For working parents the dreaded school holidays come around too fast and too often. Here, working mother Jen Vuk offers a few suggestions.
There's only about one more week to go before the kids are on school holidays. On the surface this is merely a statement, but for many of us full-time working parents with school-aged children this is a statement wrapped inside a conundrum tied up with anxiety.
Putting aside the fact that somewhere along the line time became a mutable entity (I mean, didn’t my two just go back to school?), I now find myself trying new and innovative ways of somehow stretching my limited holiday leave over what seems to be a near-infinite space of time.
Somehow I have managed and, more importantly, for the purpose of this article—survived. As this marks the first anniversary of my Returning to Fulltime Work (While Trying to Be An Engaged Parent), here are my top-five tips to keep you sane and the kids off the streets.
School-run holiday programs
After-school programs (sometimes called OST or out-of- school time, OSH or out-of-school hours) offer a great alternative during school holidays. Full-day options include going to the movies, adventure parks, museums or sports and other recreational activities.
Transport to and from any event is included in the programs, and they often start early and end at 6 pm, which make them ideal for the working parent.
Yet while most families get a childcare benefit discount (CCB) on their fees, and families are entitled to claim the 50% Childcare Rebate (CCR), relying too heavily on these programs can be costly. Our school program charges $60–80 a day before rebate (per child) so this can quickly add up.
Non-profit holiday programs
Non-profit groups, such as churches, also run events for kids in most states and territories.
Scripture Union, the Baptist church and YMCA offer activities as diverse as laser skirmish and bowling outings to learning hip-hop and cooking classes, and are just some of the churches that run programs throughout Australia to suit all interests and family budgets.
Some Salvation Army corps (churches) also offer school holiday programs, which are staffed by passionate Salvation Army employees and volunteers, and where activities are often free. Not all corps offer these services so it’s best to contact your closest Salvos for more information.
Child-care swap or co-op parenting
If you know other women in the same boat as you, why not propose a parenting co-op where you share the burden of childcare? For example, in these school holidays I’ll take a couple of annual leave days and look after another mother’s children, and she’ll do the same for me.
The bonus is that neither of us has to take off too much time from work, and the arrangement fosters great relationships. It also means that the kids get to hang out with their friends. Win-win.
Working from home/taking the kids to work
Many employers are becoming more flexible and family-friendly, so why not suggest that you could be just as productive over the school holidays if you spend a day here or there working from home? If you encounter any pushback, perhaps gently remind your employer of the alternative bringing the kids to the office with you.