In 2012, a survey of American families from the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker found that parents expected to spend an average of $601 per child on summer fun (which can also mean child care). Affluent families, defined as those with household incomes of $100,000 or more, expected to spend nearly double that: $1,116 per child.

This year, the average is even higher, at $856. (The numbers I have for 2013 are not sorted by affluence.)

What goes into that total? Camps, sports, educational and arts programs, pool memberships, day trips and (yee-haw) child care.

So much lies under those bald numbers! There are the obvious decisions: sleepaway camp or day? How many weeks? Which art programs? Swim lessons?

And the less obvious: 12 years of schooling means 11 years of summer vacations.

If you figure the earliest a child can possibly be left to her own devices for five days a week, eight or more hours a day, is 15 (an age that’s open to discussion; all I really know is that my 12-year-old certainly doesn’t qualify, and has younger siblings besides), then for a one-child family that’s eight or nine summers that have to be accounted for somehow.

Those summers (along with all of those hours between 3 and 5:30 p.m., all of those school holidays and all of those breaks) are surely a factor in career choices for parents of both sexes — both because we want to spend time with our children and because, somehow, we have to cover financially all of that time when children are at loose ends and the average full-time working parent is not.

I’m always hoping that someone will sort these cost figures for families with two full-time working parents, families with flexible work arrangements and families with a parent at home. So far, no luck — but I think it’s safe to assume that the more hours both parents work, the more summer expenses.

How much does summer cost at our house? For one family pool membership, three weeks of various day camps (with one child going to one week of overnight hockey), a bonus week of half-day camp for the two youngest (who suddenly wanted to join a friend) and one big day trip, it’s $1,670 per child.

That’s summer with a noise-tolerant, flexibly scheduled work-at-home parent, and a second parent with a somewhat flexible schedule as well.

What do I do the other weeks? I juggle. I trade rides and play dates with other families.

I promise my children a trip to the pool in the afternoon in exchange for mostly staying out of my hair all morning, and then I go back to work until after midnight most nights.

I clean up after a lot of baking sessions, camp-in-the-yard games and 52 pick-up. (OK, I tell them to clean up — and then I have to stand over them while they do it, and then again while they do it right.)

I work in my room, with one child wailing at my feet because she does not want another child’s friend to ride her bike from last year, and another one bursting in with updates about why he can’t get the printer to work for the helicopter he’s designing, oh, about every three minutes (six times during this paragraph alone).

Most weeks, that $1,670 isn’t doing me much good from a work perspective at all.

I chose to do it this way, and I’m happy to have the choice. But if you want to look at me as a cog in the great economic wheel, I’m a less useful one this time of year.

That’s the cost of summer at my house. What’s it looking like at yours?

Contact KJ Dell-Antonia at:

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