Dads: Summer holidays – pleasure or pain?

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The holidays are over and the kids are back to school. Six weeks: the blink of an eye to some parents, an eternity to others. Summer days, drifting away.

Yes, I’m quoting song lyrics from Grease. (What’s that I hear you say? Tell me more, tell me more? Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.)

When you’re a dad, in particular when you’re a stay-at-home dad, are the summer holidays too long? For some, six weeks is more than enough, for others not enough and for some it’s a bit of both.

Tom from Diary of the Dad makes his feelings clear in his post Are the summer holidays too long? He points out that the six-week holiday exists for historic, practical reasons. In Victorian times, children would help with the harvest over the summer. That isn’t the case any more, so why do we persist with it?

Tom enjoys spending time with his children but he does note some of the downsides of the extended break:

“Children can fall into bad habits such as not reading enough and even forgetting important things they’ve learned. They also thrive on routine, so six weeks without one is far from ideal. It makes the return to school something of a shock to the system. No wonder they’re so tired for the first few weeks of the autumn term!”

From the title of his post, Oh yes! Back to school today, there’s no mistaking which side of the fence Nigel (DIY Daddy) sits on. That’s not because he didn’t enjoy his summer with his six-year-old twin daughters – he did – but because they were ready to go back and they enjoy school.

“When you are six years old the desire to learn is immense and school is the greatest place to learn, and I’m sure they are both missing their friends.”

John from DadblogUK was more conflicted, as he asks Did the summer holidays have to end? He remembers well previous years when:

“I have got to week four of the summer holidays and found myself, quite literally, shaking with anxiety, watching as the state of the house slides from ‘filthy and untidy’ status to ‘clean and tidy as an overcrowded Philippine jail’.”

I’m unsure about John’s prior experience of Filipino prisons but let’s take his word for it. What’s more interesting is understanding why he would have been happy for the holidays to continue (aside from putting off the inevitable DIY tasks that come with moving in to a new home). He explains:

“Will there be many more summer holidays like this one, when my kids enjoyed simple pleasures like playing at the seaside, walking in the countryside and inline skating and cycling? I guess we’ll have another year or two and then the kids, led by Helen as she naturally craves independence, will want to spend time with friends … The school holidays only last a few weeks each year. This year, I’m not celebrating them coming to an end. I’m wishing they could have gone on for a bit longer.”

For some parents, the end of summer marks a major milestone in their children’s lives: starting school. For Tom (Ideas4Dads), this September marked his youngest’s first day at school, producing bittersweet feelings.

“Glad they are back – although a slight tinge of sadness as our youngest has now started school. But there is also a big sense of relief they are now all at school.”

Such is the dichotomy of summer ending and school restarting – it’s rarely as cut and dried as it being solely a cause for celebration or a reason for sadness or anxiety.

For working dads, finding enough time to spend with our children during the summer is a challenge. Lewis from Adventure Brown says:

“I wish I could be off work longer to spend more time with mine. But I did manage a week in Scotland for some epic adventures with my kids.”

And for those families – like mine – where both parents work, that challenge is doubled. I work full-time; my wife works four days a week. So both of us are limited in terms of how many days we can take off a year it can be tricky to find a balance. We can take time off together so we can spend time as a family and go away. Or we can take time off individually to reduce the amount we have to spend on childcare. When you have three children, holiday club costs soon mount up. We often do a bit of both to mix things up and avoid putting the kids through day after day of holiday club. Some smaller days out, a few play-dates and then typically a big family holiday – this year we road-tripped our way around Europe.

I’ll leave the final word, though, to Dan from Don’t Believe The Hype. No matter how many exciting days out and trips you plan for the kids, they’re not always as grateful as they could be and will make you wonder why you bothered. Here’s the story Dan shared with me:

“I took my six-year-old lad to London. I showed him the spot at Charing Cross where I first met his mum. We went to Trafalgar Square and I showed him the spot where I later proposed, and explained that without that proposal he wouldn’t be here. We went to the South Bank and watched the skaters, then popped over to the National History Museum to learn about dinosaurs. On the way back I asked him what the best part of his day was. His answer? The improvised game of footie he had with some lads in the garden behind the museum …”

Sometimes you just can’t win, can you?

Anyhow, school is back, summer is over … and mince pies are appearing in the shops. How many days is it until Christmas, then?

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About Tim Liew

Tim, also known as @thatchamdad, is a blogger, a podcaster, a father of three (aged 11, 9 and 7) and a master of none. By his own admission he’s forever stuck somewhere in the mid-1980s, probably a Thursday. In between bouts of nostalgia, complaining about his aching joints and compiling endless music playlists, he has been writing about his experiences as a working dad on his blog Slouching towards Thatcham since 2008.