Holiday childcare…the juggle is real

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When the girls were little I naively believed that childcare struggles would drift into oblivion as they reached the nirvana state of free childcare; School.

I was wrong.

In fact, it’s more a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire, as training days, sickness, half term breaks, summer holidays, two week half terms and an endless plethora of ‘PTA events’ can wreak havoc with working a 9-5 job.

I took the step back into employment with open eyes, and even considered seeking out a school term time position, right from dinner lady to considering teacher training, but in the end, fate lead me back to a project management role in the pharmaceutical industry, which lets face it, doesn’t lean well to term time hours.

I didn’t want to let that stop me, and with a fire in my belly I took that step, safe in the knowledge that lots of women don’t work in a school, lot’s of women don’t work term time hours, and lots of women manage.

In seeking out childcare options (which for us were pretty limited) we landed the most amazing childminder that I’d been praying would become available, to offer wrap around care we required to get me to my 9-5.30 job, 45 minutes away from home.

The cost of a couple of hours before school and after school, drop offs, pick ups and meals thrown in isn’t for the faint hearted, and had I not managed to land a decent wage, wouldn’t have been a financially viable option in the return to work at all. But, our driver wasn’t financial and we signed on the line, happy we had found an option that worked for us.

What we didn’t do however, was sign up to holiday childcare, which financially would have tipped the balance between the viability of working at all. It would have made us worse off, and frankly, the bill of a six week holiday doesn’t bear thinking about.

And so, here we are. Four weeks into the new job, and with our first holiday on the horizon. The six week summer holidays aren’t far away either…eek.

It’s time to figure out exactly how this is going to work…I can feel a spreadsheet coming on.

Annual Leave

I guess the most obvious plan is to figure out how Dad Muddling Through and I can book annual leave across the summer. By taking a week as a family and then two sandwiched weeks each, that’s half the summer holidays covered. We do however need to be sensible and ensure we have enough leave for the October two weeks, and for Christmas, plus the all too inevitable unplanned events that family life throws up.

But by cutting the 6 weeks into three, it already feels a little more manageable.

Family

We have always hated asking for help. It never sits well and makes us feel mega awkward about putting others out so that we can have a day off, night out, at the cost of someone else’s time. But now is the time for us to get over that and beg steal or borrow help from our three sets of parents, who are all retired, work in schools, on shift and are ultimately, available during the some of the school holidays.

Whilst we’d never dream of asking for a regular block booking to consume their summer, between all the grandparents, I’m hoping the girls will have some days to remember over the summer with the people who love them most.

Kid swap

After the family, there are the friends who are like family – the ones you know inside out, the ones your kids have grown up playing with their kids, and the super Mums you couldn’t have made it through motherhood without.

The difference here is that instead of asking for an act of unconditional love, you can negotiate a mutually convenient arrangement, especially if you work part time. Plan out a couple of days where you can help each other out, and that’s another chunk covered. The added bonus here is that the kids will be in summer holiday heaven playing with their friends, oblivious to the fact this is childcare at all. Chuck them all in the garden with a paddling pool and some ice poles, and you will be summer dreaming…

Activity Day Camps

Another option which has come into my sights over the last few years are holiday clubs. Never really having paid much attention when I was a stay at home Mum, or when the girls were little, it looked like an expensive way to entertain the kids over the holidays; But now I get it.

I’ve seen and heard posters offering day camps at various clubs and sports centres; the girls gymnastics and swimming pool offer some. Schools can run periods of cover during the summer too, where fun activities and sports go on, leaving you a cheap form of childcare whilst you head off to work. I’m not sure how happy my kids would be about me taking them to school during the holidays though 😉

The options are endless with holiday camps, and due to the continued need for childcare cover during the summer, there are a host of private activity day camp centres all over the U.K.

Barracudas activity day camps have 46 locations all over the U.K. and unlike less custom built centres, can offer extender hours from 8am to 6pm.

Branded Outstanding by Ofsted, the over 80 activities could be getting up to whilst you are at work, will frankly make you wish you’d taken the day off after all.

Bouncy castles, electric go karts, fencing, face painting, Ooey Gooey, Lab rats, dance, drama…frankly it sounds like so much fun, I’m sure we’d have no problems packing the girls off here.

The prices at Barracudas for summer holidays in my area (Kent – based on Maidstone camp) are around £40 per day, varying by a few pounds up and down. There are discounts for entire weeks (£179), which compared to our childminder for example would save us well over a hundred pounds for the two girls to attend. It’s a totally viable option, especially as the girls get bigger and want to do more cool stuff! (Barracudas accept kids from 4 1/2 to 14).

Childminder

If, like us you have an incredibly supportive and understanding childminder, it’s worth asking if you can book any odd days over the holidays, even though you have a term time contact. Our amazing childminder was happy to be a back up if we should need her and she is available (she has a life too of course!). It’s always nice to have the peace of mind that we have a fall back option. It’s pricey, but it’s convenient, familiar, round the corner and will also keep the girls in touch with her ready for September. Even if we booked a couple of days, we’d still be saving overall as we wouldn’t be paying the usual weekly bill.

So there we have i;, we have got the upcoming half term covered and we’re already making plans for the summer six week biggy. We can totally do this.

Any tips?

x MMT

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