Summer is well and truly with us. But as the weeks of sunshine and outdoor activities beckon us, the long vacation can signal a major headache for parents. Who’s going to look after the children when they’re off school and how do you manage the Summer holiday childcare without breaking the bank or the family? Here, workingmums.co.uk gives tips on how to handle the childcare hot potato.
Most parents would love to spend the whole of the six weeks with their offspring, taking them out on special trips, splashing in the swimming pool or lazing in the park on idyllic balmy days. But the reality is that most of us won’t be able to take more than two weeks off work during the summer. So how are you going to make up the shortfall?
Some mums and dads alternate their weeks off during the summer vacation. Mum books two weeks from work and looks after the children, then dad does the same while mum goes back to work. This means there’s only another two weeks left for solving the childcare issue.
This might be a way round childcare problems, but it’s hardly a family-friendly solution. Most families want to spend time together as a family unit either on holiday or at least at home together with planned outings which include everyone, particularly if the children are younger. It’s not much of a break if one parent has to take all the parental responsibility while the other one is left at work desperately wanting to join in with the rest of family’s fun. In some cases, going to work is the easier option and the parent at home feels resentful. Either way, it’s not ideal.
‘’This situation happens most often with pre-schoolers,’’ says child psychologist Amanda Gummer. ‘’When children are older, there are holiday schemes and more options available. If parents have to do this, they can reassure themselves that it will only be for two or three years until their children are older. If this is the case, parents should make sure they plan a good weekend away together as a family.’’
Grandparents are often the best solution to summer childcare. If your children are happy to stay with granny and granddad without mum and dad being present, everyone benefits. Youngsters get to spend valuable time with the older generation and make a fledgling leap into independence away from their parents.
You don’t need to stress about whether your children are being looked after properly, because you fully trust your own parents/in-laws. And, of course, grandparents get to build long-lasting bonds with their grandchildren.
‘’This is a win, win situation,’’ says Dr. Gummer. ‘’The financial implications are a bonus. It can be a bit much for the grandparents if they are being used for regular childcare as well, but if they live away from their grandchildren and don’t see them much, the children can treat it as an adventure and a holiday. One of the best bits is that it lifts the stress from parents – they can get some free time to themselves and could have evenings out together without having to worry about getting back for babysitters.’’
If your children are older and can reasonably be left to their own devices as long as you’re at home with them, this might be a golden opportunity to grasp the bull by the horns and suggest to your employer that you work from home for a week or two.
Your boss might be receptive to the proposal because he/she won’t want to spend the whole of the working summer trying to plug gaps while staff are on holiday. Be prepared to list which projects could be done out-of-office. If you have done all the hard work in showing how it could go ahead smoothly, they’re more likely to give your idea the thumbs up.
Many childminders carry on with the same pattern of caring during holidays, so you won’t need to make special arrangements. However, they too will take a holiday at some point. Don’t assume they will take their break to fit in with yours. If you have a contract, make sure you know exactly what the holiday stipulations are – your childminder will probably expect paid leave, so you need to factor this into the summer childcare finances.
Summer camps – day or residential – provide good summer childcare options. Many different activities are on offer, ranging from sports to drama and climbing. Top tip: Plan ahead and get booked up early to take advantage of any discount. Your local authority’s Family Information Service (FIS) will be able to give you details of holiday play schemes.
Find your family information service.
If you find yourself in a situation where your regular childcare has fallen through, you can seek emergency childcare. Your local authority will have a list of registered childminders. ”I would use this sporadically,” advises Dr Gummer. ”Your children won’t have built up a relationship with the carers, so you’ll have to be very specfic with the agency and carer about your parenting style and boundaries. If you’re looking to test out a longterm childcare option, a trial as emergency childcare can give good insight into a carer’s suitability.”