It’s the summer holidays: what do I do?

How do you get through the next five weeks of summer holidays if you haven’t got childcare sorted?

crazy kids and stressed mum


The summer holidays are upon us which brings up the perennial problem of what to do to get the kids through them without spending too much money in the process. If you can’t work flexibly around the kids – for instance, taking different shifts or getting up early and working late in order to have the middle part of the day to take people out, buying extra holidays [some employers allow this] or reducing your hours over the five-week period – you will have to put together a roster of care, sharing with friends and neighbours or relatives and, of course, partners if you have one. The other option is unpaid leave [bearing in mind you need to give notice] or leaving your job, but many can’t afford to do this. Many parents have set up side hustles which are more flexible to ensure at least some income, but setting up something on your own is not an easy option.

Indeed none of these options are easy. I’ve done the getting up early/working late option for years and am lucky to have been able to do so because I work mainly from home, but you end the summer exhausted, right at the point when work ramps up by 1,000% for the September to December period. [I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s book on being a man at the moment and there is a lot about female friendship and the many conversations women have about all sorts. I’m just wondering when they find the time].

It is at this point in the year that I think term-time working is underutilised by employers and could be much more effective than part-time work, given there is little point in having two days off a week if your kids are in school when it means you have to spend the summer stressing about covering three days a week for five weeks. Call it a 90%+ contract or something similar or up the hours elsewhere in the year [annualised hours] and you get around the idea that it is just about teachers. In any event, given so many employees are parents, many workplaces slow down over the summer, although, of course, for some it is their busiest time. Some employers do offer this kind of deal, but the smaller you are the harder it might be. No one size fits all, but listening to what employees need and finding some sort of realistic solution is important, particularly given labour shortages.

Another option for parents is paid care. We know that the costs have gone up, but by less than inflation. Local authorities will usually have a list of seasonal activities in your area and holiday schemes [this should be on their website under Children and Families]. Your school may also have details of holiday playschemes run by local leisure centres or your school may host some themselves. National organisations like the FA also run schemes so it’s worth checking their website. Bear in mind that some holiday playschemes do shorter hours than normal schools and only cater to specific age groups or interests. If you have more than one child this can prove problematic so you may need to negotiate with your employer or arrange pick-ups with other parents.

Emergency childcare may be necessary if all else fails. Organisations like Yoopies and some childcare providers provide emergency back-up and holiday childcare, but it can be at a cost. My Family Care offers holiday packages through employers who sign up.

If you are taking time off with the kids there are lots of listings site such as Hoop and Netmums, where you can search according to your location. Moneysavingexpert has information on free school meals over the holidays and news on special offers. Depending on the weather, you can get out and explore the great outdoors or get creative indoors, making dens or organising your own Junior Bake Off competitions. This blog has some great ideas for cheap or free things to do with the kids [maybe not the prank calls…]

Take care.

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