Common Coparenting Issues: Summer Camps and Childcare

Posted on Mar 25, 2024 by Katie Carter

Childcare is one of the most difficult parts of parenting.  It just is.  I think that is true across the board, regardless of whether you are married to your child’s father, never married your child’s father, divorced your child’s father, are separated from your child’s father, or your child’s father is totally MIA.  It’s really, really hard.

It occupies a lot of brain space.  It amounts to a great deal of the mental load, too.  From sick days to snow days and school conference days, vacations, election day, and more – there are a million and one reasons why even your school-aged kids need care.  It’s not just babies and toddlers!  From birth up until they’re able to really stay at home alone (which is different for each kid, depending on their age and maturity – and whether they have younger siblings), you have to worry a LOT about childcare.

As a parent, it’s overwhelming.

I know, I know: school is not daycare.

But the reality is that, in most families, one or both parents work outside the home.  Nationwide, 60% of married couples have two working parents; for single parent homes, the number is significantly higher. Overall, about 71% of moms and 92% of dads work outside the home.

That’s most of us.  So, even though school isn’t ‘daycare,’ we still have our 9-5s to be concerned about.  And our 9-5s are not accustomed to closing constantly for sick days, snow days, each and every vacation, and/or the entire summer.


So, we scramble.  Constantly.

And one of the things that can make this difficult is the whole summer, where there is no school and childcare options are (somewhat) limited.

Bringing in a nanny or babysitter is expensive.  You can’t send them to daycare, unless you pay for their spot all year.  You don’t get to just ‘pop in’ for the summer.  And there’s summer camp.

The first year I had a kid in school, and the subsequent entire summer off, I was shocked at how difficult I found the summer.  It sort of surprised me.  Growing up, my mom was a teacher, so she always had summers off.  Obviously, I knew I wasn’t a teacher, but I severely underestimated the disruption that this would cause me in my every day life.

I’ve dabbled in summer camps and babysitters and nothing feels perfect.  I can do a different summer camp each week, but – typically – there aren’t a lot of options for kids younger than kindergarten.  That’s a problem, because my youngest is still preschool aged.  Not only that, but I can’t keep him in the same spot every week.  There are a few programs, like the Jewish Community Center and the YMCA, in my area, that offer an entire summer’s worth of camps, but the vast majority is just a couple different one week options that change throughout the summer.  So, each week, I’m learning an entirely different pick up and drop off routine; each week, I have to arrive early that first Monday morning to get the information I need to navigate the week.

And traffic!  It’s not my normal commute, so I have to account for that, too!  And being unfamiliar with it means that, sometimes, I make mistakes.

If you want care beyond 3pm, you have to pay extra.  If you want to drop before 9am?  You guessed it.  You pay extra.

All of that adds up.  Whether you’re used to public school (and no tuition) or whether your kid is in private school, it’s still significant.  Maybe you’re paying private school tuition averaged out over 12 months; you are paying, then, for summer camp AND school tuition (care that, at the moment, you’re not receiving).  It’s costly!

Add to that, then, the difficulty of navigating a coparenting relationship as well.  In many cases, I find that coparents really struggle anything that deviates from the regular schedule.  Summer vacation is included in that.

On top of navigating the challenges of traveling and/or scheduling vacations with children in the summer, parents have to navigate different childcare options.  Because the kids aren’t in school, they have to make – and this is the hard part – choices.

Generally speaking, neither parent has to do the things that the other parent signs the child up for on their parenting time.  So, when it comes to extracurriculars, he doesn’t have to take the kids to soccer – that you registered them for and paid for – on his parenting time if he doesn’t want to.  (Yes, this does create problems.)  We have the same issue with summer camp.

We often have moms worrying about (1) whether to sign their kids up for camp, (2), if so, which ones, and then, (3) if yes, will dad even take the kid(s) during his parenting time??  Added to an already-difficult situation, the extra uncertainty can be debilitating.

I do sometimes find that the parents have a different idea about which summer camps should take priority.  Sometimes, they’re able to resolve this; in other cases, it festers.  (Obviously, it often all comes down to money; I hate to say it, but it’s true.)

A well-drafted separation and/or custody agreement is a great way to minimize these problems; establishing, in advance, what the specific parameters are, including deadlines (both in terms of communicating regarding the camps and also any scheduling vacations), can go a long way towards preventing the issues from coming up in the first place.

In other families, it becomes necessary to switch the parenting plan in the summer.  Maybe you go from a 4-3-3-4 arrangement to a week on/week off arrangement.  That way, you can arrange summer camps, a babysitter, or any other childcare of your choice for the weeks that you have parenting time – without interference or disruption from your coparent.

There are a number of options and it’s smart to consider them.  There are a lot of things that can come up and, while none of us has a crystal ball, the more you can anticipate and resolve ahead of time, the less you’ll be angry and frustrated (and potentially litigate or modify your current custody arrangement) later on.

For more information, or to request a copy of our custody book for Virginia moms, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.