How do single dads (and working mothers) cope with summer holiday?

summer vacation?I feel a bit trapped right now. Linda and I are changing our parenting time arrangements so that all the kids are with her some days and then they’re all with me on other days. If you’ve read parenting post divorce type books, we’re probably going to be moving to a 2-5-5-2 arrangement. Prior to this we had a more complicated 2-2-2-1 sort of arrangement, staggered, so that each child had solo time with each of us every week. Too many darn transitions, though, so we’re moving to a more normal, more common arrangement.

The question that looms before me now, however, is: what happens during the summer? As regular readers know, we have an 11yo girl, an 8yo boy and a 4yo girl and even during the school year, it’s very tough when I have all three because the 4yo gets out of school at 12:30, so I end up with half-days of work unless I can arrange play dates or other afternoon activities for her. Worth noting is that our two houses are just barely more than a mile apart, so there’s no distance or travel involved and the kids can easily keep all the same friends and social activities in either residence.

But summer vacation, stretching out a long twelve weeks, suddenly seems overwhelming to me because the days that I have the kids, I’m now thinking I will have to not work at all, effectively axing my available work hours by 50%, with a commensurate hit on my income.

When I was a kid, we just wandered off and did our own thing during the summer, and I went to some summer camps, etc., but we’re in a different world and it seems somehow more risky and less appropriate to leave the kids to their own devices for weeks on end, even if I were working at home. And leaving them home solo sounds like the path to major trouble.

I figure summer camps, between sports, horses and other themes, would work great, sprinkled with time with friends and perhaps a few short trips, but while I have talked with the kids and they’ve each expressed interest in different thematic summer camp activities, Linda tells me that she’s talked to them and none of them want to do summer camp at all. They all just want to hang around the house and do as little as possible.

Hence my dilemma.

summer vacation on the lake

We’re still getting the hang of this solo parenting thing — and it’s a bear with three small children, I’ll tell you — but what I’m unclear on is whether it’s acceptable for me to simply make summer activity decisions for my children based on my discussions with them that indicated they are interested in some activities, or whether I am supposed to either expect that they’ll spend more time with Mom, who doesn’t work and can easily take the entire summer off to parent, or whether I should be anticipating a summer where I essentially only work every other week?

Single dads, single working moms, help me out here. What’s your best suggestion and how do you deal with summer holidays with your younger children?

8 comments on “How do single dads (and working mothers) cope with summer holiday?

  1. I’m a bit confused on why you feel you have to come up with activities for your 4yo after school.. does she have toys she can play with.. or if you are off, since you picked her up, do you have time to play some 1:1 games with her?
    I’ve found that a lot of parents don’t realize that they are allowed to play tag and dolls and color with the kids.
    I would imagine that the 8yo and 11yo would work out things on their own.. partly by getting bored by sitting around the house (especially since you’ll have a limit on TV time.. and if they tell you they’re bored you’ll happily give them a chore they can do)..
    The 4yo is more of a dilemma.. Do you have any type of child-care or flex-time .. or the ability to work from home?
    What I can bet on.. is that if you tell them what they’ll be doing.. they’ll resist it… and they’ll start putting up that wall against you as an authority figure that just tells em what to do rather than helps them in their journey.
    Not an easy challenge.. your answer will be unique to your family… I hope the growing pains it brings are gentle.. you’ll do the right thing.
    No matter how ya slice it a 50% pay cut isn’t
    acceptable… is it?!
    I envy your honesty and willingness to ask for help.. it is the sign of a strong and “evolved” man.
    Your kids are lucky to have you as a role model.

  2. When I was a newly minted single parent who absolutely had to work, I hired a live in sitter
    as my youngest was only 3 years old and I did not want to drag kids out of bed in the early morning. She lived with us for 18 months, had weekends off and vacationed when I did. It worked for me. (yes-I paid her social security quarterly) So perhaps you can find through a nanny service someone who will play with the kids,make lunches, take them to the park etc while you are working.
    The remarks by “davesnot” are correct. Let the kids just play. Get a bunch of cardboard boxes at a supermarket or appliance store and let the kids build forts etc. Going to the library once a week is a good activity. Kids today do not have the luxury of just being kids and hanging out at home. Hope this helps!

  3. My sister is going through a divorce right now. The kids (7 year old twins) stay with her Mon-Thurs and every other Sat-Sun. Her future ex has them every Fri night and every other Sat-Sun. He also takes them to dinner once during the week.
    She has decided to hire the daughter of the kids’ kindergarten teacher to be around with them. My sister works at home. They will be going to camp and this girl (she’s 17) will take them. Aside from that, they will just play outside with her weather permitting.

  4. As a work-at-home parent, cutting your work hours in half doesnt mean a 50% pay cut. It means you become twice as efficient 🙂
    I have two children and have been divorced for 8 years now – with zero involvement from dad, and no extended family. I homeschooled the children for a few years too, while my son was ill, so we were all 3 home together full-time for a few years.
    I woke at 5am and worked until 10am. The kids woke between 7 & 8, made their breakfast and did whatever they wanted to do, and then we hit the pool at 10am (until whenever) every day in the summer. I took laptop & paperwork and worked some during the afternoon, but only if I was on a writing deadline. (they were 5 & 10 years old at the time)
    The key is to put all the obligation on the clock. Otherwise it all goes on YOU. Children adjust to routine very well, so in my situation they watched the clock knowing we would all get up and go at 10 sharp.
    You might be able to put that to work for you during the summer months. Good luck & have fun with it!

  5. It seems like your wife would be more upset by the kids leaving for camp then the girls would. The youngest would probably want to stay home, but just “hanging around” isn’t good for kids going into their teen years, boredom often leads to distructive behaviors. you should talk about having the little one before or after work and have the mother watch her at other times.

  6. “As a work-at-home parent, cutting your work hours in half doesnt mean a 50% pay cut. It means you become twice as efficient :)”
    My thoughts exactly. You just need to plan more strategically. There is no real need to ship your kids off to camp when you can work around your custody arrangement. You have far more flexibility than the average WAH parent, since you have days at a time when you have no parenting obligations. Those days are for meetings outside the house. The days you have the kids with you are for working at home.
    When you need to get something done with the kids around, you set them up with an activity to do – art, something to build, a performance to plan and then put on for you later in the day, etc. You work for an hour or two, then regroup with the kids. Plus, you always have a few hours after bedtime for when you need real quiet.
    As for your free time to relax (mentioned in another post above), I think you voluntarily gave that up when you decided to have kids. And, K- doesn’t have any reason to be at school 5 days a week at 4 years old. I think you guys are getting off easy already, having all 3 kids in school this past year.

  7. Well, I hope maybe this can serve as a solution of sorts. When I was getting my masters, I worked for a company that represented an aupair/nanny service that was highly recommended in parent circles. If you’re in need of great childcare services, perhaps you should check out sometime…the service connects parents with qualified child caregivers and many of the users seemed to be over the moon about the results they were provided. Hopefully, it will work for your family!

  8. Please, please do not use the term “solo parenting” when you’ve got another parent in the picture. It’s offensive to those of us who are real solo parents. My wife passed away 4 years ago and that’s when I became a solo parent.
    We divorced in ’99, but came to our senses and remarried in ’02. That period of time with 50% custody looks like a vacation from my perspective now. I work full time, take care of 3 kids, have a house that needs constant attention and have no social life. That’s solo parenting.

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