Without that, I don’t know what we would have done. Camp is canceled and our daycare is closed until at least July 7.” —Larry Collica, dad of two, senior manager of retail planning, Northridge, California
“We live in Brooklyn, but we’ve been renting a house in the Catskill Mountains with another family in our neighborhood who we knew had been self-isolating as well. We have a 2-year-old son and they have two boys, a 3-year-old and 20-month-old. The seven of us have formed a parenting co-op. Each of us takes a two-hour childcare shift during the day. This allows each of us to put in almost a full day's work. It's been a truly ideal scenario, and I think all of the kids have really thrived from the social interaction they're getting with each other. But my husband was recently laid off from his advertising job. So, as sad as we are to leave the mountain house, it’s more important to us to keep our regular nanny employed and make other arrangements. We're taking a road trip to St. Louis, Missouri, to stay with my in-laws until at least August. They have a yard, a pool and ample space, which we think will be best for our son. We know none of these solutions is perfect and all carry their own risks, and we're very much aware of how lucky we are to even have these options, but it's what is working for us for now.” —Lindsey Perlstein, mom of one and content director, Brooklyn, New York
For many parents across the country, like Daniela Egan, a fundraising director in Boston, there are still too many unknowns, even this close to the summer. "Massachusetts has closed all daycares (except for some open for essential workers) through June 29. We use our work's daycare, and I'm not sure if they will want to delay beyond what the state advises or if reduced capacity will mean reduced days for us. Plus, I don't think our campus will be bringing back employees like us anytime soon. My husband and I split our days so we each get about five hours of working time during the day, plus evenings and weekends as we need it. (Spoiler, we do). I guess the plan is to continue in this status quo through the summer if we need to..."
No matter what you decide—or when you decide it—rest assured that there are plenty of parents agonizing about the best way protect their kids, their job and their sanity this summer.
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.