(C) Liverpool Echo
Anna Forster, owner of Liverpool based Mary Mary Florals
Just when working parents finally get their children into primary school and the burden of childcare is released a smidge, along comes the summer holidays.
Six whole weeks of fun and free time? Or the best part of two months juggling schedules with friends, relatives, expensive holiday clubs and work.
This week I spoke to Liverpool parents feeling anxious as end of term approaches. Anna, a 33 year old florist and owner of Mary Mary Floral Design from Liverpool says: “The summer clubs always get booked up super quick. So unless you’re really organised, you can miss out and end up a bit stuck.
“Once my mum put me in Ian Rush’s football academy at St Margaret’s and I was the only girl there. I guess she missed the boat for most places too… Single mum problems!
“My daughter Grace is booked into the Drama Week at the Everyman Theatre. It’s an incredible experience for the children but it’s only from 10am until 4pm and costs ?100 per week. Most of the summer holiday clubs cost over ?100 per week, so that’s ?600 for childcare for each child over summer. A huge chunk from anyone’s wage.
“My work has just been featured in the latest edition of British Vogue. And with only one employee, there’s no possibility of me taking my foot off the gas work wise, especially now.
“I’m extremely fortunate that Grace is old enough to come into work with me, and enjoys it a lot of the time. God knows what I’d do if I had an office job that didn’t allow any flexibility. I’ve no no idea how families who work, pay for nursery for their youngest and then pay for summer schools for older children, actually cope.
“There doesn’t seem to be much in the community that supports older children over summer either. I wonder what will Grace do when she’s in high school? Just hang out with friends and come to work with me, I guess?”
Between June 23 and July 4 2021 the TUC (Trades Union Congress) put out a survey to find out how working parents were going to manage childcare over the summer holidays. Over 36,000 parents responded.
Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of parents with primary aged children do not have sufficient childcare for the summer holidays. This rises to three quarters (76 per cent) for single parents.
Laura, a former solicitor from Liverpool didn’t return to work after welcoming her second child into the world. The stress and cost of finding childcare to cover the school holidays outweighed the benefit of returning to the career she loves and worked hard for.
She said: “Sometimes I think about going back to work. But when I think about having to juggle school holidays it just seems like so much hassle, especially when the the legal profession is not best known for being very family friendly!”
Nicole’s baby is only one and she worries about the school holidays already. She said: “Me and my partner were literally talking about it last night. We don’t know how we will manage. Luckily we have each other to share the load between us. I guess we’ll just use up our annual leave? I can’t begin to imagine how single parents cope!”
Responding to the TUC, nearly half (48 per cent) will be using some form of flexible working, to help them manage childcare over the six week holidays. Two in five (39 per cent) will combine working from home and childcare and over a quarter (27 per cent) will be working more flexibly than usual.
A 25 year old non parent from Bootle told me she often uses her annual leave to care for her cousin’s children, as they don’t have much help. Stacey, 36, from Skelmersdale, changed jobs and became a teaching assistant. “Purely so I can have the school holidays off and be there for my three children.”
Around one in eight mums responding to the TUC survey said they will have to take unpaid leave and a similar percentage said they would have to reduce their hours. There are lots of great art, drama and sports clubs across the city, but they are expensive.
Some children are shy and simply don’t like to mix with new peers each week. The six week holidays is causing of a lot of stress for parents and the increased holiday prices don’t help either. For many parents, their only option is to take a financial hit to manage childcare over the holidays.
My son used to spend a couple of weeks at I.M Marsh multi-sports camp and half of every other week on the Wirral or in Lancashire with family. Now he’s 13 he’ll likely spend a lot of his time at FireFit youth hub in Toxteth or out with friends.
Parents of younger children across the country, are currently getting their diary’s out and arranging military style childcare coordination with friends and family.
Ria said: “The system doesn’t make sense – 12 full weeks off school each year and we’re only allocated five weeks annual leave from work? It’s impossible!”
The TUC made recommendations that employers need to be supportive of their employees and recognise the challenges working parents and particularly mums face. Losing the skills and talents of so many women by forcing them out of the workforce will not benefit anybody.
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