parent opinion

'Is it just me, or are school holidays too bloody long?'

I love spending time with my two beautiful boys, and I love summer holidays. There's beach swims, ice cream, brunch dates, and the simple joy of being able to relax and experience life's pleasures. 

But would a holiday still feel like a holiday if we didn't have a normal life and routine on either side? I love holidaying but I also have a job. A budget. Household responsibilities. Annual leave limitations. Health limitations.

Which is why (sorry teachers) I think the six-week summer school holidays are too long. By at least one week, but probably two. And don't get me started on that last Monday in January that sneaks up to surprise me when I discover the kids return to school on a Tuesday. 

Watch: The things parents never say on holidays. Story continues below.

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When I became a mother, I signed up to love and care for my growing kids no matter what and *some* might say this also includes during the school holidays. I guess it does, but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

The whole concept of worrying about school holiday care only kicks in when you have to plan for it as your child approaches school age.

When you first have a baby, there's maternity leave. Then if you so choose, there are different early education options that synchronise with regular work hours and annual leave requirements. 


Then comes the official education years and the school system. Suddenly there are short days and approximately 13 weeks of holiday during the year - six over summer - that parents have to simply 'make work'.

In the distant past, it was the women who did all the 'making work' while the men earned the household wage, so the system functioned for most. Now the system is much less functional if both people in a relationship need or wish to work, or if you are a single parent. 

Ask any parent of school-age kids how they cover the school holidays and their answers will be different. There is no universal system and everyone has to use whatever resources they have at their disposal.

I remember instigating a panicked conversation with my sister-in-law as my eldest son approached school age. Her two boys are a few years ahead of mine and it suddenly dawned on me that summer school holidays just... happened. I exasperatedly asked how she and her parent friends made it work. Her answer, like every parent's answer since, was 'we juggle'. 

While this seemed like a highly unsatisfactory answer, we too have been doing 'the juggle' every holiday since 2016 (pandemic lockdown years included) and it is especially challenging during the six-week mega break. 

This summer for example, my husband Jules and I booked an actual holiday, we had a couple of days of grandparent care (as mine are visiting from the UK), time with friends, and my husband took some additional leave.


Listen to 'the true cost of school holidays' on Mamamia Daily. Story continues below.

Then there are the other two weeks which we have filled with a mix of sporting camps. Outdoor activities are good but expensive and they also carry the risk of cancellation because of bad weather. (I obsessively monitor that Bureau of Meteorology radar like a hawk as we have no 'Plan B' if it rains.)

Other families choose vacation care options run by private operators to cover the holiday gap. Depending on where you live this might be doable, or a rather expensive option. 

I tried but found it hard to both secure a place AND find one that my eldest son wanted to go to. (There was the sorry year I paid top dollar so he could play 'tip' inside a sweaty scout hall and be miserable. I felt terrible guilt, so we don't talk about vacation care anymore.)

Today when I finish work and head up to join my husband (who is on leave) and the kids on the Mid North Coast, I realise we still have OVER three weeks left of the holidays.

It's been fun but I'm SO ready to embrace a normal routine again.

Rewind to mid-December and we all enjoyed kicking off the holiday season with a weekend away with friends at the beach. Two days of tennis camp followed, with some family beach days over Christmas. Then we had our official holiday week in Victoria filled with trips to galleries and museums and foodie treats.

Now the boys are having a week up the coast with extended family and you know what they'll want when next Monday comes around and my husband and I go back to work?


1. Entertaining. 

2. Treats, treats, and more treats.

And who can blame them? Holidays are fun, and we are lucky to have the resources to do fun things with them. But fun times cannot and do not last forever.

On Monday at 7am, one of my sons will ask me: "What are we doing this morning?" I'll take them to the beach and we might spend a couple of hours there.

It will still only be 10.15am.


Someone will want to know what we're doing 'now' and also 'this afternoon' and someone else will be cranky. (Okay, that person is me.)

Then I'll break it to them I have to go get groceries, or put one of the 16 loads of post-beach holiday washing on. We are all now cranky, so the screens will come out. Later in the week I'll ferry them to three-hour cricket camps (please God, let it be sunny) and juggle that around work. 

Everyone will watch a lot of television in the afternoons and the snack cupboard will be fully stocked.

With five weeks of juggling already under our belts, SURELY we have all had enough of the holidaying? Alas, we must soldier on.

We will crawl to the end, trying to make it work as best we can with as much enthusiasm as we can muster.

We had a great summer full of memories that I hope will last a lifetime, but when the kids finally do go back to school, I will pack those lunchboxes with a pep in my step.

It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing.

How do you feel about the six-week holidays? Tell us in the comments below.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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