Before we know it, the 'big kahuna' will be here: Christmas/summer break. Don't get me wrong; I love spending time and holidaying with my family, but the thought of the longest school holiday break of six weeks coming up so fast scares the living daylights out of me! The first five years of your child's life seem to be what everyone focuses on, and looking back on the daycare/nanny system, it now all seems so easy. Most daycare centres close no earlier than 5pm, some are open to even 7pm, and of course nannies can work whatever hours requested (or what you are willing to pay for!). School finishes at 3pm and kindy at 2pm for the first couple of months. Daycare centres don't generally take holidays, and, if they do, they might close down only for two to four weeks over the Christmas/New Year period. No one really talks about having to navigating the next thirteen years (yes, you read that correctly, thirteen years!) of your children's school holidays. There are 13 weeks of school holidays for state schools and even more for private schools in Australia. Tell me, if you don't work for a supportive employer, how do parents, who work full time hours manage to find care for their children when statutory annual leave is only four weeks?
That is nine weeks (45 days!) unaccounted for, and the thought is incredibly daunting.
Children are generally reluctant to go to vacation care, as they find it boring or 'for little kids'. Working parents often resort to staggering their holidays, and Mum and Dad don't take time off together. How healthy is this, and could this be a contributing factor to destroying the family network? Many parents resort to expensive holiday camps or rely on grandparents or friends for playdates.
How many times is too many to ask, 'Can you please look after Junior from 7am to 7pm to allow me to do a full day's work during the holidays?'
This is the question I am faced with every school holidays. As a recruiter for almost twenty years, I have watched countless talented and qualified parents take lower paying transactional jobs or even drop out of the workforce altogether when they can't find suitable holiday care.
This is the only way to make their daily lives and families function. To make matters worse, when the children hit their teens and when parents are free to return to full time work, they are often rejected because they have been out of the market for so long and have lost touch with their particular industry.
There is no simple answer. However, technology seems to be making it a bit easier. Setting up a remote workplace will allow you to no longer be away from your children and enable you to keep an eye on them during the school holidays.
The best solution is to find a supportive company/manager who allows you to work part time and be with your children during school holidays.