School Holidays Are A Total Freaking Nightmare

July 4, 2018
4 mins read

What were they thinking when they created so many ‘holidays’ for children, asks a traumatised GARY STEEL


I know a bunch of schoolteachers of both primary and secondary school persuasion, and they’re all fine, hard-working individuals getting by on modest wages.

Nor do I begrudge them their long break over Christmas, or the several term breaks during the year. Many of them don’t get to kick up their feet in quite the way we might expect, due to the modern-day scourge of copious admin required by all those organisations that delight in creating reams of red tape for one and all.

But there’s a problem with the holidays, and I’d really like to understand why the heck nobody ever does anything about it. It’s a problem that creates a huge amount of stress piled on top of stress and is very possibly a gateway to insidious mental illness amongst traumatised parents.

Life is hard enough already for parents trying to bring home the metaphorical bacon and still get enough quality time with their kids and partners.

The Christmas/New Year holidays are a nightmare because they go on for so damn long, but at least there’s usually some good weather in there somewhere, along with a more generous supply of friends and relatives to take some of the weight of responsibility off stressed parental shoulders. The more kids the merrier and Yuletide can be a bit like that. Gangs of marauding, out-of-control little monsters might wreck the house, but at least they’re playing with each other, which takes the onus off Mum and Dad to endlessly entertain them. And if the parents are really lucky they’ll get a break that’s sometimes even long enough to slip in a sly gin and tonic.

Although the summer holiday seems to go on forever – and that’s not a good thing when you’ve got kids – it’s the holiday that starts this coming Monday and grinds on for two execrable weeks that really tests the constitution of even the most stolid adult. While it’s sometimes possible for at least one parent to get decent time off from their job over the summer, the dreary winter months are another thing entirely. We’re told that we get four weeks’ annual leave but that’s surely a myth. And anyway, how many parents get to co ordinate time off with school holidays?

And there’s the rub. How did this travesty occur? For the next two weeks a large proportion of our youngsters will have nothing better to do with themselves than get bored and get into trouble. Meanwhile, their diligent, caring parents will still have to hold down jobs and find some way to entertain the little blighters.

Holidays might be fun and games for those with an extended whanau. I don’t know, because we don’t have any family on tap to take up the slack. And because most of our friends in the small settlement we live are teachers, they and their kids are less likely to be around as playmates during the holidays. On top of that, babysitters are as rare as hens’ teeth here.

It’s not quite so bad for school-age children. If you read the classifieds there are always fun holiday activities that school-age kids can do. Unfortunately, there’s nothing for those of us with babies, toddlers or pre-schoolers. That’s right: none of the advertised school holiday activities are suitable for the tiniest citizens. And let’s face it, it’s the toddlers and pre-schoolers who are the most demanding and the least understanding about these things.

Then there’s the little fact that I (try to) work at home. Now, I’ve done everything I can think of short of putting bars on my windows and a full-on interior locking system on my office door to create a separate working environment where I can concentrate on my job and meet my deadlines. None of it has worked. A few weeks ago, our 3-and-a-half year old figured out how to open my office door, and I’ve tried to explain to her that she’s never to come in when the door is closed, but my instructions just haven’t worked. I love working at home but I especially love the six hours she’s at kindergarten three days a week, which represent the fullest extent of the dedicated work time I get.

My wife is a full-time Mum and she loves it. She’s also a dedicated foodie so inevitably, I work at my computer and she’s a stay-at-home Mum who is in charge of the household and cooking. We didn’t plan things along these boring traditional lines, but it’s what’s had to happen. But the problem with one child and no whanau or support system (apart from one or two very sweet neighbours who take the heat off for an hour or so every now and then) is that the child can get really bored and exasperated at having to spend so much time with her Mum, and vice versa.

And that’s in a normal week where there’s kindergarten and a few hours at play centre and improvised sessions with other kids.

During school term there are too many activities to fit in. Our child would love to take ballet lessons and gymnasium lessons and go to Mainly Music because she loves singing, too. But all of these activities are available only during school term, and all of them are in recess during the holidays.

Why is that? It’s when we’re desperate for things to do, and ways to get the child through yet another long day. How do other parents cope, anyway?

And why has this situation evolved in this way? It’s no fun and it’s endlessly taxing of our nervous health and, well, it’s a freaking nightmare.






Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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