I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a city synonymous with Spring Break. Since the 1950s, our miles of pristine beaches with clear, turquoise water, plus our thriving club scene, have attracted masses of college students ready to relax and party.
I will not be joining them. In fact, I am dreading Spring Break so much that I would rather live through a zombie apocalypse.
I won’t be mad at the increase in traffic. I’m not upset about long waits at restaurants, crowded beaches, or the noise, and it’s not that I begrudge the hoards of young adults that visit each year. In fact, I encourage them!
Do it now while you can, I say. Please! Actually, have some extra fun for me, because once you’re a parent? Spring Break is a living hell.
You see, I have to work. My husband has to work. That means we must worry about finding childcare for our daughter.
On top of that, we then need figure out how to entertain her in some kind of socially sanctioned, nourishing way. That means we can’t let her stay in bed with the iPad for a week straight, which is probably what she’d do if we left her to her own devices (pun totally intended).
Making sure children are safe and supervised during the entire week they’re off from school is a logistical nightmare for a lot of parents.
My husband and I take alternating days off and do our best to work from home as much as our jobs allow. We know several couples who do the same thing.
This year, there’s one day that neither of us can take off, so the best option is for me to take my daughter with me that day.
She’s not going to love it, and honestly? Neither am I.
I’m convinced that spring break is only fun for rich people.
I’m sure I’d be cheerfully counting the days too if I got to take a family ski trip to Aspen.
A lot of families I know rely on five days of day camps to make it through a week of no school, but those aren’t doable for us.
While there is no shortage of fascinating camps in our area, designed to engage every possible interest or talent, they are freaking expensive! The average cost for a single day runs about fifty to eighty bucks.
Week-long camps are generally about three to five hundred dollars a week.
I’m not being cheap here. I know the camps aren’t unreasonable for what they deliver, but I can get a lot of groceries for that kind of dough. Right now, I don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around.
We’ve already budgeted for our daughter’s extracurricular activities, and we are currently saving up for the nearly three months of summer camp that are unavoidable.
It’s hard not to wonder if these long vacations from school are holdovers from a past when few women had jobs outside of the home.
I imagine that spring break used to provide a welcome respite, and that the things we worry about now like money, childcare, and making sure our kids are intellectually stimulated and emotionally validated 24 hours a day weren’t even on a family’s radar in bygone eras.
Spring break would be easy if everyone’s lives were like a 1950s sitcom, but times have changed.
For all but the wealthiest families – the ones who can afford luxury vacations, nannies, and fancy day camps – spring break presents a considerable hardship. Many of the parents I know are stressing about it big time.
An estimated 80 percent of women with children work full time.
The number is even higher for men, but although the majority of parents work, that still doesn’t mean that they’re rolling in cash.
A lot of us are barely scraping by and either cannot afford to outsource childcare at all, or we must make a significant sacrifice to do so or risk losing our jobs.
Although my husband’s and my elaborate tag team style of parenting during spring break isn’t exactly ideal, we really do a good job of making it work. Unfortunately, that does nothing to alleviate my guilt.
Looking back to my own childhood, spring break was nothing but unstructured fun.
Back then I lived in the northeast, and I’d spend entire days outside in the woods near my home playing with my neighborhood friends, celebrating the warming temperatures after long, icy winters stuck indoors. My daughter will never get to experience that.
This spring break, my child’s basic needs will be met. She’ll be looked after, but she’ll also likely be bored.
I know a lot of experts say that boredom is great for children’s creativity, but having a kid in the throes of ennui doesn’t feel worth it.
I will do my absolute best to give her things to do and to spend what time I can doing something special for her, but again, I have to work.
That’s not negotiable and my job is not some selfish choice I’m making.
The majority of parents I know are dreading spring break as much as I am.
We hate scrambling to rearrange our schedules, and we stress about the cost of alternative childcare. Heaping guilt on top of these concerns and fretting that we don’t get to spend enough time with our children, or that we can’t do enough cool, unique activities to alleviate their boredom, makes it worse.
Sometimes I almost wish schools would get with the times and do away with spring break altogether. Sorry, kids.