FIND A HAPPY BAL­ANCE

WHILE KIDS JUMP FOR JOY WHEN SCHOOL’S OUT, SOME PAR­ENTS DREAD THE UN­FILLED DAYS AHEAD. HERE’S HOW TO RE­CLAIM THAT HOL­I­DAY FEEL­ING

Central and North Burnett Times - - WEEKEND - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD

School hol­i­days seem to come up much faster than school pick-up zones. It feels like ev­ery­one’s just got back into a rou­tine when another school term mirac­u­lously dis­ap­pears, trig­ger­ing ela­tion among kids and teach­ers but, for some par­ents, a wave of low-level panic. Even pri­mary school maths helps ex­plain that two work­ing par­ents tag-team­ing their eight weeks of an­nual leave be­tween them doesn’t cover the 11-14 weeks of school hol­i­days that most Aus­tralian kids get in a year. Sin­gle par­ents don’t even come close. Sky News pre­sen­ter and au­thor of book Mother Zen Jac­inta Ty­nan has called for an en­tire re­view of the school hol­i­day cal­en­dar, say­ing it’s sim­ply not de­signed for mod­ern par­ents. It’s fair to say cur­rent school sched­ul­ing is largely based on tra­di­tion, dat­ing back to 19th century Bri­tain when chil­dren fin­ished school at 3pm to help in the fields be­fore sun­set. The long sum­mer break was de­signed to pro­vide ex­tra hands dur­ing har­vest. Ty­nan ar­gues many mod­ern par­ents, usu­ally women, scram­ble to jug­gle child­care and hol­i­day en­ter­tain­ment — usu­ally a bit of both — with their own work sched­ules. “A friend’s hus­band told her he didn’t want to ‘waste’ his an­nual leave to look af­ter their kids,” she writes. “Yet she does just that. So we off­load, hire babysit­ters, pay for camps, swap with other moth­ers. Or quit.” She says school and work were fun­da­men­tally in­com­pat­i­ble be­cause of school timeta­bles that don’t re­flect the re­al­ity of mod­ern lives, short chang­ing both kids and par­ents. But early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sor Mar­i­lyn Camp­bell warns against keep­ing kids at school for longer sim­ply to meet the needs of mainly ur­ban work­ing par­ents. “To do that is to see school as babysit­ting,” Ms Camp­bell says. “And it’s not that. It should never been seen as that, as con­ve­nient as it may be.” Mas Camp­bell, an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of Aus­tralian Psy­chol­o­gists and Coun­sel­lors in School, says calls to change school sched­ul­ing are another ex­am­ple of schools be­ing asked to take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity for the so­cial and emo­tional care of chil­dren. “Yes, of course it can be dif­fi­cult for work­ing par­ents in school hol­i­days but it’s a great time for kids to just re­lax and be kids,” she says. “Many chil­dren are over-sched­uled. The hol­i­days are de­signed to give them down­time and, ul­ti­mately, to help them learn bet­ter through­out the year. If they’re bored – ter­rific. Let them be. They’ll work some­thing out.” Of course there are other par­ents who love school hol­i­days be­cause it frees them from the tyran­ni­cal rou­tine of get­ting kids to and from school, laun­der­ing (or find­ing) uniform items, lunches, af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties and mak­ing sure home­work is done. The corps of mummy blog­gers who sing the praises of school hol­i­days are usu­ally stay-at-home saints, free­lance work­ers or those blessed with a de­gree of work­place flex­i­bil­ity. One of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing re­searchers into women in the work­place Pro­fes­sor Mar­ian Baird of the Univer­sity of Syd­ney says flex­i­bil­ity is the solution to the on­go­ing chal­lenge of school hol­i­days when both par­ents work. “I don’t think it’s re­al­is­tic to ex­pect school terms or teacher work­loads to change dra­mat­i­cally so we should be look­ing at work­places to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date par­ents,” she says. “Fa­thers need to feel they can take more flex­i­ble work op­tions to share the load with moth­ers. That might en­tail a change in cul­ture in some work­places but that’s some­thing we should be work­ing to­wards.” Ms Baird says another op­tion is to ex­tend an­nual leave for par­ents, al­low­ing them to take more leave at lesser rates of pay or un­paid leave which can help cover school hol­i­days. But the wheels turn slowly. To fill the gaps, many or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer paid or free school hol­i­day pro­grams. Schools them­selves, lo­cal coun­cils, com­mu­nity groups and com­mer­cial en­ter­prises of­fer a plethora of school hol­i­day ac­tiv­i­ties and ser­vices. As any work­ing par­ent will tell you, the key lies in be­ing or­gan­ised. So jug­gle away. Re­mem­ber, kids are al­most al­ways happy if you are.

FIND THE FAM­ILY FUN

Au­thor and blog­ger at Stay Strong Mummy Kim­ber­ley Wel­man is mother to three young chil­dren — Eve, 6, and twins Ge­orge and In­di­ana, 5. “With the twins in Prep and my old­est in Grade 1, it’s safe to say we are all well and truly ready for the school hol­i­days,” she said. “We love get­ting out­doors and mak­ing the most of the in­cred­i­ble weather at this time of year. The kids love to be ac­tive and they have plenty of en­ergy to burn, so I like to have a few ac­tiv­i­ties planned while also be­ing mind­ful that the break is also a time for rest and re­ju­ve­na­tion.”

EM­BRACE THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Pack a pic­nic lunch, let the kids take their own back­packs and go some­where you’ve never been be­fore. Visit a dif­fer­ent beach or creek, a bush walk or pic­nic spot. Mummy tip: I like to limit stress, so I find spots with toi­lets close by be­cause, of course, the mo­ment you un­pack ev­ery­thing, some­one will “have to go”. A cof­fee pit stop should be in walk­ing (or swim­ming) dis­tance.

WE LIKE TO MOVE IT

You don’t need to be a fit­ness pro­fes­sional to run a fun fam­ily work­out in the back­yard, at the park or in your lounge room. Fif­teen min­utes of phys­i­cal ex­er­cise boosts our mood, en­dor­phins, clar­ity of mind, en­ergy lev­els and phys­i­cal health. Choose five dif­fer­ent ex­er­cises that the kids can do (for ex­am­ple squats, skip­ping, frog jumps, bear crawls and lunges) and let ev­ery­one join in on the cir­cuit. Down­load a timer app, turn the mu­sic on and aim for 20 sec­onds work, 10 sec­onds rest times four rounds (with one minute break in-be­tween rounds). Even if the kids do one to two rounds for the fun of it and go off and play, you can fin­ish off the work­out and feel ready to tackle the rest of the day.

THE KIDS LOVE TO BE AC­TIVE AND THEY HAVE PLENTY OF EN­ERGY TO BURN, SO I LIKE TO HAVE A FEW AC­TIV­I­TIES PLANNED WHILE ALSO BE­ING MIND­FUL THAT THE BREAK IS ALSO A TIME FOR REST AND RE­JU­VE­NA­TION.

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