Thursday, 24 February 2011

Winter recess. Not exactly a vacation for me...

The Littleboys are on Winter Recess this week. (They don't call it half term here. Actually they don't talk about terms at all, it's 'semester' - I keep getting strange looks from people when I refer to 'next term' or 'end of term'. )

It's also known as Presidents' Week - Monday was a public holiday, Presidents' Day, celebrating the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Littleboy 1 made a puppet at school that had Lincoln's face on one side and Washington's on the other (with cotton wool balls to make Washington's white wig hair). I thought it was great. The boys were delighted with it and played games with it all the way to swimming lessons last week in the car....

Anyway, Winter Recess poses a problem for me at the moment, as I am, for the first time since the boys were born, working every day. When they are school, from 9 until 3, I can usually fit all my work into those hours (luckily I can work from home). But this week, I had to find some kind of childcare/entertainment for them for at least some of the day, as the job is only for three months and I can't really take a week off.

Luckily, America is full of 'vacation camps' and workshops specfically for this purpose, and I managed to find a reasonably priced indoor 'sports camp' where the boys play soccer, basketball and baseball all morning. The only problem is, it's only from 9.30 till 12, so time is of the essence when dropping and collecting them (and the afternoons are another story altogether).

Every other working mummy in town, as well as an army of SAHMs, must have also discovered this camp, because the arrival and departure for this place is a complete nightmare. Unusually for here, there are only about 10 parking spaces outside, and of course everybody drives huge tanks of cars. Everyone drives, and promptly double parks, blocking others in. You can tell who the working (or just very busy) Mums are, desperate to get away early in the morning, and infuriated if they are not able to because a mammoth SUV is in their way. Meanwhile other mums want to hang around, chatting, oblivious to the fact that their car is blocking someone else. It's total mayhem. My strategy is to drop them off very early and pick them up very late - but as the week goes on, others seem to be cottoning on to this cunning ploy...

Anyway, the combination of work, household and the boys has really been pretty challenging for me this week. I am exhausted and also I am starting to wonder; how on earth do working parents cope with half term in the UK (and indeed school holidays)? Do you always have to take holiday? Are there 'vacation camps' or the equivalent? I am hoping to work at least part-time when we return to England, but am beginning to wonder now if it will just be impossible.....Thoughts, please!

17 comments:

NFAH said...

I have argued ever since I discovered this whole "Half Term" thing in the UK, that this is one of several structural problems in the UK system that dis-incentivize professional women from being in the workplace at all. (The school run is my other frequent example.)

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Many schools in the UK offer a day camp during holidays and half terms, there are also companies such as Supercamps that offer camps during Easter and Summer.

A lot of parents (mums AND dads) I know go part time during half terms and one parent stays home for a couple of the days while another stays home the other two then both are home one day so they can have a family day.

Also, in a lot of families I know one parent will go part time and share the childcare with other families--having someone else's kids over has the benefit of entertaining one's own children so you can still get a bit of stuff done even when the kids are at home!

I've linked to you in my post today. :)

Conuly said...

Long Island may be different, but it's actually Midwinter Recess. Winter Recess was back in December. Spring break is - at least, here in civilized NYC - carefully scheduled to encompass both Passover and Good Friday.

When I was a kid, I don't think we had Midwinter Recess at all until I was seven or eight. I remember clearly getting off for Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday separately.

Julie said...

When my son was at school in the UK, Gingerbread, the lone parents organisation (but don't worry, they let 2 parent families in too) ran after school clubs and holiday clubs, so that could be something for you to look into. The rates aren't too bad, lower if you're a lone parent, and a bit higher if there are two of you. Hope this helps :-)

Expat mum said...

Ah but don't forget - you get decent amounts of holiday in the UK so you just might be able to swing it.

Muddling Along said...

Its a nice idea to go part time during holidays but with 25 days holiday this year we couldn't do it so will have to work out childcare

Iota said...

We just got Friday and Monday off school. Though we've managed to extend the number of days with a horrible virus which one child had before the long week-end, and another after it.

nappy valley girl said...

NFAH - It's true; I am dreading the school run, schoolbuses are a great thing about the US. However the US has mega-long summer holidays to contend with. I also see far fewer women going back to work after kids here than in the UK.....

Michelloui - yes, sharing could be the answer - although not sure I would want to inflict the boys on some poor friend for more than a day.....Thanks for the link.

Conuly - no, definitely Winter Recess here. December was Holiday Recess. Who knew?

Julie - thanks. I know a lot of schools have after-school clubs now in the UK, too - don't know if they cover half terms, though.

Expat Mum - hopefully, yes!

Muddling Along - yes, I'm sure there are ways and means of working it out. I just find the whole thing incredibly stressful (as I'm sure you do....).

Iota - isn't it strange how different parts of the US have such different holidays? I was told by one person they introduced Winter Recess here so that everyone could go home and stop spreading the bugs they'd picked up at school....

Knackered Mother said...

I work part time but with only one out of three at school I have gone the nanny route. Worth every penny and no half term nightmares. Won't last forever though so have got it all to come.

Conuly said...

Well, Lawn Guyland *is* weird :)

Different places have different vacations (not to mention different start/closing dates - in this area September - June is normal, but in other areas school runs August - May!) because the point of vacation is to save money by not opening the school on days when most people would be out anyway.

That's why NYC schools take the High Holy Days off, because we have a large Jewish population. In Phoenix, Arizona they take a week off for the rodeo (no, seriously) because otherwise a lot of kids simply wouldn't attend. One year when I was in high school there was debate about just unofficially giving us the day off because most kids were planning to skip to watch baseball anyway (no, really.) In fact, most teachers just phoned it in anyway, though my bio teacher deliberately scheduled an exam for that day because... I don't know, because she was a pain.

It's a very big country, and the conditions which exist in one area that make it reasonable to close schools don't exist in other areas. (And that's not getting into how different systems within an area can have different dates. Like, all the parochial schools have the same schedule, and all the yeshivas have the same schedule, but neither of them have the same schedule as the public schools. This is because they take off for their religious holidays and nobody else's. That makes sense, of course. Charter schools often have their own schedule as well, to allow for a longer school year.)

So it's not strange. It's just a big country, is all.

Mwa said...

Hardly worth it - such short hours. Holiday things in Belgium tend to extend to the full school hours.

Home Office Mum said...

Now that both of my boys are over 5, I send them to the local council run holiday club held at one of the schools. It looks dire. A big empty school hall with a few bits for arts and crafts and computers to play on, but they always have a ball (lots of football and dodgeball) and it costs the princely sum of £18 per child from 8.30am - 5pm. Which is a bargain.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

It's a great question, the 'what the heck do working mums do in the holidays in the UK?' I've got various friends who take all of August and two weeks at Easter off, some who have an au pair basically for the holidays, and others who have a full-on full-time nanny and barely make any money after paying her. There are lots of holiday sports camps in cities, but for rural friends it's a bit trickier, not least because it takes them an age to drop off and pick up. And I totally relate to your comments about other parents at pick-up. I sometimes wish there could be two drop-off queues - one for those with a deadline or office to get to, the other for those who'd like a catch-up. Can't see it catching on, though. Great about the job btw, hope it's fun.

Metropolitan Mum said...

Absolutely no clue - and one of the reasons we consider moving (back) to Sweden as one of our options in the mid term... xx

nappy valley girl said...

KM - yes, I can see that would make sense. I hope she's a good one!

Conuly - that figures, thanks for the lowdown.

Mwa - Believe me, it was worth it. I managed to cram so much work into those two and half hours I surprised even myself...

HomeOfficemum - that is indeed a bargain. And you can't really go wrong with boys and sport.

Angels - glad to hear that there are some options in cities- another reason to go back to London!

MetMum - ah yes, the Scandinavians are far more family/work friendly, aren't they? They probably have free camps all day.....

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Lots of interesting suggestions here....I honestly hadn't even considered what we will do when LLC is in school...another joy to look forward to! Hope the job is going well btw, stressors of winter recess aside.

'Cross the Pond said...

I hate to say it but I have no solution. But wine helps....