It’s tricky juggling childcare with your job – especially during the school holidays. As half term approaches (or has already arrived for some people), our Operations officer Angela write about how flexible working helps her make things work.
“I live in a family of four: two school-aged children and two working parents. That means there’s always a juggling act for me and my husband as to how we manage all the competing demands on our time alongside our jobs. There are different after school activities, parents’ evenings, sports days, play date requests, reading and homework. I work part time, two and a half days per week, normally working one full day and three half days. That does make some of the juggle easier but not everything fits into the time I don’t work.
Heart of the City are a really flexible employer. This means I can take time to go to sports days and parents’ evenings, making my hours up at other times. This flexibility works both ways – when I need to be at meetings and events outside of my normal working hours, I can do that.
The big juggle we have is how to manage the 13 weeks of school holidays across the year, particularly those six weeks in the summer. Even if my husband and I combined our annual leave, we don’t have enough time to look after our children for all the school holidays.
Planning for the holidays, whether it be one week or six, always feels like a bit of a jigsaw puzzle of childcare to me – I sit there with a printed calendar working out how to cover each day. During the lockdowns we worked from home with both of our children there – but this isn’t something we want to repeat as it wasn’t much fun for any of us! So, how do we fill all of that time?
This summer, with both our children on school holidays, we used the sports camp that they run for two weeks but that comes with a cost – add in a week away on holiday and that still leaves three weeks to cover! We took advantage of my husband’s generous annual leave entitlement and we’re lucky that my in-laws live close by and are still active enough to be able to look after two very lively boys, but it still didn’t add up to enough time.
That brings me to flexible working again.
That flexibility I have with Heart of the City also came into play over the school holidays. For two weeks I worked two longer days meaning that on the other days I only work a couple of hours – so I can spend some time with the children and save on childcare costs. When I do this, I make sure I tell the rest of the team what hours I’ll be working on those weeks, and make sure it’s in my calendar for everyone to see.
The juggling act always feels a little bit precarious, but having the flexibility and understanding with my work certainly makes it feel more manageable. Me and my employer both being flexible is key to making it work, so if you’re struggling over half terms and longer holidays, I really recommend asking your manager for more flexibility.”