The Holiday Club
It is the summer holidays if you hadn’t noticed and it is the season of the Holiday Club. We’re three weeks in and it’s that time where everyone has used up their leave or is spreading it out, and have enlisted The Holiday Club to help them out.
First, a few facts for you to set the scene:
1. A recent study by the Office for National Statistics found that the number of working mothers has leapt by almost 800,000 to 5.3 million since 1996. (Telegraph article Sunday 5 August)
2. There are around two million single parents which make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children. (Gingerbread)
3. 68% of single parents are in work. (Gingerbread)
Because of all the above*, we need childcare.
For those parents with nursery aged children, this can be ‘easily’ taken care of by shelling out £50+ a day for some lovely ladies and the odd man to take care of our cherubs from 8 am to 6 pm whilst we head out to work. The high cost is because of low ratios of child to keyworker and usually includes nappies, lunch, snacks and endless sensory and Early Years entertainment. Private nurseries generally run 52 weeks a year and, if the nursery nurses are lucky, they’re only closed on bank holidays and the very odd training day. Yes, we are wracked with guilt all day, every day and we are purely working to pay for childcare but that’s beside the point. We’re covered!
Then they grow up.
When it comes to the grand old age of 4 or 5 though, the set-up changes somewhat. Your precious poppet heads off to school. In at 8.45am and out at 3.30pm. That’s 30.15 hours a week. This no longer works with our work hours, which when full time, average 40 hours a week – not including dreaded travel time of course.
So, we try and tweak our hours. Therefore instantly losing that exciting feeling that you’ll be up £600 a month, as you’ll now be earning less. We apply for flexible working and arm ourselves with all the Mother Pukka campaign spiel in case they say no. Even after that, we probably sign up for the wrap around care for those schools that have it. Breakfast clubs, afterschool clubs, sports clubs, homework club et al. For those schools that don’t have it (and in this day and age I do ask myself why) we’ll continue to employ childminders or volunteer the grandparents to do pickups, as we pray the 4.45pm train from Marylebone isn’t delayed again, or that the pile-up on the bypass has been cleared by the time you leave the office.
And we get term time sorted. Just.
Then the god damn holidays come along. And by holidays I don’t mean a fortnight in Lanzarote, by the way. I mean the school holidays. 13 long weeks with no childcare.
13 weeks, which equates to 65 working days. Also don’t forget the rogue May bank holiday, the two teacher training days, and depending on where Christmas or Easter falls, another extra one or two days there as well. Actually, let’s say 70, shall we? Most working parents get between 21 and 30 holiday days pro rata. So, we’re already fucked before we begin.
This is where The Holiday Club comes in.
They are the clubs we rely on to look after our darlings. Hopefully, keep them entertained for a bit and preferably teach them something new at the same time. There is a myriad to try out including sports, dance, drama, crafts and swimming. Some, however, are just an extended version of an afterschool club; ie they are free range and sat in a sweaty school hall for most of the day being fed waffles and beans and making friendship bracelets. And the weird thing is, you’ve probably never heard about any of them until 4 days before the October half term when everyone starts to panic.
We try and keep the use of them to a minimum for our guilt levels and for our bank balances, but they are a necessity for most working parents. It is a captive market. We share leave as much as possible, meaning you will never again be able to take a day off work ‘just for you’. (In this case being a co-parenting single parent can sometimes have its perks as you don’t have to worry about wanting to take leave at the same time.) We rope the grandparents in. We coordinate the odd playdate with friends, but 70 days is a lot to ask of anyone, so we turn to The Holiday Club.
The range of clubs not only varies in activity but also in timeframe. Any group touting themselves as a holiday club who are running sessions from 10 am until 1 pm need to go away and have a good hard think in my opinion. Those selling ‘breakfast club’ that starts at 9 am should pop over to mine at 6.30am so they can see when breakfast happens in our house. Most holiday clubs also seem to start later than an average school day. Ensuring that we will always miss that first morning meeting or we will have to pay through the nose to be able to drop them off half an hour earlier.
The cost can also be on a broad spectrum. From less than £10 a day (not including wrap around) to £50. (again, not including wrap around). I’m not sure who are using those clubs, but if you are could you please tell me what they are doing? And the answer better be ‘learning to silversmith’ and they are coming home with a piece of perfect jewellery for you to wear at the end of the day. For those of you with more than one child at school age I have no idea how you’re coping.
Yes, sometimes these clubs can just be a ‘one off’. But I have not yet found the perfect Holiday Club that covers all bases. I feel like I must compromise on most things to be able to go to work, which makes me feel pretty crappy. And if I’m feeling crappy (and I’ve managed to quieten my mum guilt pretty well) then I can only imagine that there’s probably another 5.3 million or so mums who are feeling similar.
How do you work school holidays? Do you struggle to find a place you’re happy with or can afford? Have you found the perfect Holiday Club? Let me know in the comments.
*In this post I’m assuming that most of the men in the two-parent families are also out at work and that the women generally are the ones researching and booking these clubs. Apologies in advance to any men who don’t fit this assumption and who are swept along in this generalisation.