Edgy Mama: summer vacation can dictate mom career choices

Typically, I work a little less during my kids’ summer vacation, but this year, I need to work more. As a writer, I mostly work from home, but balancing childcare and work from the same domicile often proves challenging.

While I have fond memories of summers off from school, continuing the tradition of summer vacation in our primarily non-agrarian culture no longer makes sense. Three months off from school was instituted at the turn of the 20th century when most U.S. children lived on farms. That time off wasn’t for vacation, but so kids could help their parents during the growing season. Today, two-thirds of U.S. children live in urban areas. So while our kids are home this summer not farming, those parents who are not farming are trying to figure out what to do with them.

Paying for camps or childcare every day that my kids are with me so that I can write seems silly. After all, I’m sitting here for most of the day. Surely I can take the time to break up the occasional fight, supervise lunch prep and tell the kids to put on some sunscreen. Right?

In theory, it sounds reasonable. That doesn’t sound like much engagement, yet somehow it seems to eat away much of my day. That, and dealing with the “I’m bored” interruptions. Of course, like the farm parents, I can and do put my kids to work for part of their days off. But it turns out that weeding my tiny plot of city yard doesn’t take much time.

I have the flexibility to write at home and, in short bursts, from beside the local pool, with minimal kid supervision required. I’ve chosen to do this work for a variety of reasons, but a primary one is flexibility. I can choose to spend a summer day with my children and then write late into the night in order to hit that next deadline. Turns out I’m not alone in making such a career choice.

The U.S. government recently released a study titled Women in America that shows how women in this country are faring in various areas — one of which is employment.

Not surprisingly, the report says that, despite gains in experience and education, women still earn less than men. In part, this is because women and men work in different occupations, with women still concentrated in lower-paying and traditionally female occupations.

In particular, mothers often choose part-time or mother-friendly jobs, such as freelance writing or home-based businesses or teaching, in order to take care of kids, particularly when the 12-week hurdle otherwise known as summer appears on the horizon.

To summarize, moms often choose careers that offer the flexibility to care for kids, and because of these choices, we’re paid less than men. Perhaps it’s time that more states look at the year-round model for schooling. Many of us could accommodate a two-week break every three months more easily than the large block of kid brain-drain known as summer. It’d be better, in the long term, both for working moms and for our kids.

Until the early 20th century, many large U.S. cities did offer year-round schooling, although attendance wasn’t mandatory, so it was spotty. Now the trend seems to be swinging back, with a number of public schools in California and Texas now operating on year-round schedules. 

I have to wonder if the extra tax dollars gained by the state and federal government if moms worked more and were paid more might offset the rather severe budget cuts raining down on our public education programs right now. Wouldn’t it be cool if that extra cash could help make year-round school feasible? I think so.

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One thought on “Edgy Mama: summer vacation can dictate mom career choices

  1. kat

    I’m not sure I agree with you on this. Of the few moms I know that moved here from areas that had year round school, they didn’t have great things to say about. In fact they said it caused more problems for them then it solved. There were no programs set up for low income families during the months that kids are usually in school and finding 3 weeks of childcare isn’t any easier than finding 12, especially when there are no affordable programs available.

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