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summer job

Back when the preschool was polling staff for summer employment I declined a position hoping against hope that DH would provide sufficient income for us to live on for 10 weeks. As the school year drew to a close in May I realized I'd made a tactical error. DH's income has been negligible for two years now. We've tightened our belts as tight as they go. I need to work.

question: What can you do for 10 weeks when you have an 8 year old kid at home?
answer: Keep more kids in your home.

I put out my feelers, trolling my friends for interest, and discovered I could provide an economical solution to similarly strapped parents in addition to the drop-in daycare I'd originally envisioned. I thought I might have a few kids one or two days a week, but what happened is I've had at least 5 kids here, every week day, for the last 9 weeks, with one week to go.

People ask, "How's it going?" My stock answer: "I'm exhausted, but it's the best thing I could have done this summer. I have anywhere from 5 to 12 kids in my house anytime between 7:00am and 6:00pm. They're good kids. They play well together. And I'm so proud of Jack. He's shared his things and his mom and his pets all summer. It's great. (mumbled) NoI'mnotlicensed."

It has been great. A real-world solution to a real-world problem. I've just run some calculations and found that I made way more money than I would have during 10 weeks worked at the preschool. At the preschool, though, I work a 35-hour week; over the summer I've worked an average 53-hour week. I'm responsible for these kids for that amount of time, but it's in my home. While they play I clean house, do laundry, make collages, knit, crochet, sew. So that 53-hour work week isn't like real work.

Don't get the idea that I ignore these kids. Through my experience at the preschool I've learned to tune in on several interactions occurring simultaneously while engaging in my own activity. I've always got this radar screen blipping, monitoring. Early on I set the expectation that they treat each other with respect, treat my home and my pets with respect, and beyond that they're free to do pretty much whatever they want. I provide materials; they provide imagination.

Some kids spend 10 hours a day at summer camp or daycare, shuffled from one activity to another, unable to make their own decisions about what they do and when they do it. Part of my decision to provide care in my home was financial: I didn't want to pay someone else to watch my kid while I worked. Part of my decision was emotional: I wanted Jack to have the kind of unstructured summer I remember having as a kid.

I wanted to see other kids have that experience, too. I like to think that's what I've given them. Summer at home.


auntie m said…
I admire you.

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