With half term in England approaching, what can you do to cover the week, especially if you can’t afford time off?
With all the twists and turns of the last months, half term can sort of creep up on you unless you are super ahead of the game. If it does, you are definitely not alone. Workingmums.co.uk polls show that many parents leave half term cover until the last minute – mainly because of cost and availability and the fact that they may have different children of different ages which some of the schemes available don’t cater to. So how do you manage, especially if you can’t take the week off? Here are some suggestions:
1. Check our your local authority to find out about activities in your area and holiday schemes [this should be on their website under Children and Families or the Family Information Service]. Your school may also have details of holiday playschemes run by local leisure centres or your school may host some. Other organisations may also offer schemes, like the YMCA. If you are struggling financially, visit Child Poverty Action Group who will be able to signpost you to support. Turn2us also has information on any benefits and other support you may be entitled to.
2. Fall back on family. That means primarily your partner, if you have one, and any other family who may live in the near vicinity or even far away. If you can, divvy up half term between a number of family members to spread the load.
3. If family are not available, network with friends. If you haven’t already built up a support network of other parents, particularly working parents who know what the deal is, start doing so as soon as you can, even if you don’t think you have time. It could be a life-saver. Parenting is in part a political game and the rules are that if you have x’s child over on your day off, x has yours back. Have all friends’ numbers on speed dial on your phone in case of emergencies. The more friends you can involve the better, but try to ensure your children actually like their children. This can often be tricky territory. Hence the need for multiple members of the network in case of sudden fallings-out. Children do not have as much invested in the network as parents.
4. Try to negotiate some homeworking for you and for your partner if you have one and have a job that enables homeworking. That way you can be around to ferry the kids to holiday playschemes, which often end well inside office hours and tend to be helpfully aimed at different age groups and interests – something that often becomes problematic if you have more than one child. You may also be able to tailor your day so you have time for the kids in the afternoon before you log on again later in the day.
5. Parental leave – if you are unable to cover the holidays you could take unpaid parental leave. After completing one year’s continuous service with an employer, an employee is entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted.
7. If you are off with the kids, check out local museums, parks, etc, to find out what activities they have on offer. Many will be free of charge and getting out and about can make a world of difference to their half term and may help recharge your batteries too. If the weather is awful and depending on the ages of your children, you could try bake off competitions, making dens, changing their room around or putting on a show.