The summer holidays are upon us - and while that fact will be met with joy by millions of primary school pupils, this six-week period can often leave mums and dads with a bit of a headache when it comes to childcare.
So, what are your options if, like the majority of parents, you're expecting to struggle finding the time to care for your young ones during normal working hours?
Family and friends
Charity begins at home, so they say, which is where your search for childcare will usually begin. If your children's grandparents are at an age where they are working reduced hours or are even already in retirement, then this could be where your youngsters spend the majority of their time during the summer holidays.
However, it's understandable that you might feel bad asking for a favour from them every single day and what begins as an act of generosity on their behalf may end up leading to resentment if they feel as though you are continually taking advantage of them.
For this reason, it is well worth drawing up a list of options that you can divide your kids' time up between. You may have willing friends or siblings who might be able to lend a hand occasionally, while fitting the days or weeks that you can get off work in the schedule as well.
Probably the closest things we have to the US 'summer camps', playschemes are activity-based groups that are held all over the country during the school break.
These can be ideal if you're working the nine-to-five, as they are designed so you can drop the children off on your way into the office and pick them up on your way home.
One of the major advantages of playschemes is that they encourage you child's social skills, as they will be interacting with new faces every single day. Another advantage is that the minimum ratio of youngsters aged between four and eight to adults is eight-to-one.
Activities cover everything from sports and crafts to excursions and stage performances. For more information on what's available in your area, your best bet is to check out your school's notice board or your local council's website.
Since new laws were introduced last month, an employee has the right to request flexible working if they have been at their company for at least 26 weeks. The business then can only refuse the applicant if they have a 'reasonable' reason to do so.
For parents, this could be an ideal solution over the summer holidays, giving them the option to:
- Work from home
- Reduce their hours
- Use flexitime
- Job share
- Compress their hours into fewer days
All of these solutions give mums and dads the opportunity to spend more time with their children and can be the perfect answer to finding an acceptable work/life balance.
While it's unlikely you'll be able to escape work for the entire six-week break, if you collaborate with other parents, then this could help a group of you organise childcare while school is out.
Of course, the downside to this is that you will end up looking after other peoples kids as well as your own when you take your annual leave, but the benefit is that you have a support system in place where you don't have to feel guilty about sending your youngsters to spend time with someone who you're not paying.
Another plus point is that if your children get on well with the other parents' boys and girls, then they get to spend the summer holidays with their friends.
Ultimately, getting through the summer holidays may take a bit of ingenuity, a bit of flexibility, a bit of compromise and probably calling in one or two favours along the way as well. But don't worry, it can be done!