Vacation time = family responsibilities

novacationSummer is a tricky time for working parents.

The added expense of caring for school-age kids during summer vacation is what led Debra Harrell, the now infamous South Carolina mom, to leave her child at a nearby park while she worked her minimum wage job at McDonald’s. She was arrested, and temporarily lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter.

Even parents higher on the wage scale can struggle to cobble together care to cover the 10-week-long stretch of summer vacation. The most stable — but also most costly — route is offered by child-care centers, many of which are school-based (and therefore resisted by children). Many families use some amalgamation of day-camps, nannies, friends and family.

Whatever the child-care arrangement, parents usually end up using vacation time to fill gaps.

More than half of working parents’ vacation time — 51 percent — is used to deal with family responsibilities instead of taking a trip or relaxing, according to the Modern Family Index, a survey released in June by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which operates child care centers around the country.

This sounds accurate to me. So far this summer, my husband and I have taken a week off each to care for our sons and ferry them to necessary appointments. Thankfully, we’ll also take a week off for a fun family trip.

Even though I understand school isn’t child care — there are too many early releases, late starts and holidays — the fact is, it’s where school-age kids spend six out of 24 hours 180 days a year, which makes the academic year a lot easier for working parents.

It’s just a shame that, during the summer, parents can’t use more of their vacation time to relax and recharge.

Next year, right?

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