Ways around holiday childcare woes
Modern-day parents need to find innovative ways around childcare during the school break, writes Erin Reilly.
It’s that time of year when parents start freaking out about what they’re going to do with their children when school closes for a fortnight. While kids do need a break after cramming their sponge-like brains with things they may or may not remember in a year or so, school holidays just don’t work for many modern parents.
Think back to why school holidays were invented in the first place. In the 19th century back in England, schools shut down for about six weeks over summer so the kids could help the adults bring in the harvest. New Zealand followed suit because anything the Motherland did we did too. The regime worked back then because while the father went to work during the day, the mother stayed at home with the kids – that’s just what life was like.
Not only are gender roles very different these days, in many families both parents work fulltime (and in families where there’s only one parent, they probably work too) which means when school holidays come around, childcare becomes very problematic.
Yes, parents could take time off work to coincide with the school holidays. But most fulltime employees are only entitled to four weeks of annual leave every year, and kids get about 12 weeks of school holidays (more if they go to private schools) so that doesn’t add up. And besides, what if parents want to save their annual leave for themselves?
Yes, parents could book their kids into school holiday programmes or camps, but that can be a pricey option. A school holiday camp that costs $50 a day will add up to $500 for one child for the entire school holidays … and what if you’ve got more than one?
A solution could be that kids spend the holidays with grandparents, an option that’s only possible if grandparents are willing, able and available. They could also spend the day at the office, an option that’s only possible if you have a flexible boss and kid-friendly work environment (and if you’re OK for your kids to spend the whole day watching Netflix).
Another option could be to partner with some like-minded parents who are in the same boat as you. Partner with other families in your neck of the woods via Neighbourly and set up a roster of parents who’ll look after the street’s kids for the day. Each day can be filled with fun crafty activities or challenges (you could even set up a competition between houses) and if there’s enough of you, you might only have to take one day off during the holidays.
The structure of school holidays isn’t likely to change (and it shouldn’t because our kids do need a break), but parents need to evolve in order to deal with them more efficiently (and more affordably). Neighbourly is a great place to start.
Children need a break from school, but organising childcare is not always easy for working parents.