One of the great things about being a kid is the number of vacation days you get. One of the not-so-great things about being a working parent is figuring out how to accommodate those you don't get -- like the days between Christmas and New Year's, for example. What strategies might work for you?
Working parents have different schedules. If you're not taking a certain day off, a colleague or friend may be at home with a child or two. Think in terms of mutual benefits. . . maybe that person would welcome an extra playmate in return for their offspring spending a weekend overnight stay at your house.
Don't overlook the obvious: Community agencies such as the Y's, park and recreation departments, synagogues and churches increasingly offer day care for various holidays and school vacations. If your child balks at the prospect of a totally strange setting (and who wouldn't?) get a best friend or daycare buddy to go along.
Know any trustworthy college students who are home from school? With the expenses of the holidays looming ahead, they may well be looking to earn extra cash. And for many, it's a treat to shrug off their newly acquired sophistication and hang with the rug rats.
It's not too late to put together a small group of parents who can rotate child care in their homes for holidays, for professional development afternoons at school, or other occasions when families find themselves casting about for child care. Your commitment to stay home for one day is a good trade-off for peace of mind on the other three or four.
If you have a doting friend or relative to look after the kids on these occasions, know how lucky you are and respect the fragility of the relationship. "I really blew it with my cousin," says one rueful mother. "Organization isn't my strong point, and I tended to call her at the last minute. I think she came to feel like the choice of last resort. We never intended to hurt her feelings but I can see how it happened. From now on, I'm planning my whole life around the school calendar!"