Summer is Just a Different Dance

Believe it or not, my daughter begins her school year on August 6th. No matter how many times I say it, it's still startling to me how early her school year starts. But in just a few short days, her summer routine of sleeping late, athletic and creative camps, and "hanging out" with her friends will be over and the school routine of alarms and homework will begin.

Given that both my husband and I work, both the summer and the school-year dance bring challenges. But as any parent knows, the summer dance brings a particularly complicated series of steps.

Complicated summers for working parents

Unlike the school year when days run like clockwork - mornings are basically the same every day and late afternoons are filled with homework and after-school activities - every week in the summer is different.  I literally wake up most mornings in summer trying to remember if I have to hustle my daughter off to a camp or if our family friend is coming over to "hang" with her. So, each morning and evening I check the family calendar where the summer schedule resides. If anyone decided to hide that calendar from me, I would honestly be lost.

Summer also requires coordinating with our trusted family friend who "hangs" with my daughter when she's not in camps (side note: once your child reaches a certain age - age 12 for my daughter - you can no longer refer to an adult who is responsible for your child in your absence a "babysitter"). And this entire plan has to be carefully crafted in January (like many of you, I know that if you don't start then, you won't get a space in your child's preferred camps) when I put together the pieces and then schedule a family vacation and then polish off the schedule with swimming and piano lessons.  After that, it's finger crossing that nothing changes.

Flexibility equals productivity

As you may have surmised, this summer dance requires me to be very flexible both personally and professionally. In July and August, it is not uncommon for me to get up very early and knock out a deadline before my daughter even begins to think about waking up. I am also just as likely to work later in the evening if my presence is needed during the day to chauffer my preteen to a friend's house or back/forth to a camp on the other side of town.  There are some days in our crazy summer schedule that I can do my best work at 9:00 p.m. at night in my office or at noon while waiting for swimming lessons to finish for the day. Every once in a while, I may even decide to join my daughter in one of her activities. As I said, every day is different as are the specific hours I end up working.

I am grateful that I work for an employer that makes this possible - that offers a high degree of flexibility and a culture that values family. I'm fortunate to work for an organization, and a supervisor in particular, that enables me to do this dance. At Bright Horizons, it is the quality of my work, not when or where the work is completed, by which I am measured.  I am expected to be responsive and meet deadlines with quality. The rest is up to me as to how or when that happens.

This kind of support from both the overall culture and an immediate supervisor is necessary for anyone to achieve work/life balance. Frankly, I can't imagine how my life would work otherwise.

My husband will occasionally remind me that most employees don't have the level of flexibility I experience. I know that's true but I've become so accustomed to it, I can't imagine how I would achieve work/life balance without it. It is this level of flexibility that keeps me engaged in my work and has certainly been a key factor in my remaining with Bright Horizons for over two decades.

So, I wish all of you well who still have several weeks of your summer dance. It will be over in a blink of an eye!
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands

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