Yale University

Working at Yale

The challenges and joys of being a working parent in the summertime

What summer looks like for working parents often depends on the ages of their children as Working@Yale recently found out from staff members who have a lot to consider before the school year comes to a close.
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By the time Regenia Phillips’ 14-year-old daughter Rachael arrives in New Haven from Texas each June to spend the summer with her mom, Phillips has already spent hours discussing plans with her daughter and husband by phone, email, and in person when she returns to Texas monthly to spend a long weekend with them.  “It’s quite a challenge to plan and schedule her summer, but we work on it diligently all spring,” says Phillips, director of Residential Operations with Yale Dining and member of the Yale African American Affinity group (YAAA).

This summer, Rachael will spend three weeks in the Exploration (Explo) Summer Program on Yale’s campus and keep up with her swimming and piano playing. Summers have been a series of camps and classes for her daughter, but also weekend trips to Boston, Rhode Island and other locales throughout New England.

“The joy I find as a working parent during the summer,” adds Phillips, “is that the time we do have together is more relaxing. There is no pressure from homework assignments and we can enjoy our weekend getaways.”

Summer brings new challenges and joys to those that are already part of working parents' lives. What summer looks like for working parents often depends on the ages of their children as Working@Yale recently found out from staff members who have a lot to consider before the school year comes to a close: Can their pre-kindergarteners stay in their child care situations through the summer? What happens when the child care provider takes a summer vacation? How will they keep their elementary-and-middle-school-aged children busy for two months? Will they have to align their work day with summer camp schedules? How will they balance their work and home lives in the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer?

Four working parents at Yale answer some of these questions and others below:

chock childrenShirley Chock
Manager, Financial Reporting and Analysis, Controller’s Office
Steering Committee and Co-Chair of the Membership and Outreach SubCommittee of the Asian Network @ Yale
Son Darren, 15 months, and daughter Carina, three years old (at right)

What are the challenges of being a working parent during the summer?
It sounds silly, but one of the challenges of being the parent of a one-year old and a three-year old is getting sunscreen on them before we leave for daycare every morning.  I still haven’t figured out how to get them to stay still for this.  Usually, 15 minutes later, I have more sunscreen on myself and their clothes than on them!

How do you organize the summer for your children while you work?
I’m lucky that they are both in the same daycare center, Carrot Patch, in Hamden.  My son is in the baby room and my daughter is in the preschool, which is open until 6 p.m. all year long.

What are some of the joys or benefits of being a working parent during the summer months?
My three-year-old daughter wants to wear tank top dresses with bare legs all year long, even in the dead of winter.  Thankfully, now that it is summer, she can pick out whatever she wants to wear and I have no objections.

What do you think is the key to balancing work and family life?
A  supportive spouse who fully shares in the responsibilities of taking care of the children and household responsibilities.  I am extremely lucky that my husband picks up the kids and starts dinner because I tend to work late.

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son and dadJacqui R Comshaw
Director of Operations, Physicians Associate Program, School of Medicine
Yale Latino Networking Group
Son Trey, age 7 (at left with his dad, Rick Comshaw)

How do you organize the summer for your child while you work?
I usually work through the entire summer and then I take the last week off before school starts in the fall.  So in January, I explore summer opportunities. These are usually camps that I have seen or heard about from friends and colleagues the summer before. If a camp doesn’t have a before-and-after-care program, it won’t work for me; in particular, because I have a 30-45 minute daily commute from my home in Middletown to Yale.  This summer my son is heading back to the YMCA's Camp Ingersoll. He will be in Portland, Connecticut at the Mega Adventure (canoeing, fishing, hiking), Horseback Riding and Fort Building camps.  In addition, he is spending two weeks at the Peabody. 

Do you have a favorite summer memory regarding your son?

Last year some of the Ingersoll campers were learning to create videos and they took footage of my son dancing.  They posted the video to YouTube and he was thrilled to be able to see himself over and over again.  Very cute.

What are some of the benefits of being a working parent during the summer months?
I have to say, I really feel that I miss out on a lot since I’m working and my son has the summer off.  But the benefits for him are wonderful.  He is making friends, playing, exploring, trying new things and just enjoying being a kid.  That is the pay-off.

Do you have any advice about planning and executing a successful summer for a child of working parents?
Well, you have to figure out what he or she loves and then look for opportunities early. I talk to friends and colleagues with older kids to see what they are doing and have done during the summer.  I then research their suggestions online as potential activities for next summer. 

What do you think is key to balancing work and family life?
I think the key is to enjoy every moment. Sometimes this means not waiting for the weekend to come to spend time together. The other day I came home from work and said let's go to the movies...and we did. Another mom and I spontaneously decided to turn our backyard into a water park and we did it simply and quickly and the kids loved it. We also participate in the No Child Left Inside program sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection which promotes local excursions -- we've been to a bird estuary and gone fishing where my son got to help stock a pond. We also are members of the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford and we take advantage of the special passes our library has to museums and aquariums. There is so much to do in Connecticut if you take the time to explore!

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McCarthyMarianne McCarthy
Research Associate, Cardiology, School of Medicine
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) affinity group
Son, Paul, five years old; daughter Martha, “Mimi”, two years old
In photo, clockwise from left: Paul, Marianne McCarthy, Kristin Hurd, Martha ("Mimi") and Michael Wilson

What are the challenges of being a working parent during the summer?
I’m just discovering these challenges as our oldest child will start kindergarten in the fall. From the perspective of preschool, where you have consistent, full-day childcare in all seasons, it seems like a very daunting challenge to have to shuffle them through a series of camps that start and end at different times. I saw a flyer at my local library for a camp that ends at 4 p.m. every day. If you work until 5 p.m., how do you manage that?

How do you organize the summer for your children while you work?
Being a working parent is directly impacting our first child’s educational path. His father and I have decided that instead of putting our son in kindergarten in the city we live in-New Haven- we would enroll him at the Phyllis Bodel Childcare Center at the medical school, which offers a kindergarten. A huge factor in this decision was that it will save us from having to worry about summer camp next summer. Unfortunately, though, it only staves off the dilemma of summer care for one year.

Do you have a favorite summer memory with your children?
Because our kids can’t swim yet, we use a lot of the water parks in and around New Haven, like at Lighthouse Park and one three doors down from our house in Fair Haven. I have many fond memories of them running wild under the spraying water on stiflingly hot days. Also, because the parks are public, I watch them test their negotiating skills as they have to wait in line to use certain features of the water park, specifically the spraying gun at Lighthouse. The negotiations weren’t always successful and I had to step in and get wet to pick up a tantruming 4-year-old, but that’s what learning through experience is all about.

What do you think is key to balancing work and family life?
The key to balancing work and family life for me is to not let the two seep into each other. I don’t think about work when I’m with my kids, and because of the fantastic daycare nearby, when I’m at work, I don’t have to worry about my kids.

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geraldineGeraldine Sullivan
Director of Employee Relations, Central Units
Co-Chair Yale Latino Networking Group
Son Jake, 11

How do you organize the summer for your child while you work?
I’m extremely lucky.  My Mom is retired and she comes from Puerto Rico and spends the summer months with us.  Jake gets to spend time with her and enjoy her cooking.  He generally participates in the Yale Basketball Camp and spends lots of times outdoors with his friends and cousins.

Do you have a favorite summer memory as a child?
I remember going to Kansas every summer for a few weeks to spend time with my grandmother and cousins.  My Puerto Rico family is a small family, but in Kansas, I had 11 cousins to hang out with.  My sister and I loved shopping for school supplies….we always had the greatest stuff when we went back home.

Do you take a summer vacation with your family? If so, where do you usually travel to and how is this extended time during the summer special to you?
Any vacation time with family is special.  We are definitely a family who loves to travel.   With family in California, Puerto Rico and Switzerland, we have plenty of options.  We also love summer weekends in Sag Harbor.  My in-laws have a small cottage and in the summer, it’s the perfect place to relax and spend time at the beach without having to go too far from home.

What do you think is key to balancing work and family life?
Knowing that you are able to give your full attention to both can be tough.  With technology, it’s hard to stay disconnected even when you are away.  I have to make a conscious effort to not look at my blackberry when I’m not at work.  You have to give your all when you are at work and know that it’s okay to disconnect when you are away. Being part of a great team that you trust is key to relaxing while on vacation.