Working Parents Vs Child-Frees: Who Should Get Time Off During School Holidays?

There is an ongoing debate at the moment which pitches Working Parents against their colleagues who don't have kids (let's call them Working Child-Frees) about who should be given priority over taking time off during school holiday times.

According to a ding-dong I heard on the radio this week, Working Child-Frees are cheesed off that Working Parents are given preferential treatment by employers when it comes to taking time off, such as during the half-term we've had this week.

Their viewpoint can be roughly summed up as follows: "It's not fair, ner ner ner, I might want to have a week off at the same time as Working Parents, gripe gripe gripe, I might want to spend the half-term paying through the nose for inflated air fares and hotels, moan moan moan, I might want to spend a week off queuing up with screaming kids at museums and art galleries and theme parks, whine whine whine, why should we be forced to take our holidays when flights are cheaper, when the streets are emptier, when the spawn of Working Parents are safely locked away in their classrooms?"


The stance of Working Parents, on the other hand, can be roughly summed up as follows: "I can't afford childcare so I have to take the time off work to look after my kids. Besides, I love them and want to spend time with them: what's so wrong about taking time off work when they are off school?


"Isn't that better than them roaming the streets or being looked after by strangers while I stay at work? In fact, what on earth would be the point of having a holiday when the kids are at school – I'm only entitled to four weeks a year and I'm penalised if I take my child out of school during term-time?"

Well, boo-hoo to both of you. Because here in Housedad Towers, I have the WORST of both worlds.

My Working Wife won't take time off work because she knows how important it is for the mums she works with who don't have a housedad to fall back on to take a break.

She won't take time off work because I'm at home and so the necessity to employ someone to look after our kids, aged 11, nine, and six, during the holidays is irrelevant.

And she won't take time off work regardless of the fact that I work from home, even when I have children to look after.

But even worse, my sons' friends' mums are also Working Parents – and they won't take time off work, neither (and nor will their husbands) because they know Your Truly is at hand to look after their loveable little rascals.

Their attitude seems to be: "We-ell, what else can he be doing? He's a housedad. He has to look after his own kids, so he might as well look after ours, too."

And to be honest – they're right. Having other people's children around might be noisier, but it's better for my kids because they all keep each other entertained in a way I never could.

They move through the rooms of the house like whirling dervishes, building a Lego fort here, a Play Mobil fire station there, metaphorically whupping each others' asses on Wii bowing here, thrashing the living daylights out of each other on Skylanders there – then literally doing the same with the sofa cushions and pillows.

But such is the ravenous nature of their hunger for entertainment, it is never too long before even these scenarios result in the inevitable cry of 'We're Bored!' Bored of building, bored of play-fighting, bored, even, of screens. Whoever would have thunk it?

What's a Housedad to do? The weather was atrocious, so I didn't fancy going to the park or the zoo, so I put a few suggestions to them – museums and art galleries – which were all met with the same disparaging dismissal: "Booooooooooooorrrrrrrrrinnnnnnnnnng!"

And then I remembered a place I'd been to when I was a kid: Ripley's Believe it or Not! Nearly 40 years ago, my dad would take me and my brothers to Ripley's when we were on holiday in Blackpool.

It was grotesquely fascinating, full of shrunken heads, deformed animals, freak-show waxworks and record-breaking, gobsmacking facts.

I'd read that Ripley's had opened in central London, at Piccadilly Circus – a Tube ride from us – and I knew my children and their friends would love it. And it didn't let me down.

Arranged over six floors, Ripley's Believe It or Not! London celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre with over 700 exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences.

Want to see how will you measure up to the world's tallest – or the world's fattest - man? Or come face to face with Amazonian shrunken heads? How about finding out the size of a whale's foreskin? OK, that last one might not be for everyone, but believe you me, I didn't believe it when I saw it!

But seriously, in essence, Ripley's is a really cool museum that had my kids enthusing about long after we'd left.

It's not just packed with recording-breaking artefacts and oddities (a stuffed three-headed lamb; a life-size roaring T-Rex; a model of the Titanic made entirely of matchsticks; a portrait of Kate Middleton made entirely of lipstick kisses; fragments of meteorites; a python's shed skin; a woman with a mouth like a duck's bill; a man with half a body, to name but tiny few) it's also super-interactive.

The kids got lost in a Mirror Maze for 20 minutes, while I had a cup of tea. Then they competed against each other in a Mission: Impossible-style Laserace.


It was a great way to spend a couple of hours and, although not cheap (nearly £90 for a Family Ticket), was well worth it because it made me think: If Working Parents can't get the time off work so that they can treat their children to experiences like this, then what's the point in having kids in the first place?


So come on, Working Child-Frees: you can take your holidays at any time you like. Just let us Working Parents share some good times with our children, before they grow up and become Working Parents or Child-Frees themselves.