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Should kids get two months off school over summer? Mums give their end of term report

With just a matter of weeks until most schools here are out for summer, Karen Ireland asks three local mothers how they cope with their children over the longest vacation period of the year.

Published 15/06/2016

Balancing act: Lucinda Maginess with her children Lara and Liam Og at home in Dromore
Balancing act: Lucinda Maginess with her children Lara and Liam Og at home in Dromore
Balancing act: Lucinda Maginess with her children Lara and Liam Og at home in Dromore
Easily bored: Sarah believes Isaac’s school holidays are far too long
Keeping busy: Sarah Tugwell playing cards with son Isaac
Quality time: Janet Booker with her husband Alan and three children Sophie, Harry and William

Like it or loathe it the summer holidays are almost upon us. Eight glorious weeks of no uniforms and no packed lunches, teamed up with no childcare and no routine.

While some parents relish the opportunity to spend quality time with their children for others it can be a logistical nightmare juggling full-time work and bored children for two long months.

Some schools in England tackled the issue recently by having the summer break shortened and spread out throughout the year.

We talk to three local mums to find out how the handle the summer time scenarios.

'Why can't time off be spread more evenly?'

Lucinda Maginess (41) is married to Liam and they live in Dromore with their two children, Liam Og (12) and Lara (10). Lucinda works as a credit control manager and Liam runs his own butchery business. She says:

Fortunately, my job allows me to work fewer hours in the summer months in a bid to accommodate the children while they are off school, so I work a 15-hour week in July and August.

But working fewer hours means less money, so we can't afford to take the children out as often on day trips.

It is a very expensive time as obviously they want to go out and enjoy their time off, too.

My husband has just taken over a butchery business, so we are working hard at building that up this year and won't get away on a summer holiday.

We have borrowed a friend's caravan for break soon, though.

The summer holidays are long but by the time they come around everyone is tired and ready for a break. I like the freedom of not worrying about uniforms every Sunday night and the children are more relaxed. It is really good to get off the hamster wheel.

We live in the country, so it can be difficult to keep the children entertained as they don't have friends around them to play with. If the weather is good they go out to the paddling pool or the trampoline but if it's raining they are constantly bored.

When I am working in the summer months, my family help out with the kids. Luckily I have a big family with plenty of sisters and we all help each other out. I don't know how we would manage if I didn't have the opportunity to reduce my hours at work. It would be very difficult.

My children are at in-between ages - they are too old for things like teddy bears' picnics and too young to keep themselves occupied all day long. Liam goes to football camp over the summer months which keeps him happy and Lara goes to dance, but again these things add up in terms of cost. I do make sure they meet up with their friends during the holidays, so they have company and see people from school.

Inevitably, there will be choruses of 'I'm bored,' so I take them to see friends or family as they love playing with their cousins. I think it would help if the holidays were spread more evenly over the school year."

‘Eight weeks is too long... even Isaac gets bored’

Sarah Tugwell (44) lives in Banbridge with her son Isaac (11). She is a deputy principal with the Civil Service. She says:

I find managing the summer holidays with Isaac a nightmare. As a single parent I need childcare for him most of the summer.

I work full-time in a high pressured job, overseeing the IT systems and premises for 1,400 staff in the Civil Service and have a team of 36 working for me. It is tough enough managing work and childcare throughout the year, never mind in the summer, too.

Meanwhile, the women who are mums in my team naturally request to work term time only, so it’s another issue I need to take into consideration.

I definitely think the holidays are too long and should be broken up into a series of short breaks throughout the school term. Eight weeks is far too long and even Isaac gets bored. He loves school and misses it over the holidays.

Isaac’s dad and I are separated and he lives in England. So I manage most of the childcare over the summer holidays.

At the moment, the plan is for me to take two weeks off in the summer and then Isaac will go and stay with his dad for three weeks.

For the remaining time I will juggle things between my mum, my sister and my cousins.

While I’m a single mum, I do have a great support network around me and am fortunate to still have both my parents to help me out.

However, I think that is tough on Isaac as he is going to different people throughout the holidays and, rather than be in his own home with all his things, he ends up spending the day going shopping with his granny.

He enjoys visiting his cousins, though, as they can get out and run about together.

I don’t like relying on other people, as they might have plans of their own and not be able to help with Isaac when I need them. I tend to work longer days when he is with his dad to build up flexi time in case I need it for time off during the summer.

The eight weeks can also prove costly as we have more days out which are not cheap.

While I try to devote my fortnight off work to spending quality time with Isaac, because I work long hours there are inevitably things I need to do at home as well.

Isaac loves his iPad and making movies.

But, like all children his age, he gets bored easily, so I am constantly thinking of things to do that don’t cost a lot of money.

Last year we went camping to France for three weeks and it was fantastic — but I couldn’t afford a big holiday like that every year.

This year, I will try to get a last minute holiday deal in the sun, as Isaac loves the pool and you can’t depend on the weather here.

When I was married I lived in England and the school holidays were shorter there and it was definitely easier to manage.”

‘The holidays aren’t too long, we need a break’

Janet Booker (44) is a credit union manager and is married to Alan (49), a civil servant. They live in Belfast with their three children, William (17), Harry (13) and Sophie (11). She says:

Both Alan and I work full-time, so we have always had to juggle when it comes to the children and the summer holidays.

I don’t think the holidays are too long as most of us are ready for a break by the time the summer comes. And children deserve to be kids and have fun for a couple of months.

It does annoy me when mums, who aren’t in a paid job, say they can’t wait for the holidays to be over and the children to be back at school. I would love to be able to spend longer with my children.

I do get some time off, but it is only a couple of weeks. We have a caravan for family holidays which we head off in during the summer when we can all be together.

The rest of the time I am lucky as grandparents step in and help out during the holidays.

The older two can look after themselves and do their own thing but Sophie needs looked after.

I have always tried to use summer schemes and holiday clubs in churches and communities as much as possible. I think these are great for keeping the children entertained and getting them out and about with other kids.

Some parents feel the summer holidays are expensive and keeping the children engaged and entertained costs a fortune but I think there are plenty of cheap and cheerful things to do — if you look.

As well as the clubs, I like to get the children to the pool which doesn’t cost a fortune or out on their bikes if the weather is good. To give me more time to spend with the children, I will work two longer evenings, so I can finish a few hours earlier two days a week.

Having a picnic in the local park is another fun and inexpensive thing to do.

We like to meet up with other families, so the kids don’t get bored and bicker with each other. I prefer to keep the kids active, otherwise they spend their time sitting in the house on their iPads or glued to the Playstation.

William has a part-time job now, so that keeps him busy and he also plays golf and goes to the gym.

Some weekends we go glamping or camping — the latter is about £20 a night, both are affordable getaways when the summer months feel like they are dragging.”

Belfast Telegraph

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