The long school holidays are looming—and, with them, a sense of dread for working parents

Jen Hogan: My head spins at the thought of trying to be everything to everyone all summer long

`Three long months and I’m feeling every hour of it . . .I suggest to them that there’s plenty of housework needs doing if they’re bored. I have become my mother.`'
This summer, parents are looking for tips, advice and information on how to help their children thrive during the holiday months. You can read all about it at

There’s only days left. Days until all the children are on their summer holidays and the struggle to juggle steps up a notch.

We’re supposed to pretend that it’s all wonderful and perhaps even lament the joys of our own summer holidays from school.

Long summer days where we left the house after breakfast, and made grass houses from the cuttings in the field – and no, I didn’t grow up in the country, this was in the field in a housing estate in Tallaght – played rounders ‘til the strings on our tennis racquets nearly broke, and daren’t go back in to the house to use the loo in case our mammies didn’t let us out again.

Those were the days, before suncream and bike helmets and houses without a stay-at-home parent.


Or let’s call it what it really was, the days before working mothers. We don’t hear about working fathers, also known as fathers. The conversations we have are about working mothers and having it all.

The question of dads being able to have a career and children never arose – these things weren’t considered mutually exclusive for men – nor was there any mention of them having it all, when they had both.

But now we have a bit of a dilemma, an uncomfortable truth. Because in the olden days, when lots of mothers were at home, children could play freely day in, day out. But now, well it’s different.

Nobody considers schools to be childcare, but the reality is a minor can’t be left unsupervised and so the very long summer holidays can bring with them an air of dread for those who need to continue working throughout.

And it’s obvious in the Whatsapp groups already. The parents of younger teens, searching hopelessly for something to occupy their sons and daughters, not yet resigned to their three-month fate like the veteran parents of older secondary schoolers.

The parents of primary schoolchildren are trying to co-ordinate camps with friends – so there’s more enthusiasm and less of a battle on their hands. All this of course presumes you have the disposable income to fund these camps which, let’s be honest, are often solutions to childcare needs in the time of a childcare crisis.

But dare anybody complain about the pressures of summer, when they’re lucky enough to have it all, they shall be smite down.

“Why did you bother having children at all?” one mum said she was asked when she dared to mention her genuine worries. My own usual reply to that sort of question is “to help with the impending pension crisis” or “for content” but alas this does little to pacify the naysayers.

I had a conversation with another mother, who suggested that anything to do with school was perceived to be a women’s issue. I’m inclined to agree with her. That wonderful all-encompassing umbrella term, covering so much more than gynaecological and hormonal health – the battle to buy children’s shoes during a pandemic anyone? Or indeed anything that falls under responsibilities for children.

That’s not to suggest dads aren’t playing their part. But we’re still a long way from changing the narrative and practicalities. Does anyone ask men why they bothered having children if they were going to work?

Currently, it’s day #153, or thereabouts, of the first month of the summer holidays in the Big Mother house. Three months off for the teens. Three long months and I’m feeling every hour of it. The youngest teen has asked again what we’re doing today. I remind him I have to work. He gives me the doe eyes and the guilt kicks in. I suggest to them that there’s plenty of housework needs doing if they’re bored. I have become my mother. The room quickly clears – of teenagers, not the random stuff that actually needed clearing.

These ones at least are semi self-sufficient, meaning the guilt passes quickly. But what of next week when the younger ones are home too – just for the bare two months. My head spins at the thoughts of trying to be everything to everyone for the duration.

Still, we’re all the same – roping in who we can, where we can and when we can. It’s the only way to get through it – but it’s a far cry from the leisurely school summer holidays of my youth. I never did think to ask my mother if it was leisurely for her, mind.

For now, to block out the dizzying ask ahead, I’ll focus on an end to the dreaded homework – hurrah – the reclaiming of our evenings, and the family time that’s harder to fit in during the school year.

Though I’ll wonder, as I reminisce about my own school summer holidays, if my mother sometimes questioned why the summer holidays needed to be quite so long then too.

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