Summer is a time when work responsibilities must be juggled with childcare, family life and spending time together. We caught up with some dads at our Peterborough Pre-schools to talk about how their families manage shared workloads and childcare responsibilities over summer holidays.
How do you spend quality time with your family over school holidays?
Making happy memories with family and friends over the school holidays is important, but it can be challenging. Dad of three Alex often travels away for work and can be gone for three weeks at a time, but when he’s home they always try to find affordable days out:
“We try and spend as much time together as a family as possible but it’s hard as I work full time and my wife doesn’t, as the childcare would be too expensive, but that does mean that she understandably struggles when the kids are all off school together.”
As parents struggle to juggle work commitments with childcare duties over the summer holidays, many rely on support from extended family. Cliff is a Grandparent who looks forward to spending time with his grandson over the summer:
“I’ll normally take my grandson to places like the park, as sometimes there are events, but during summer there are often more people, so you end up queuing a bit more. But there are activities out there if you can find them. We’ll often head out to the café for a treat or go to the library.”
In contrast it can be difficult when you don’t have family support and both parents work, as dad Richard explains below:
“We don’t really have a lot of relatives around to help, although sometimes my mum is able to help out. My partner and I work different shifts – she works full time and I work night shifts, so as soon I get home she has to go to work. It’s not easy but it’s just how we’re able to cope with costs at the moment.”
Are you worried about additional costs in school holidays?
From our research we know that many families will be going without this year so that they can afford extra costs during school summer holidays. 70% are worried about food costs and 76% are worried about the cost of activities to entertain their children.
Alex and his partner are struggling to save up to get married because of household expenses.
“Food is so expensive and it’s where a lot of our money goes”
“There’s always washing machines or school clothes to buy! I’ll find myself saying things like ‘we’ve got food on the shelf… we’re not going out!”’… It all adds up. “Food is so expensive and it’s where a lot of our money goes… It feels like a revolving door, where we’re constantly putting the washing machine on.”
One other dad we spoke to told us he and his partner work from home so the summer’s usually a really positive time for them as means more time together, although he does worry about the additional financial strain.
“There is an added financial strain during the summer though which can be difficult as I’m self-employed, so the money can be good one week but not the next. It’s just about finding affordable stuff to do, as a trip to soft play can easily cost you £40.”
Dad Pete agrees that the additional costs of days out and extra food adds up.
“‘We do try and take the kids out during the summer holidays and they’re at home more, which means they eat more, so summer can mean extra costs.”
What activities are you planning this summer to entertain your children?
Alex’s three children are all different ages so it can be difficult to find things they can do as a family.
“Our children are one, five and 14, so with that age range finding something they can all do is a big issue. We go to all sorts of fun days but often something that works for one of them won’t work for all… bowling is our go-to answer as everyone enjoys that, but it’s expensive.”
Andy’s partner works in a school so she’s at home with the three children during school holidays, which is blessing as Andy works longs shifts and is often tired. Like Alex though, there’s a big age gap between Andy’s children, which can make things difficult.
‘The 5-year-old can do their own thing, and the 11-year-old would be happy to just play on their console, but finding something for the four-year-old to do is difficult. The trouble is there’s not a lot to do in our area, you end up doing the same things and it gets boring.’
Because Richard and his partner work such long hours, when they do get time off it’s even more important that they make the most of it.
“Perhaps because we’re so busy we’re really into our days off and if it’s a weekend I’m off work we’ll all pack up and go to the beach together.”
What challenges do you face as a single parent over summer holidays?
The summer holidays can be challenging for single parents, as dad Chris explains. He is separated from his four-year-old daughter’s mum so she stays with her mum during the week, and he has her over the weekend.
“Because it’s just at weekends there’s a high expectation that I have to do something nice with my daughter as I don’t just want to sit at home and have her be bored… If I had her full time maybe I wouldn’t feel that way?”
Another dad we spoke to agreed with Chris that there is more pressure when you have a more limited amount of time together.
“I have my daughter every other weekend and there is a pressure to enjoy that time. I put a lot of work into making sure there’s something to do when she’s here, so we can share special time together… I think it’s important to maintain a strong relationship.”
This summer is looking to be a challenging time for families across the country – something we address through our Make Happy Memories summer campaign. If, however, any of the issues raised in this story are things affecting you in your life you may wish to contact our free and confidential support service FamilyLine.