After-school clubs are costing parents and carers an eye-watering £28,000 across their child’s lifetime, according to a new report – but if you ask me, that’s not such a bad thing.
The new research into parental spending – Out of School, Out of Pocket – revealed that sending kids to swimming lessons, dance clubs, music lessons and other sports or activities adds a substantial whack to the family budget, with 77% of parents admitting they feel “under pressure” to pay for them.
The thing is, after-school clubs are expensive – but they’re also a lifesaver. Without them, my working day would finish at 3pm at the school gates, which is near-on impossible when you have to keep to office hours.
That’s where clubs come in, because having an extra hour (or two) to play with can help hugely with childcare.
My daughter’s after-school clubs go a little like this: Wednesday is ‘film club’; Thursday is choir and Friday is the pay-by-the-hour after-school club. The latter costs £15, but only runs until 5.30pm – which, if you commute to work, can be a bit of a challenge to get there for pick-up, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Having these three after-school activities to rely on helps me manage my part-time working week effectively. And to be honest, without them, I’d be paying a lot more than £28k for a childminder or private nanny.
Of course, there needs to be a balance – especially in my family. At one point, we were keeping to a ridiculous schedule of extra-curricular activities on the weekend, too: gymnastics lessons, followed by a swift turnaround to ballet on Saturdays; and street-dance, then swimming, on Sundays. I wrote here about how difficult that was to budget for. In the end, we cut some of them out completely.
“Without them, I’d be paying a lot more than £28k for a childminder or private nanny."”
So while I understand the benefit of after-school clubs personally, I also get why parents resent paying for them. Perhaps what this really shows us is how hard it is for parents and carers to juggle their own lives, while bringing up young children. It’s expensive, and can sometimes feel like you’re treading water – or carrying out the ultimate, plate-spinning circus juggling act.
Not to mention the eternal, excruciating parental guilt: because when your kid wants to do an extra-curricular activity, it can feel like you’re being mean when you explain you simply can’t afford it – or don’t have time.
It’s not easy, this parenting lark. Is it?