Winter vacation no break for moms

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Winter vacation no break for moms

With the onset of winter vacation, working moms feel more burdened both financially and mentally. Now, more school facilities are opening later, forcing their kids to stay longer hours in day care centers.

A 36-year-old working mom surnamed Jeon goes to her mother’s house after work, which is a 40-minute drive from her home in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Winter break began Dec. 26, and the only place she could leave her son, a second-grader, was at his grandmother’s house.

“My son should be happy during vacation but he only has been separated,” said Jeon. She sought to turn to a school child care program that is known to open earlier. But the school said that it couldn’t accept her child because she didn’t register during the semester. “Vacation is like a nightmare for dual-career families,” Jeon said.

Winter vacation is like a war for moms, mostly because the child care system doesn’t offer enough help. If both parents have jobs, it’s hard to find somewhere to leave the kids before going to work.

When school facilities open at 8 a.m. during the semester, a 38-year-old working mother surnamed Jeong was able to make it to work on time by 8:30 a.m. after dropping her child at school. However, during vacation, the library only opens at 9 a.m., so she has no choice but to hire a baby sitter for the morning. And her daughter ends up alone at home for about an hour anyway because the baby sitter comes at 9 a.m.

Many school facilities have changed their opening hours. Among five school libraries in Seongbuk District in northern Seoul, southern Songpa and western Yangcheon Districts, which used to open between 8:30 and 8:40 a.m., three now open at 9 a.m., and the others open at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Day care facilities of local child welfare centers, run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, often open at 10 a.m.,” said an official of the Seoul government.

Under such circumstances, mothers with jobs are busy looking for alternatives. A 43-year-old mother named Chae takes her son to a baby sitter before work.

“I am paying an extra 300,000 won ($284.17) to make up for the morning,” said Chae, who works at an IT company.

Another 36-year-old working mom living in Seocho District surnamed Yang said, “I asked around and finally got my child into a church school, which opens at 8:30.”

Many other working moms rely on their parents. “Since the vacation started, my mom stays at my place all day long during weekdays,” said Lee, a 36-year-old working mother in Ulsan. “Women can work only when companies let working couples adjust their working hours flexibly.”

Foreign countries are more accommodating to dual-income families. A 42-year-old mother surnamed Jeon used to take her children to school, then went to work when she was a resident employee in Paris. “There are teams for programs such as a museum field trip at schools in France during vacations, and I could take the kids to school between 8 and 8:20 a.m., like I did during semesters,” said Jeon.

Suh Moon-hee, a senior research fellow of the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education, said “The Korean government should support a budget for child care and education at the same hour, or should consider using senior citizens as a labor force.”

BY KIM SUNG-TAK, IM GI-HWAN and SHIN JIN [ngmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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