I’m a working mum and so the Summer holidays come not with the heavy feeling that I will need to entertain my children solidly for the next six weeks, but more with an “oh fcukity fcuk what am I supposed to do for childcare whilst I’m working” type feeling. Whilst my Facebook feed fills with images and updates from parents taking their kids on days out or alternatively moaning that they’re ready to send the kids back to school already, I will be in my office carrying on as usual. Some days I will be missing my kids like mad and some days I will be kissing them goodbye and skipping into work for a break. That’s just the nature of working away from home.
I’m pretty lucky that where I work, I get a good five full weeks of annual leave each year but it pales into comparison when you consider that my son needs 13 weeks of school holiday cover. Each year I sit down with my calendar and strategically work out the best way to spread my annual leave across various bits of the school holiday. Then there’s the remaining eight weeks to think about…
I’m not alone despite what my Facebook feed implies. There are something in the region of 12 million working families in the UK alone and so the work vs school holiday battles are real for many people.
So what can you do? After nine years doing the juggle, I’ve tried every childcare trick in the book (and some) so I thought I’d round them all up into one list for you.
Ready? Grab a brew and lets go.
These are your options for managing the great childcare juggle throughout the Summer.
Get organised well ahead of time.
If you can, get that annual leave booked in as soon as it becomes available to you. Have a plan for the year ahead for the weeks you need off work, make a chart, use your calendar – whatever works for you but get it booked in ASAP so that its set in stone and you all know what you’re doing.
Share the load
If you have a partner with an annual leave entitlement then take the school holidays in shifts so that the five weeks off becomes more like nine (presuming you will have at least one week off together as a family at some point).
Nobody really wants to use them. They’re expensive forms of childcare and I have always found my son to be reluctant as he’s a shy child. However, I’ve never met a working parent who hasn’t had to budget for and use them at some point. Ask at your child’s school if they know of any good ones in your area, check your local YMCA or gym and see if you can get a place booked on one with a theme that might appeal to your child. There are all sorts on offer from sports themed ones to crafts and many other things besides. In many places in the UK, the local council will put on various holiday clubs so it’s always worth checking with them too.
Remember that if your childcare is registered with Ofsted (UK only) then for any under 7s, you may be entitled to help with the costs. It’s worth checking with HMRC to see what you are entitled to and apply for it in good time.
Ask friends and family
Swallow that pride and ask your family or friends with similar aged children to help out for the odd few days of childcare when you are thoroughly stuck. Please be sure to return the favour though and take their children on your days off. So much fun….
Consider a childminder
Often childminders look after children term time only so you many find that there will be childcare spaces available during the school holidays. It’s probably a last resort as your child won’t be used to that person but it’s always there for you as an option.
Ask to work from home
Flexible working? You have to be having a laugh right?! If that wasn’t your initial reaction then it may be worth having a chat with your boss to see if you can work from home.
Don’t whine or beg, simply state your business case for doing so clearly and allow them to see that this will have a positive impact on both their business and your work/life balance (that phrase can often be enough to send them into a spin). I know, it’s nigh on impossible to work when the kids are at home but it’s worth a shot.
I really hope that you found this useful even if it wasn’t the answers that you’d hoped for. The reality of being a working parent and managing the school holidays can be a logistical and often emotional nightmare. Plan ahead, accept the fact that this is your status quo and make the most of any days off that you do get to have with your children. Above all, please don’t feel guilty and like you are the only parent at work because you aren’t. Most of us face this predicament, get through it by hook or by crook and come out the other side, skipping our way to the school gates again in September.
However you are spending your Summer, I hope it’s a brilliant one for you and yours and that your childcare issues don’t stop you enjoying it.
Until next time