Let’s take something into consideration: most workplaces give between 20-30 days of annual leave plus bank holidays – although, not everybody gets the day off on bank holidays.
Say you get 25 days of annual leave, and you split those into half days – that’s 50 half days of annual leave.
Now, schools in the UK have around 13 weeks worth of holidays. That’s around 65 days – not including weekends. Even with 50 half days of annual leave, that leaves 15 days unaccounted for and 50 days where you need to find half a days worth of childcare.
As a working parent in a relationship, I find this super stressful, expensive and frustrating. I can only imagine how much harder it could be if I was a single parent without much support.
Over Easter, my kids are off school for 12 days. To manage this, I’ve taken 3 days of half day annual leave and 1 full day of annual leave. Mr A has taken 6 days of annual leave. My sister is looking after the kids for 2 days. The nanny is looking after the kids for 1.5 days.
It is a complex process, made even harder when considering finances, working hours, and mum guilt.
The ever-present “Am I a good mum?” is always nearby during school holidays. Constantly reminding yourself that you are working so that they can have a better future whilst wondering if their present self is suffering for it. Is the future more important than the present? It’s a massive consideration and it’s really hard to feel like you’re getting it right at times like this.
In an ideal world, there would be enhanced flexibility for parents during the school holidays, part-time or remote working options, or organisations offering holiday childcare schemes.
As it stands, we have to make it work, one way or another. So, here are the things to consider when school holidays are looming:
- Childcare: Consider using a childminder or nanny during the holidays. They can be hard to find as most look for permanent work but it isn’t impossible. We found our current nanny and a potential childminder through the childcare website. Also, nurseries that aren’t school nurseries generally open throughout school holidays and you might be entitled to 15-30 free hours.
- Play scheme: Are there any play schemes near you? Some can be quite costly but they run through most school holidays from reception age upwards. We found a local one that was only £3 a day plus extra when they were going on trips. Miss 7 was there every day for the whole summer holiday last year (her choice).
- Family: Do you have any family who can help – an aunt, your mum or a sibling? Unfortunately, this hasn’t often been an option for me but my younger sister does help whenever she can and so does Mr.A’s mum.
- Unpaid leave: If you’re not willing to use your annual leave OR you don’t have enough, speak to your manager about taking unpaid leave. You are entitled to it for an emergency although it’s up to your manager whether they want you to use your annual leave instead.
- Annual leave: As I said before, try to work out how much annual leave you can take during the holidays. Bare in mind, you might have holidays booked, parents evenings, school performances, doctors appointments etc which will eat into this as well. Take half days whenever possible to save full days for when they’re essential.
- Work from home: If this is something your workplace will consider, discuss it with your manager. Even if it’s only 1 or 2 days a week during holidays, it saves you using annual leave and looking for alternative childcare.
- Share with spouse: If you’re with a partner, work it out between you. This doesn’t have to be a solo responsibility. You are both parents with leave entitlement. See if you can make it work between you!
- Parents of kids friends: Do you have a good relationship with any other parents of the children your kids are friends with? Would you trust them to watch your kids? Would they be willing? If this is a possible option – explore it. Speak to those parents and see if they can help. If I was going to do this, I would maybe offer to provide food or money for lunches and/or days out etc.
As you can see, there are options available for working parents although some may not be ideal, affordable or even possible depending on your circumstances. Hopefully, there’s enough here to give you a few ideas for the next school holiday or to consider helping a friend over the school holidays if possible.
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