By Suzanne Swaner
Spring Break. To a teenaged girl in Prior Lake, Minnesota in the mid-1980s, those words signaled one thing – time to hit the tanning bed. It was an annual Rite of Spring for my girlfriends and me to purchase ten sessions from the local tanning salon (which, as an aside, was also a video store). There were two reasons to do so: (1) build up a base tan for an upcoming trip to Florida or Mexico to avoid the uncomfortable and unattractive burn and peel cycle of tanning; or (2) build up a sufficient base tan to make it appear as though we went to Florida or Mexico over Spring Break. You see, very little could top a mid-spring dark tan in the frozen tundra, especially one enhanced with big permed hair accented by Sun-In created highlights. (Sun-In, by the way, was another great invention for a Spring-Breaker, real or faux, as it worked by the heat of the real sun or the heat of the hair dryer.) The tan and the hair combined to create a look that was, like, totally awesome, at that time anyway.
Fast forward 25 years. These days, use of a tanning bed not only gives me pause, the concept of Spring Break does as well. (No comment on the highlights, although my colorist, known here only as hairsaviour, does use much-improved technology.) At the outset, I am fully aware I should be precluded from complaining about Spring Break at all. Every year our school district sends out proposed school calendars and solicits a vote before adopting the final schedule. Because they do not offer an option without Spring Break, I never vote. Perhaps next year (or the year after, since next year's calendar is probably already set) I will launch a write-in campaign to eliminate Spring Break and give everyone an extra week of summer, or to have Spring Break anytime other than spring, which also happens to be the peak of Litigation Season.
According to the latest American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women handle more overall household responsibilities, including child care issues, than their spouses. Single mothers, of course, assume all of the responsibility in their households. Even in dual-income homes, mothers are still the primary caretakers for their children. In light of that, I offer the following options (including the pros/cons of each) for all you moms who are scrambling to make arrangements for your children over the next week or two, or who are trying to do a better job of planning ahead for next year:
1. Take the kids on a vacation.
PROS: If you can take the time off work, Spring Break seems like a good time to take a memorable family trip to some exotic destination, like Aspen or the Bahamas, or even somewhere less exotic, such as the grandparents' house. No matter where it is, the kids will be thrilled to be anywhere but at home or school. You may even get a great holiday card photo out of the trip. And, if you travel for your job, you might as well be one of the families slowing down the lines at airport security rather than one of the impatient business travelers waiting behind them. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I always say. (And you won't beat 'em, by the way, even if you have super duper elite status on every airline. Super duper elite status travelers have families too, you know.)
CONS: As mentioned above, Spring Break comes at the height of Litigation Season. And unlike the winter holidays or even summer, the designated "weeks off" vary across school districts. That means it is highly unlikely the courts, clients, and opposing counsel are all "off the grid", so to speak, at the same time. That opens a lawyer up to vulnerabilities. For example, the particularly sneaky opposing counsel may file some time-sensitive motion, knowing you are out of the office. Worse yet, the same sneaky opposing counsel may require an "emergency hearing" while you are at 35,000 feet unsuccessfully trying to work while your kids play Angry Birds on your iWhatever without ear phones (which "hurt" their ears). And, I don't know about you, but I routinely need a vacation from my vacation. Taking a week off during Litigation Season does not provide much breathing room to recover upon returning to the office.
2. Take the kids to work with you.
PROS: You will not have to worry about child care for one of the five days of the week.
CONS: You will have to worry about everything else. You will not get any work done. Your office will be covered in post-its. All your favorite pens will disappear, especially the Sharpies. The kitchen will smell like burned microwave popcorn. The kids will be on a caffeine high from drinking free Cokes all day. And perhaps most importantly, it will ruin the aura surrounding Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day on April 26, 2012 (www.daughtersandsonstowork.org), should your employer observe it. Note to my husband's employer: I will be out of town that entire week, so our three boys will have to come to your office. Please heed the above comments and take all necessary precautions. Better yet, close the office for the day.
3. Make a deal with four other moms whereby each mom watches all the kids for a day.
PROS: The kids will have a blast hanging out with their friends all week. Plus, this arrangement will only require you to take one day off from work. And while it will be hectic, the benefit of not having to worry about the other four days probably makes the chaos worthwhile.
CONS: If you have two kids, and they are not close in age, can't stand each other's friends or there is some other reason you would have to separate them the other four days of the week, your one day off could result in you watching ten kids at the same time. And even more than that if you have three or four kids. I am not sure that is even legal without a license. Not to mention the financial expense of feeding and entertaining all those kids, and the daunting task of picking up the Legos that would be dispersed all over the house like shrapnel after they left.
Our Spring Break was March 12 to 16. We exercised a fourth option, which was to do a little of everything. It did not take a whole lot of planning ahead, just a little creativity and support from others. We scheduled playdates for the kids and sent them to visit my husband's family for a night. My husband and I both took a little time off from work to take the kids on a staycation to a local hotel so they could swim in the heated pool, order room service, and watch a few movies. We all not only survived, we had fun. And most importantly, none of us went to a tanning salon.