A Professional Parent’s Summer Activities Guide 2023

Development Monthly | #22 August 2023 | Resilience through Nature

Charlotte Cowley (she/her)

School Manager, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol

Author of the blog, Bristol Mama, follow Charlotte on Instagram

I know how challenging it can be to keep a child happy and entertained during the school holidays, so a couple of years ago I looked for something that could give me various local options and ideas that might not have been an obvious choice or necessarily break the bank…but I struggled to find a ‘catch all’ list covering Bristol and surrounding areas – with the exception of sites and blogs that provided a personalised ‘top ten’. I wanted a variety of options including new ideas and activities/events that I hadn’t already done… and I suspected that others might want something similar too. 

So, I started putting together some seasonal family activity lists for the UoB Staff Parents & Carers Network . Following the wider publication of my Summer list in 2022, I started to hear that my little Microsoft Word document had made its way across Bristol (and even got as far as Somerset and Wiltshire!) So, I decided to create a blog on an external website to make it more accessible for everyone and to reach as many people in the Southwest as possible.

My intention with this blog has always been to help as many families, parents and carers to find fun and interesting things to do during the holidays – and I especially cater for those who live, work in and visit Bristol and the South West… where my family and I live and love.

I release a new list of places to see, visit and experience each season, which I typically publish a few weeks before school holidays.

The BBC got in touch with me via my Instagram page, where they had spotted my list being shared across multiple accounts. They explained that they were running a story on the cost of living crisis and how families are coping with the financial pressures of entertaining the children for the next 5-6 weeks. My Summer holidays activities list has a specific section which provides details of free or low-cost activities and they asked if I’d talk briefly about this in an interview with Alex Lovell on BBC Points West. 

University’s Parents & Carers Network

The Parents and Carers Network is for University of Bristol staff who have caring responsibilities and it is in place to support colleagues who are making the transition into parenthood or welcoming a new addition to the family, as well as those who are balancing work with their new or ongoing caring responsibilities for their family or other dependents.

The network has over 700 members on their Yammer/Viva Engage group, which provides a forum for members to connect with each other and share knowledge and experiences.  The Parents & Carers Network are supported by a committee who survey members every couple of years to find out more about the support needed. I have been Co-Chair of the Parents & Carers committee for the last 3 years but stepped down from the position on 31st July 2023. 

The Parents & Carers Network Committee regularly liaises with the University’s EDI and HR teams to improve our policies for parents and carers and to develop the training and support available for both staff and their line managers across UoB. The committee also work closely with other UoB staff network committees to run events and provide collective guidance to those members of staff with protected characteristics. 

Additionally, each network is assigned an Executive Sponsor who is a member of the UoB Senior Executive Team and can help the committees raise the profile of their networks and highlight any changes or support needed for that network. The Parents & Carers committee also met with the VC and Chief of Staff recently as part of Carers Week 2023, to update them about the network and discuss issues of relevance for parents and carers.

I work full-time as a School Manager and I have a very busy workload…this means I have to “compartmentalise” my life into sections where I focus on work and when I focus on home, and the challenge has always been not to let one negatively impact the other… I call this the “juggle struggle!” It’s not easy for working parents/carers to find balance in this regard, and I can only hope that my blog (which also includes details of childcare provision) can serve to help relieve the pressures of having to find support for the school holidays.

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