School holidays have almost come to an end this week, thus soothing somewhat heightened levels of anxiety in many parents, who would have struggled in different ways to fulfil demands placed on them to respond to this supposedly ‘normal’ routine of New Zealand’s school curriculum.
The NZ school system consists of four terms in a year with three two-week holidays after the end of every term and one month long summer holidays at the end of the year.
Apparently, all modern parents regardless of their ethnicity or history of being in New Zealand face some anxiety of finding the best way of engaging their school-going children in a constructive manner during these holidays.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that working parents, especially mums, do face pressure that has the potential to disrupt their normal day-to-day life, more than others.
However, this pressure intensifies further if parents are comparatively new migrants in this country.
The fact of being new migrants itself imposes certain demands on parents such as finding jobs, houses, building businesses and of course taking care of their kid’s education.
It is not to deny that these demands equally affect other parents or, say, parents who have been living in New Zealand for a while except the fact that new migrants have to struggle a bit more to develop enough social roots and support system (read extended families and friends) to assist them in their normal endeavours of life.
It is not for nothing that most working families find their social support system of much help in assisting in their day-to-day life endeavours, as money cannot always buy those services that we have known to come naturally and expect as a sense of entitlement along with our social support system.
In this regard, The Indian Weekender set out to meet with some new migrant families in the community to find out how they are coping with the demands of school holidays on their everyday life.
While most of the parents initially opened up by describing school holidays as a much needed and important break for their children and therefore joyful to them as well. However, slowly the discomfort that often accompanies these school holidays came to the fore in their conversation.
The overwhelming concerns expressed by a majority of those who spoke with The Indian Weekender, though in very subtle manner, were along the lines of destabilising work-life balance, cost intensive, and the physical and emotional drain on the children.
“The big challenge that we are facing in this school holidays is complete destabilisation of our work-life balance and the physical drain that it causes on our kid,” said a young migrant couple living in Greenlane, Auckland, whose son has just started school this year.
“We have been in New Zealand since the last four years, and till now our son was going to kindergarten, and we have adjusted ourselves to those times without realising much that it would be different when he starts school,” mother Uma Sharma said.
“We had assumed in our mind that there would be some appropriate place for our son similar to kindergartens where he would be able to spend his day along with other kids of his own age group when parents are working.
“However, we are finding our five-year-old son spending his entire day in the holiday programme with children far older than his age, which obviously is draining him physically and emotionally,” Mrs Sharma added.
Many other young migrant parents shared this sentiment.
“On the first day of school holiday programme my daughter came back and was so tired that she felt sick,” said Bhumika Disawal, Clinical Administrator Coordinator at the Auckland District Health Board.
“We are aware that kids are expected to learn at some point in life to go out of their comfort zone.
“However, expecting five and six-year-old kids to spend two weeks of time in school holiday programmes among kids far older than them is not a fair expectation on them.
“And not everyone is lucky to be able to remain at home away from their work to look after kids out of school during school holidays,” Mrs Disawal said.
Similarly, many parents were of the opinion that despite school holidays being good from the child’s education and learning perspective, the demands of working life of modern day couples make it a less enjoyable experience for them.
“I and my husband have to take leave on alternate days from our work to remain at home along with my daughter,” said Suchita Phulkar, IT consultant, whose daughter had also started school this semester.
“We are finding it hard to manage our work-life balance and even from our child’s perspective, current options available for school holidays are short of expectations,” Mrs Phulkar said.
“I am seriously thinking to have my mum in from India by the time of the next school holidays to help us through during this initial adjustment phase,” Mrs Phulkar added.
However, not everyone chose to discuss the challenges that school holidays placed on them. Instead, many chose to see the bright side of the holidays on their kids.
“School Holidays for me are chaotic and joyful at the same time; so I tell myself keep calm and let the adventure begin,” said Rupal Solanki, Victim Support Worker, Volunteer Bible Teacher in School and a well known Indian theatre performer in Auckland.
“School holidays are fun and much-needed break for my son who has a very hectic school and sports regime during school term” said Pinky, who works part time as a pharmacy technician.
Strangely though, not many were keen to be seen talking publically about the additional cost factor that is imposed on many new migrant parents.