Metfriendly CEO Annette Petchey talks about the expense of family life, in particular during the school summer holidays.
Camps and pants
It’s summer, which means a number of things in my house. Some make life easier, some make it harder.
On the “Oh, thank goodness” list are:
- The end of the school year is nigh.
No more realising we haven’t bought enough stuff/the right stuff for packed lunches.
No more children’s panics to get homework done the morning it is due in, having spent the weekend messing around and providing assurances to parents that there is no homework to do.
No more planning around school hours, parents’ evenings, sports days, teachers’ strike days, sports fixtures, falling out with best friends and emergency collections from school for what turns out to be minor ailments (preferable to major accidents, though they are).
- We have some time off together. My family are like the Venn diagrams we learnt to draw at school; we only seem to overlap in certain circumstances these days, and the times we are all together are fewer, shorter and further apart than they used to be.
- Beaches! I haven’t been to a beach since last summer. I live an hour from some lovely ones.
- Time to read.
- Time to reinforce relationships with friends.
On the “No one told me this would be hard” list are things like:
- Everyone is tired.
The kids are tired, having had a year of learning new stuff and doing end-of-year exams.
Their Dad and I are tired, having dragged them through/encouraged them to independently revise for said exams.
My daughter is tired, having just finished her first year of secondary school.
My son is tired, having grown nearly 6 inches taller in the last year, although he is SO happy to be taller than me now.
- Planning ways to keep the kids entertained/busy during the 5 weeks while they’re off and I am not can be a bit full-on, especially as they no longer have interests in common. Holiday camps are great, but they never seem to cater for both my kids, so we end up running them around too much.
I work away from home, so I tend to be Gold Command, their Dad tends to be Silver, and whoever we can cobble together with local knowledge steps into Bronze. While I don’t have any family living close by, I am fortunate enough to have some good friends and they make excellent operational commands. Unfortunately, the kids prefer to revert to Gold for major incidents like “I can’t find my swimming costume” and “where did I put my trainers when I took them off yesterday?”
- Distant family members expect to see the kids, knowing they are off school but not really recognising that parents might not be off work.
- Buying a 14-year-old boy size 10 school shoes that will withstand daily playground football is impossible.
- Kids don’t tell you their clothes don’t fit any more until the week before going back to school, or they grow, plant-like, over summer – it must be the sunshine. One year, my son was complaining of stomach aches on a daily basis, getting worse throughout the day. After weeks of trying to get to the bottom of it, I discovered his pants were too tight.
- Sweaty, hormonal kids confined in a car for long journeys. Enough said.
The elephant (in the room)
Summer is so expensive.
The activity camps, driving to see relatives, replacing school uniform and stationery, shoes and other clothes are just the start of it. I am sure the kids eat more when they are at home than when they are at school, and the school holidays last for 46 days this year. Plus the two “staff training” days, which annoy me slightly (not the fact that they have them; my kids are at a school where the teachers are (mostly) great, and I am happy they are trained). I just wish they would say the term starts two days later and not lull me into a false sense of relief at a term start-date that is earlier than it really is.
Then there are the days out, which might involve ice creams or cakes and an arrival back at home when I’m tired and the temptation to order a takeaway is too great to resist.
That’s before we even think about paying for a holiday.
The Metfriendly Family Finance Index published in late June showed that Police Family finances are significantly tighter than they were just six months ago, especially in the 25-64 age groups where many still have mortgages that are increasing and children at home eating the food that has gone up in price by 18% in the last year. Summer will have similar pleasure and pain-points for these Police families, as for nearly every family around the country, but we know that overlaying those pressures are salaries that have fallen significantly behind inflation, shift patterns that don’t always fit with family life, and operations that don’t always fit with shift patterns.
And yet… Officers and Staff across the UK are still trying hard to maintain or start new savings habits to provide buffers for the future, build pots for their children or take advantage of the free government money that comes with a Lifetime ISA.
I have such respect for all parents, especially in the school holidays. When those parents also operate in such a hard - and often unappreciative – environment my respect is multiplied.
Annette Petchey, CEO Metfriendly
You can read more of Annette's blog posts and articles here.