It’s just over two weeks until the schools here in Cardiff break up for the summer holidays.
Most kids I know are besides themselves with excitement at having six weeks off school. However, it can be challenging for working parents when schools are on holiday and breakfast and after-school clubs are not running. Of course, school’s primary function is to educate children… but it does enable a lot of parents to work, and to work without spending a huge chunk of their salary on childcare. Most people who work have four or five weeks of annual leave a year while schools have 13 weeks off a year, six of those in the summer. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to realise that there can be a shortfall. I have so many stressed out mum friends right now trying to coordinate childcare arrangements for the summer.
I’m self-employed and currently have two school days a week to work, with the rest of it done in the evenings, so I will revert back to doing all my work in the evenings (as I used to when the three of them were pre-schoolers) when my kids are in bed. Childcare for three is expensive, so I’m happy to work in the nights, especially as it means I get to spend my days with my babies.
I’ve asked other working parents of school age children what they do over the summer. Here’s what they had to say.
Sarah, mum of two
“This is the reason I work evening shifts, even though my kids are now both in school full time. I work evenings so in the holidays I’m home with them all day. We do send my son to Gol football camp in the holidays regularly – not because I have to for childcare though, just because he loves it. They now do breakfast club and can have children until 12, 3.30pm (which is what I do) or 5.30pm. It’s a lot cheaper than most other holiday clubs, at around £12 for 8.30am-3.30pm or £15 all day, and you can have sessions in English or Welsh. And they come home tired!”
Karan, mum of two
“We have just spent the evening sorting seven weeks of cover. My youngest starts school in September so the first week of term she is still off. It’s a Krypton Factor mixture of the girl next door, two sets of grandparents that live far away so ultra organisation, friends, childcare swaps with other working mums, and school holiday club when we can afford it at £50 a day for each of two children. It’s a joy. Not.”
Laura, mum of two
“I’m incredibly lucky. I work night shifts and have superb cover thanks to grandparents who are amazing. I take the middle 2 weeks of the holidays every year so they get a break in the middle!”
Dawn, mum of two
“I work for myself, so I take August off, and just do enough work in the evenings to keep things ticking over/clients happy. We don’t have grandparents nearby to help, and one of my children struggles to cope with groups/clubs. It means that September and October are very lean months though as the effect of working at minimal level shows itself.”
Rosie, mum of three
“I work part time and child care over the holidays is a challenge especially when you don’t have family nearby. We manage by splitting our leave between me and my husband. I change my hours to work fewer but longer days and we also send the kids to Action Pak, a holiday child care scheme run by Acorns Nursery, which I can highly recommend. It’s not the cheapest but you can use childcare vouchers if your employer operates a salary sacrifice scheme.”
Sian, mum of two
My two will be off for a holiday at Mamgus’! They’ll probably be there two or three times over the summer holidays for three nights each time. It involves 320miles and at least 8hours of driving. They absolutely love it and are usually disappointed to see me again. We are also very lucky to have Nanny and an auntie around the corner.
Bethan, mum of three
“It’s tricky! I’m my head I had a plan to take the whole 6 weeks off but the reality is different as the effort required to make the application etc to work seemed too onerous a task when I’m often struggling to get my work done and get to school pick up on time. I had the option of buying additional annual leave but this didn’t work out particularly cost effective. I have a juggle of childminder/Cylch/clubs for the first two weeks, because of the age of my 3 it’s hard to find one place that they all can go. I am on leave for the last 3 weeks of the holidays and have yet to sort the middle week as Cylch is closed and a lot of the clubs aren’t running. One thing I find interesting from talking to other mum friends is that the summer juggle is often down to the mums to organise and plan and that we tend to use more of our annual leave to do it!
Emiko, mum of three
“It is a total juggling act! We usually combine a mixture of solutions – the girls have a week’s ‘holiday’ at my mum’s and a week at my in-law’s. We often book them in at the childminder for a week but this works out as an expensive week for the two girls to be there full-time. My husband and I generally take about a fortnight of leave together to have some family time and then cover the rest of the time taking individual leave. The challenge is getting everything sorted in advance and then remembering what is happening when! We’ve found some of the clubs are difficult as due to age restrictions both girls can’t go together so you end up having to sort out different solutions for each of them which is even more complicated. I’m glad I’m on maternity leave this summer so we don’t have to worry about it, although I’m sure entertaining two kids and a newborn for six weeks will pose challenges of its own!”
Rachael, mum of two
“Mine are in Action Pak for 11 days over the holidays to cover the shortfall in our holidays. It works out £32 for one or £60 for 2 per day. Oh, and they love going! There is a full range of activities each day and even some trips. I don’t know the exact programme yet. One of my daughters was in at Easter. She didn’t know anyone but she had a blast!”
Rebecca, mum of two
“It is a total juggling act. I work full-time so I usually resort to two of three days of club per week (and me feeling totally guilty in the process!) with the rest of the week at my mum’s or with me or my husband. We usually then go camping on weekends to make up for the weeks and always get a week of holidays (usually a festival) in too. It always helps when we have friends’ children going to the same club – it doesn’t seem so bad then!”
Claire, mum of two
“I work shifts around my children and I’m very fortunate as my mum helps me a lot. We always make sure that at least four weeks of the summer holidays is split with annual leave and then I work more night shifts so I can be home in the day. It is very difficult and I can’t afford childcare.”
Rebecca, mum of four
“I childmind part-time. Well, I was full-time until a year ago! This summer will be the first in eight years where I’ve only worked two days a week so I can have some time with my own children. I also work in schools as a supply teaching assistant during term time and have spoken to lots of parents about juggling childcare in holidays. I defiantly think a shorter summer holiday and then two longer half terms, especially a longer Christmas, would work better.”
Neil, dad of two
“It really is a juggling act. My wife and I are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be self-employed and take a day off each. We then use my wonderful mother-in-law mixed with a summer club and play group that take them. It’s a stress but we seem to manage.”
Laura, mum of three
“I work from home but it is telephone-based or face-to-face work with people, so not a great option with noisy kids at home. Generally, I change my shifts in the school holidays and do evenings, mostly. Last year I started maternity leave for the summer holidays. I was hoping to stretch across this year’s too but can’t quite manage it. So I am back on reduced hours instead. My husband should take a little time off, perhaps a day a week, so I will work during the day then while he has more time with the kids. However, that is dependent on his work as he’s currently travelling away each week for a project. Fingers cross it doesn’t overrun into the school holidays! We have no family nearby to help out.”
Victoria, mum of two
“I re-trained as a teacher (I was an accountant) and now have the holidays off. Okay, so that was a little extreme, I wouldn’t expect all your readers to follow suit – but boy, it’s gonna be handy!”
Debbie, mum of three
“I work full time and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. Every time I think about nagging my husband about going back to work I wonder what on earth we would do about the school holidays. Working from home a couple of days a week means the people I work with always know when the children are off school (I refuse to put a lock on my office door). We make compromises to afford a stay-at-home dad and I am grateful that he loves camping and he’s now happy to take three of them away for short trips. Every time I cost three children in the ‘alternative to school’ leaflets in the book bag I wonder how on earth it can work. I take at least two weeks in full over the summer, and then long weekends. It’s not easy as I love the joy of Christmas, and also having timely family focus over Easter. It’s challenging having such a focused holiday period when I want to enjoy the time throughout the year.”
Nikki, mum of two
“Both of ours go to holiday club for three to four weeks each summer. We don’t have much of a support network around us. It costs a fortune. We usually a mixture of different clubs to mix it up. – Action Pac, Menter Caerdydd and Cardiff City Soccer School. There are others but they tend to start late and finish early which is no good if you work full-time. Summer is our most expensive month. We do make sure we have a family holiday though to break it up. One year we didn’t have a holiday and split the childcare instead, but that meant we didn’t have time together as a whole family at all for summer.”
Michelle, mum of two
“Myself and my hubby take three weeks leave but spend one together. We then rely on grandparents.”
Cathy, mum of one
“I am experimenting for the first time this year – Christmas and Easter was me trying to work around my daughter apart from a week away and that was hard enough so I know I can’t do that for weeks on end even though I work for myself. We have two weeks away, three days of my mother-in-law helping (as long as she feels up to it…) and so a couple of weeks of holiday club, run by the people who do the afterschool club. The remaining days I’ll just juggle. My husband is having one day off as well. Fortunately the holiday club does different length days (short day, school day and longer, similar to breakfast club and afterschool on top of school) so I don’t need the most expensive option. I can also pick specific days to fit around the occasional other free days of help so needn’t book e.g. a month block.”
Jane, mum of two
“We use Dragon Camps at Cardiff Met. It is on the expensive side but they offer a 10% off voucher on Facebook and you can pay with childcare vouchers. The boys absolutely love it and make new friends every time and usually meet friends from the time before. They are busy all day and the facilities there are excellent.
Rebecca, mum of one
“I’m just very glad I retrained as a teacher before our little man arrived. The only down side is the nursery on the site of the college where I work shuts when the students leave – two weeks earlier than us. We go back the middle of August – two weeks before the nursery opens. Thank goodness for grandparents.”