The summer juggle: Four families on shifting schedules

Summer for the Jaffe family is a mixed bag of pool-time, summer camp and relaxation. Photo: Amy Jackson Summer for the Jaffe family is a mixed bag of pool-time, summer camp and relaxation. Photo: Amy Jackson

Summer as a kid was pretty glorious—no school and a succession of bright, hot days to revel in boredom. Summer as an adult is more complicated. As it turns out, the vast majority of jobs run year-round. Bummer. If you’re a stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, your children are home, too, complicating your schedule considerably. How to balance a need for childcare with keeping the fun in summer?

Kate Bennis, parent to a 10- and a 12-year-old, says, “My dream is for a 1970s-style carefree, kids-on-their-own summer. But the reality is not so sweet.” Because camps fill up quickly, Bennis says her family’s planning begins in January. For Meghan Murray, whose kids are 8 and 9, spring break is often the jump-starter.

But regardless of whether the family rhythm is set by the school year, these parents agree that summer should be a time to unwind. As Cale Jaffe, the father of three elementary- and middle school-aged children, puts it, “Our neighbor, a retired librarian, commented that she didn’t see children lying in the grass on a sunny day with a book enough anymore. So we might start to worry, ‘Oh, the kids are missing some enrichment opportunity that they don’t have time for during the school year.’ But then we remind ourselves—what could be better than an afternoon spent under a tree with a good book?” To that end, Jaffe and his wife, Katie, juggle both of their full-time schedules with a few short camp sessions for each kid (“just enough to keep them from getting bored,” Cale says) and a week of family travel. And in between? A lot of pool time with a sitter.

In fact, the pool might just be parents’ secret weapon when it comes to keeping kids occupied in the summertime.

Bennis, who, along with her husband, Hal Movius, works from home, says they get through summer with “three to four weeks of day camp, and then the city pools. The kids can walk to Onesty, and are old enough to go on their own.”

Murray and her husband, Steve Bowers, both work full-time managing their own businesses. “Most summers in the past, we’ve booked the kids in camps every week since [we’re] in the office all day,” she
says. This year they’re taking a different tack: “This summer our theme is free time. We’re planning for a babysitter and
some half-day camps, as well as one two-week sleepaway camp.”

Without the confines of a school year, as with the family of Jen Downey, who homeschools her school-age children, ages 13 and 8 (she also has a 19-year-old, whom she homeschooled through high school), it’s easier to take a relaxed approach. She and her partner, Matt Rohdie, work year-round, but they do have flexibility in their jobs. For their family, summer is not a change of pace so much as a shift in attention and place: “from books to stars, craft drawer to garden, bathtub to pools and stove to barbecue grill. And popsicles,” she says. “There should be lots of popsicles.” 

Photo: Eric Kelley
Photo: Eric Kelley


Here are the area’s most popular swimmin’ holes.

Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center 1000-A Cherry Ave., 970-3072
The 27,000-square-foot Smith Aquatic features two indoor pools (one competitive, one leisure), water slides, a play structure and a lazy river.

Onesty Family Aquatic Center at Meade Park 300 Meade Ave., 295-7532
An outdoor pool near Woolen Mills with water slides, in-water playgrounds, a lazy river, a diving board, lap lanes and a zero-depth play area.

Washington Park Pool 1001 Preston Ave., 977-2607
You’ll find a lighted swimming pool, zero-depth play area, water slides, a diving board and a mushroom waterfall here.

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