The long summer break should be about sunshine and smiles not stress and childcare bills
Something is wrong in our society.
Well, lots of things are wrong in our society right now. Like the breakdown in political discourse and Love Island.
But in particular the reaction to the school summer holidays kicking off. It ought to be about sunshine, innocent childhood fun and summer smiles. Instead it’s too often characterised by stress and complex logistics.
You wouldn’t believe as editor of a site aimed at parents the amount of press releases I receive referencing the start of the summer holidays. Some are utter guff. But, to be fair, most are not. And, to some extent, it’s an understandable hook on which to hang a story/sales pitch.
For many many parents six weeks of summer holidays is a headache. And who can blame them?
Childcare is expensive, and getting more so.
And apart from the financial cost there’s the mental slog of figuring out where kids need to be and when. Can you really bring your whole self, your entire concentration to your job when you’re also concerned about whether the kids have done something awful to grandad and granny in your absence or thinking about how you’ll sneak out early because the holiday club stops at 4pm?
And then there’s the guilt. One of my kids can’t be doing with holiday clubs. But he has to go because I can’t get all my work done between the hours of 9pm and midnight every evening. Nevermind that I don’t really want to be working at that time of day.
All parents know the singular knack children have for making you feel like you’ve failed them.
Are we giving our kids the happy holiday memories we had if we’re constantly juggling rather than giving them our undivided attention? (Probably yes, we all remember six weeks off school through rose tinted glasses as we get older. Mention of Why Don’t You may engender a fuzzy nostalgia but it was actually a rubbish TV show we only watched because it was raining. What we’d have given for Netflix in the 80s).
The summer holidays illustrate starkly how our workplace culture needs to evolve.
There’s been progress. Parents can take time off. But they won’t get paid for it. So that’s not realistic for most.
Flexible working would make life so much easier for most parents. The Flex For All campaign chalked up a minor victory this week with legislation to make all jobs advertised as flexible by default making progress.
Term time working is one model of flexible working that ought to be available to more folk. If you’re already entitled to at least five weeks off then it’s only another seven weeks to cover off the entire 13 weeks of school holidays. A few extra hours during term time could get you to an annualised total that matches those working all year round.
What about a default right to work flexibly in school holidays? The main value of such a step would be cultural. Businesses need to recognise that workers juggling childcare, guilt and fearing for their finances for six weeks aren’t going to be the most efficient. Cut employees some summer slack and the evidence suggests you’ll get engaged and loyal workers all year round. Perhaps that could be the next target for campaigners like Mother Pukka and Papa Pukka?
There’s just a couple of suggestions. Perhaps you’ve got thoughts on what would make your life easier through the summer holidays.
We all want summer fun for parents and working dads – many of whom get the biggest chunk of time with their kids at this time of year.
Get in touch via the comments or on social media with your ideas for family friendly suggestions to make the summer holidays smoother for working dads and their families.