Listen Up, Please: My House Is Not Your Free Daycare

by Jen Adams
Lapina / Shutterstock

Ah, summer. For stay-at-home or work-at-home parents, it’s a time of relaxation. Not that we don’t still have a shit ton to do, but it’s nice to be free of the rigorous school-year schedule for a few months. But summer brings a new frustration — and no, I’m not just talking about the ridiculous overconsumption of popsicles (if I had a dollar for every time I shouted, “I just bought these!”).

I’m talking about the fact that when you’re at home during the day, and so are your kids, your house immediately becomes the place that other parents send their children the second they hear the classic summertime phrase “I’m bored!” I’m talking about the ones who ring your doorbell before you’ve had your coffee and stay until you say something like, “Uh, shouldn’t you check in with your folks?” I’m talking about the kids who come over every single day, like clockwork, eating up your snacks and soaking up your air conditioning like you gave birth to them.

I’m not a total curmudgeon. I don’t mind my kids’ friends coming over to play; that’s what summer is for, and I like having something to keep them occupied and stop them from fighting with one another for a little bit. But when the doorbell rings and the kids look at each other with trepidation because they know it’s Dawson From Down the Street again and he was just here for six hours yesterday and is probably aiming to beat his own record today…well, this is where you get into a parental quandary.

You don’t want to lie to the kid and say you have plans when you’re really just going to laze around all day — that’s setting a bad example. You can’t tell the truth and say, “Gee, Dawson From Down the Street, you’re here all the time and you’re very whiny and you kind of get on everybody’s nerves,” because you’re trying to instill in your children the value of inclusivity. So you invite him in, again, and you hope it’s boring enough for him to realize that his own house is better.

But it never is.

Meanwhile, he’s scarfing down snacks at the same astonishing rate as your own children, and when you feed them lunch, there he is with a plate. And his parents, who never seem to notice or care that he’s been absent for the biggest part of the day (or let’s be real, the biggest part of the week), are absent themselves. Half the time it’s not even clear whether they even know where he is.

I mean, I get the appeal. The thought of someone else overseeing your children’s summer activities would be blissful. I guess that’s why summer camps are so popular. But the thing about summer camps is that the people at the summer camp are aware the kids are coming every day, during specific hours, and the parents pay for that experience.

I too would enjoy a kid-free afternoon. However, I don’t get those very often, and do you know why? Because I know that sending my children to other people’s houses, daily and without prior invitation — or a time limit, for that matter — is downright rude.

I want to walk around braless for as long as possible without worrying about traumatizing anyone other than my own children who are used to it. I want to buy snacks for my kids, who already eat them like they’re going out of style and break my bank, and have them last longer than two days. I want to work with minimal interruption (and trust me, I get enough from my own children).

I want to zone out once in a while and not worry about Dawson From Down the Street who I don’t trust in the same way I trust my kids because he has a different set of house rules. But when your kids have company and you’re the supervising adult, you’ve got to be, well, supervisory. And it sucks when other parents thrust that upon you. Because when you turn the child away, you hurt his feelings, and you recognize it’s not his fault.

So parents, please be cognizant of your children’s whereabouts this summer. Maybe call or text before you send them on their merry way. If you want them gone for a substantial portion of the day, you can pay for that kind of service; it’s called daycare.

Which, coincidentally, is not my house.