Don’t sweat the summer months, working parents
Kids running barefoot through grassy meadows and sandy beaches, with dirt on their faces and half-dead butterflies clasped between their tiny hands. Streaks of red Freezie dye colouring the corners of their mouths as they giggle and play with their pals until dusk. Schedules have been tossed and boredom banished because there’s plenty to do when you’re set free to play in nature’s playground without spatial boundaries or time constraints.
This is the summer that my generation remembers, and many working parents daydream of providing this same free-range-style summer for their own children. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for most working parents in Canada today.
According to Stats Canada, approximately 77% of two-parent Canadian families (with children between the ages of 6 and 15) have both parents working outside of the home, putting parents in a summer slump as they dream of unstructured, sundrenched days for their children. Instead, they are forced to dole out thousands of dollars for scheduled summer programs so they can continue to work through the summer months.
From 1976 to 2014, the number of Canadian families with a stay-at-home parent has declined by almost two-thirds, decreasing substantially from 1.5 million stay-at-home parents to just 500,000. If you feel like you’re the only parent shuttling your little ones off to summer camp while you’re stuck behind your desk this summer, you’re definitely not alone.
Finding a balance between unstructured play and structured summer programming is tricky for parents who are restricted to their nine-to-fives while their children are out of school for the summer.
Not only does the break present financial challenges for office-bound moms and dads (summer camps can cost an average of $300 per week, per child), but it also creates a struggle between balancing work requirements and finding time for family fun.
The important thing to remember is that there are a plethora of programs that allow children to enjoy their summer days just as you did when you were a child. Let your kids participate in program selection, and they’ll look forward to learning new skills and trying new adventures.
Pack your time off with days spent unplugged and outdoors as a family. Throw out your stuffy schedules and restrict screen time, if only for a week, and watch your children flourish as they fend for themselves - barefoot and fancy free. Teach them how to build fires and make the perfect s’more, and tell them stories of the summer days you enjoyed as a child. Make the most of your days together, and they’ll enjoy the time apart even more.