Ways around hol­i­day child­care woes

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - BACKYARD BANTER -

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.

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