Winter break schedules.
Between two weeks off of school, work demands, costs of daycares or camps, winter breaks can be quite costly.
So, how do you manage winter break schedules and keep costs down?
Before we go any further and get into this…
If you’re new here, welcome!! I’m so glad you found me, mama! Check out the blog post I’ve linked to below - I think you just might relate.
Now, let’s get into this thing called winter break.
Let me know if this story resonates with you.
It’s the week before winter break, time has gone so fast this month, between end of the year at work, covering for others who are taking time off, weekend holiday activities with the family, holiday parties, and shopping (even the online kind can be time consuming), that you haven’t even thought about teacher gifts, let alone what to do about the kids being off for two weeks.
Wait...scratch that. You HAVE thought about teacher gifts, but you got sidetracked by someone needing something at work, the kids asking you to read them a book, the dog barking to go out...you know, the usual…
Whatever it is, it’s the week before break and now teacher gifts are the last thing you want to think about. You need to make arrangements for the kids to be taken care of - or otherwise occupied - for TWO WEEKS.
The last day of school is early release and you have made accommodations for them to either A) go to aftercare like usual or B) go home with a friend.
Between your schedule and your husband’s schedule, you can work with Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
But...what the hell are you supposed to do with the rest of the days?
Six days doesn’t seem like a lot, but...it really is.
Let’s look at our options…
You, the hubs, and maybe another friend or relative
Ideally, since you know about winter break at the beginning of the school year, you’re able to coordinate time off between you, your husband, and maybe a friend or relative to all alternate handling the kids - each of you takes 2 days and VIOLA! Problem solved.
But, as much as we try, and as much as we’ve done this in the past, sometimes shit happens and we don’t address it in the time frame we normally would.
Friends and relatives
If you have relatives who happen to have this time off, whether they have taken PTO for the end of the year or they’re retired, you may be able to ask someone to watch the kids.
This option sounds great, free child care with someone you trust.
The complication is...they have things they need or want to do during the day as well. Whether they’re used to having their days free to schedule as they choose or they took PTO in order to relax, get a few things done around the house, and just enjoy themselves, you feel like you’re interfering with their lives.
Enter that pain in the ass thing called guilt - so you give them an out…
Hey, I know you probably had plans for the next couple of weeks, but would it be possible for you to watch the kids for a couple of days? If not, I totally understand...please don’t feel obligated.
First of all, stop doing that shit. I mean, I do it too and I know why you do it. So stop.
You’re giving people an out and presuming they will say no (which is actually pretty much guaranteeing they’ll say no) because you feel if you ask without giving them the out that they will think of you as “always needing something” or “always needing help” or some bullshit like that.
Do you really ask them for that much? If the answer is no, then stop. Initiating the conversation needs to go something like this…
Hey - I was wondering if you maybe had a couple of days open in the next couple of weeks where you’d be willing to watch the kids during winter break.
Period. Don’t give anyone an out. Now, I’m not saying don’t accept a, “Sorry, I can’t.”
It’s perfectly fine for someone to respond that way.
But don’t treat your request as if it’s an inconvenience. If you do, then I can guarantee the other person will treat it as an inconvenience as well.
We’re all adults - if we don’t want to do something we are completely capable of saying no to someone.
Maybe there are a couple of relatives who would be able to split a couple of days.
Worst case, everyone you ask says no. Best case, at least one of the people you ask can watch the kids for two days.
There’s two days out of the way.
Now you have to coordinate; their house or yours...yours is ideal, of course, so that the kids are comfortable, but that would entail them coming over probably pretty early in the morning and not being in their most comfortable environment.
With your house, the kids can probably be mostly self sufficient. They can get their own snacks, turn on their own TV shows, play their own games.
Doing it at the other person’s house would entail you packing at least one day-bag with shit to keep them occupied during the day at a house that may not be set up for kids on a regular basis.
So you decide on your house, and you ask the other person what they like to eat and drink and you make sure to write down the Wi-Fi password so they can feel as “at home” as possible.
You can put the kids in daycare for the two weeks.
Also seemingly a simple option, there’s actually a lot that goes into that as well.
You have to contact their old daycare and see if they have openings during winter break. They may, for a few reasons.
Many of the parents are teachers and choose to keep their kids home with them on winter break.
The holidays are actually a pretty popular time for people to vacation, especially people in cold-weather states (those of us in the Tundra that is the Northeast or Midwest often head south for a week or two to escape for a little while).
They don’t have a huge enrollment right now anyway and would always be happy to have your kids.
Now...do they have updated immunization records? Because they’re going to need that if the kids haven’t been there in the last year or so.
They are going to need to bring bags while they’re there.
When they were going full time, you just kept extra there; diapers, wipes, bottles, clothes, whatever.
So now you have to pack bags for them to take there and keep there for a couple of weeks.
You also have to take into consideration if there are going to be any kids there who are their ages...so you may have to pack some activities for them if the daycare is primarily toddlers and younger.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room...the cost.
OMG the freaking cost of daycare.
Now, I’m not complaining...these people watch our kids, put up with their fits, deal with them in an array of emotions and situations during the day. They absolutely deserve what they charge...if not more.
And, if you actually break down the charge by hours per week a caregiver works, they are open in time for you to drop off early and get to work on time and they stay open until after you leave work so you have time to actually get there and pick up your kids. They are actually only making about $3.50 an hour each on your kids (would you deal with your kids for $3.50 an hour??)
Regardless, we can all agree it is a pretty hefty hit to the bank account when we haven’t paid for daycare for a while and all of a sudden we have to pay for 2 weeks...for however many kids we have.
So...I’m just going with the rates I know for in-home daycare in my area - yours may be a little more or a little less - but let’s use this as a baseline…
If your daycare charges by the day, they charge 35-45 dollars per day. Let’s use an average of $40 for the sake of easy math.
If you need them for six days and have two kids, that works out to 480.00.
Then, because you’re asking them to watch the kids during the holidays, you feel obligated to get them something as a token of your appreciation.
So you’re probably looking at a little over $500.00 to put them in daycare for six days. YIKES!!
If they charge a flat rate per week, regardless of holidays, which the good majority do, that would be 200.00 per “week”, per kid.
Plus whatever gift you decide to give them, if that’s what you decide to do…
That’s a lot to figure in and that’s really a lot of money.
So, how can you keep this cost down?
Try to negotiate. I know, I know..that word comes off so “salesy” but that’s not what I mean.
When you’re having the conversation with daycare, make this one of the questions you ask up front.
Can we do a “by-day” charge?
Since the kids are older and can entertain the littles or even help a little, can we do $30 each per day?
Would you still provide lunch and snacks?
If I provide lunch and snacks would the cost come down any?
Can I still drop off at 7:30 and pick up by 5:30?
This suggestion would work out to $360.00...which is much smaller of an impact financially than the other two options. And then it also gives you a little cushion to give a nice “bonus” or gift of appreciation.
Another thing that could keep the cost down is combining the daycare option with the family/friend option...if you can manage to get a by-day charge and only have to put the kids in daycare for 4 days that would be even better, right?
I mean, better to the tune of $240.00.
Now, THAT is manageable.
Camp or other park district programs
So, this one is the most costly of them all. But it’s not something to rule out completely.
If you’re doing something with the park district or local organization that provides a day-camp, you are going to need to weigh the options of the worth vs. the cost.
What do I mean??
Well...if they’re home with you or even with a friend or relative, you can keep them active enough that they won’t be up until ungodly hours of the night.
You would have to provide their snacks, drinks and lunches for the days they’re going, as opposed to daycare providing food...but this isn’t any different than them eating the food you have at home if you were staying home with them.
If they’re in daycare, they might have to take naps with the littles take naps, or at least have “rest time”...now this can provide for quite a troublesome evening.
Can we say “GO TO SLEEP” about six-trillion times between 8/9 pm until...whenever??
If they’re in a camp or a park district activity, while the cost may be high, there are benefits.
They are socializing with their friends over break, they may meet new kids and make new friends over break, and there are probably daily activities that are well coordinated and well supported
All of these would definitely wear them out so that you wouldn’t have to stay up all night telling them to GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP =)
But...again, the cost…
50/day (plus or minus a little bit) at 2 kids for 6 days is 600.00
As much as they would be physically and mentally stimulated and it would keep them in touch with their friends over break, this is a pretty big hit financially as well.
How to mitigate this cost.
Well...first, as if there’s a discount for multiple kids. Many times there is. And if there’s not...then you’re aware for next time...there’s no harm in asking and getting a “no” as a response.
If this doesn’t work, would you be able to combine the friends and family option with this?
Even 4 days at 50.00/day each (for 2 kids) would drop this cost to $400.00
Could you combine this with the daycare options?
30/day for daycare for 2 days plus 50/day for camp for 4 days (for 2 kids)
This would work out to $520.00 - still costly, but not as much as if they were in for the entire break.
The whole point in me writing this is to let you know that you have options.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we can’t see the solutions to what we perceive as problems.
And it helps to see what other people think...we might be able to use their ideas/suggestions, or something someone says might trigger us to think of another solution.
I know I’m writing this after winter break has already started, but there’s still time to coordinate different options so you’re not stressing for the next two weeks.
I would love to know if you have other options for child care during school breaks that you have tried and that have become your go-to options for when you just can't take the time off.
I would also love to know...do you take time at the end of the year off?
Or, does your company have a vacation moratorium at the end of the year for whatever reason; it's your busy season, inventory, historically too many people have taken time off, leaving the company in a bad spot so they say no time off during the holidays?
Comment below and let me know (yes...I do check and respond to the comments)
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Merry Christmas or Happy-Whatever-Holiday-You-Celebrate!
Make it an amazing day!!
Hey, I'm Natalie and I'm an author, a wife, and mom of two kids and two dogs.
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