Summer by Shelly Kelly


I have great memories of my childhood summers between school years – playing outside until dusk after 8 p.m., swimming at the neighborhood pool until they turned the underwater pool lights on, riding my bicycle to the Stop & Go on the corner to pick up a gallon of milk for Mom (and candy for myself with the change as a treat). There were swimming lessons at the high school, arts and crafts making melted crayon candles, and piano lessons during the day.

When my children were younger, there was no discernable difference between summer vs. school time. My infant and preschooler continued attending their preK-daycare facility year-round. As they grew older, their childcare facility offered summertime weekly field trips as well as the opportunity for swimming, tennis, and golf lessons. Both of my girls learned to swim through the summer program, and though neither one expressed any interest in tennis, my older daughter tried her hand at golf once.

Last summer we tried something new, rotating through various week-long day camps that offer a swimming opportunity (not lessons). We also attended our first-ever week of Vacation Bible School at the Catholic church.

I don’t think either of my girls realized that other kids stayed at home during the summer until they entered elementary school. Before going to public school all of their friends were the other children at their PreK-childcare facility, and they played daily without exception.

When they started public school, I worried that they would realize they have a different routine from other kids. We maintain the same bedtime and wake-up schedule during summer as the school year. We still have to pack a lunch and get out the door at the same time every day. There are no lazy mornings sleeping in or bored afternoons in front of the television. We can’t have random, unscheduled, playtime with school friends from down the street. I worried because they won’t have the same experiences, the same memories, that I created in my own childhood.

However, I realize that much of my worry is because I know the difference. Every summer I get a case of the Working Mom Blues because I know they’ll never appreciate summer boredom. They might never know what it means to sleep until noon. Still, I stress over identifying the most appropriate summer care for their age and activities without over-stressing my budget. I suspect there are many working mom’s out there who share the same anxiety that comes when comparing our own childhood summer memories with our children’s present-day realities.

Yet I needn’t worry. While I know there’s a difference, my children don’t. They seem perfectly happy to attend this week’s gymnastics camp with swimming on the side. I can focus on my job knowing they’re active, engaged, and making new summer friends. Meanwhile, my 7 year old’s biggest complaint is that we don’t have a pool in the backyard like Aunt Lisa.

I wonder if our neighborhood pool has underwater lights for after dark.

Copyright 2010 Shelly Kelly


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  1. Shelly – sounds like you have things pretty well worked out to me! I worry about summer a bit too, but sometimes for the opposite reason. Since I work from home, my boys see me spending much more time in front of the computer on summer days than they do during the school year. We’ve intentionally left much of the summer unscheduled, to allow them to make impromptu plans and just to be unscheduled and have some down time. But sometimes I have a bit of worry that they are “too unscheduled” – and the fact that I have to work at least a few hours (at least) a day makes me feel more guilty during the summer than it does during the school year for some reason. Thanks for addressing this important topic, which I know is a big struggle for many working moms. I’d love to hear from our readers how you handle child care during the summer if you work outside the home.

  2. Laura Reynolds on

    Shelly, Its always comforting to hear from another working mom who worries about the same things I do! My kids are just transitioning from all-year daycare to school/camp and while they adore camp (literally can’t get reading in the morning fast enough) we had a rocky begining. The weeks leading up to full time camp- 1/2 school days with no aftercare and then a week off before camp started- my son asked “What would happen to me if I didn’t like basketball camp and Uncle Jim couldn’t pick me up on Friday?” My heart sank- at a little bit of a loss- I went with my old standby, the truth! I explained that I have x number of vacation days and we want to use those for fun vacations, special days, etc and that as long as I can find fun stuff that he wants to do (turns out basketball camp was awesome- it was just first day jitters) I’ll save my vacation days for that but I assured him that I’d happily stay home with him whenever he needed me, that is never a hardship. It seemed to reassure him. As a kid I stayed home, bored, while my mom worked part-time, and I remember feeling stuck inbetween kids who went to camp and those whose mom’s stayed home.

  3. @Laura – I tell my girls that we plan and sometimes we’ll have to figure out a backup plan. I recognize that there’s always going to be a transition period when starting something new, whether it’s a new grade, new summer camp, new after-school child care, so I listen to their complaints and sometimes shrug it off or try to redirect their focus. (“OKay, you had a rough start, but I bet you can find ONE thing that you liked, so let me hear about that.”) My daughters both beg to go up to the office with me during the summer. They like sitting in the back workroom and “working” with mom, but I don’t do it very often because I know they get bored after two hours. I’m really glad that your son had a great time at basketball camp.

  4. Thank you, Shelly. I appreciate your post, and have had the same worries. My daughter (3 12/) is in daycare Mon-Thurs…. but this is our first summer break from elementary school. Our 2nd-grade son is in “summer camp” (daycare) Mon-Thurs, with a couple camps here and there (Cub Scout, junior leadership) and a couple of vacation weeks (to grandparents, family vaca). I think he’s had a pretty fun summer! My frustrations has been wtih the amount of daycare we’ve paid for and haven’t used. I’d love to find a program where you only pay for the days you actually NEED > vs. paying for the whole summer. I’ve considered hiring a babysitter/nanny for next summer (the kids will be 4 and 7), to (1) save money and (2) let them sleep in/play/be a bit lazier–but then worry about what Lisa H mentioned: the kids spending more time just hanging around the house. I guess we’ll just take one summer at a time :)

  5. @Julie
    I hear you! My older daughter (nearly 11) tearfully begged to spend the day with me at my office. I relented and have her here, but I can’t help this nagging at the back of my brain telling me that I spent XXX for this week of “camp” and she will miss two days!

    Though from the camp/daycare point of view, you’re paying not just for the days your child is there; you’re paying to hold/reserve their spot too. That’s one reason I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of signing them up for multiple week-long camps this summer now they’re older. I’m also keeping notes for next year about what they did like and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t work, and what other opportunities I heard about this year that I want to check out for next year.
    Thank you so much for leaving me a comment!

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