A little rant on “Family Day”

by DaniGirl on February 18, 2008 · 23 comments

in Rants and rambles

So it’s “Family Day” in Ontario, also known as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s ill-planned if not well-intentioned vote grabbing proposal. And I’m sure there are more clever scribes than I with rants against this silly holiday, but I can’t help myself. I too must rant.

It may be “Family Day” – but, according to one article I read, only about 40 per cent of people in the province are actually entitled to the day off to be with their families. Large stores and malls are closed, municipal and provincial government services are closed, and most civic places like libraries are closed. (Which, to me, begs the question — what the hell are we supposed to do with our families then? Stay locked up in the house for the whole day? That’s a recipe for disaster if I’ve ever heard one!) Beloved works in Quebec, so he doesn’t get the day off. If I weren’t on maternity leave, I’d be working because Federal government employees don’t get the day off, either. So, if I weren’t already off, we’d have to either pay double-time to a daycare provider willing to work on the stat holiday, or use up a personal day and stay home. Not a huge deal for us, but with city-run daycares closed, lots of families will be SOL and scrambling for care, or explaining to unimpressed employers why they need an extra day off.

Tristan already has a PD day scheduled for this Friday, and both his school and Simon’s nursery school are closed today. What never crossed my mind until late last week was that our nanny is also entitled to today as a paid holiday. Luckily, she took pity on the look of abject terror that must have crossed my face as I realized I’d be facing an entire February day stuck in the house with two rambunctious boys and a 10-day-old newborn, and agreed to my plea that she take the boys for a couple of hours in the morning.

But what I really want to know is what the heck the province is doing by imposing this “family” time. Are we really so overworked, so overscheduled, so out of touch with each other, that we need the province to step in to save our families? Granted, my boys are still only 4 and 6 years old, but we still have dinner together every single night. We still play together on weekends, and when I’m not ridiculously pregnant or tending to a newborn, we go on lots of family expeditions large and small. We can have fun going to the grocery store or the mall together, and we play games together. Why are the ‘experts’ always lamenting the loss of family time and why do people find it so hard to connect with their families?

Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a slacker for not having the boys scheduled in more activities. They have swimming lessons in the summer, and last year they went to a week of gymnastics daycamp. I’d’ve had them in skating this winter, if I weren’t pregnant. But that’s only one night a week. Am I at fault for underscheduling and not challenging them more? I don’t think so. Tristan’s report card just came in, and he’s exceeding expectations in reading and mathematics, and meeting expectations in every other area, so I’m confident that he’s being appropriately challenged. Moreso, he loves school, as does Simon. I’d be afraid that pushing too much on them would backfire, and that they might resist and lose their natural love of learning if too much is forced on them.

I digress. What I wanted to say when I started this little screed is that this whole Family Day thing seems bogus to me. If we can manage Family Time without the province leaning on us and causing us to have to scramble for daycare and employment arrangements, I think most people in the province can do the same thing.

And seriously? If you really want to tempt me, I’d be a lot less likely to rant if that day off were in the summer time, with green grass and sunshine. February? No thanks.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yvonne February 18, 2008 at 8:22 am

I’d be more than happy for an extra day off but, I am not entitled to it. Thank God my husband is off today or we would be scrambling to pay double time to a caregiver. Think of what that does to someone who is just making ends meet. It always seems to be those just getting by who end up NOT getting the benefit of things such as this.

2 Anonymous February 18, 2008 at 8:46 am

I do have the day off and I have to say that I am glad for it. After being couped up for the entire winter because of snow and cold temperatures (two babies and freezing weather don’t mix very well with older kids screaming because the snow is touching their faces).

That being said, I took in one of my daycare kids who parents are federal government employees and J, Amelia and the little girl and I are hiking over to the Québec side to the Museum of Civilization.

3 hw February 18, 2008 at 8:51 am

On the scheduling of children, our family is similar to yours. The Citizen yesterday quoted a figure that the number of families who eat dinner together in a week has declined by 33% (from the high to the low, they don’t give that number). We eat dinner together as a family every night of the week. Our kids are scheduled in one activity at a time. I sometimes regret that they don’t get to try out more, or advance their skills, but as a family we just can’t handle it. By the time we pick the kids up from their aftercare program and get home, it’s 6:00pm. Dinner is on the table between 6:30pm-7:00pm. Then we eat, chat and clean up. That gives us at most on a weeknight 1 hour to pack lunches, shower, do homework, spend more time together, before they head up for quiet reading time at 8:00pm. As a parent after having worked a 9-10 hour day, I can’t even fathom going out to another activity. And, when they used to have something on weeknights, they’d get to bed too late and be cranky the next day, it was so stressful getting there that the fun was sucked out of it.

So, what I’m saying is that statistically our families are in the minority. We don’t need a family day, per say, but it’s nice to have.

I just wonder if the reaction to this day isn’t more positive in other parts of the province given the high number of federal employees in Ottawa who aren’t entitled to it. It’s important to note that public servants get Remembrance Day, Easter Monday and the Civic Holiday, which aren’t provincially regulated, when the rest of us don’t. I just don’t hear the loud grumblings of non-public servants when y’all get that extra long weekend in the summer…

4 Anonymous February 18, 2008 at 9:33 am

Parents who spend quality time with their kids don’t need a Premier telling them to do it. Same goes for parents who don’t spend quality time with their kids. They’re not suddenly going to change and become hands on because the Premier told them to. I work in a hospital and we’re not entitled to the day off. If this day hadn’t fallen on my regular day off, I too would have been scrambling for childcare. I do not however, have pity for federal gov’t workers. This city is pretty much run on their schedule(ie bus times) Ever have to drive to work on a Saturday morning after a snowstorm? A lot different than a weekday morning!!!

5 Kate February 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

All I know is that Alice is home with me today instead of being at daycare and I am so very very tired lugging my pregnant ass all around and Matt is working all day and it’s only 10AM! Dear god, there’s only so many movies she willl watch….

6 cinnamon gurl February 18, 2008 at 9:58 am

I’ve just been ignoring the name of the day, and just calling it ‘the new stat holiday’ in my head, which happens to fall in that ginormous gap between New Year’s Day and Easter. I find the name of the day offensive and yeah, I’m not quite sure what to do with ourselves what with everything closed. (We’re going to look at another house…) Mostly though I’m happy to have the day off.

When my workplace sent out information about the holiday and how it’s going to affect us, they sent it with the stupidest photo ever of a sculpture in TO I think with a perfect little family with mom, dad and baby. Mom’s holding the baby and Dad’s holding the luggage. I ranted effusively on the exclusive view of family it portrayed and was told by HR, “Oh, we weren’t thinking about that! It was just a cute picture!” i.e. I was just overanalyzing.

On the scheduling thing, one mother I recently talked to said she goes shopping when her kids are in activities… it seemed strange to have a full-time job an hour+ away from your home and then you get home and stick the kids in something else. I think one activity a week is great.

7 ewe_are_here February 18, 2008 at 10:31 am

Unless someone is being abused or uncared for, governments need to stay out of our homes. Seriously, legislation to try to get families to spend time together? BUt not all families, just families with parents who work in the public sector? Sheeesh. What a mess.

I think the balance you’ve found for you and your family sounds perfect for you and your family.

8 Shan February 18, 2008 at 11:01 am

We eat dinner together every night as well. As for activities, Right now our five year old is in two. Swimming lessons half an hour a week and choir half an hour every other week. I’m not much for over scheduling our time.

My husband and I both go the day off, but if not we have an extremely accommodating babysitter. So that would have been neither a problem nor an extra expense above her regular rate. As for the name of the holiday I haven’t given it much thought. They had to call it something, right? I don’t view it as the government meddling in my home life, but hey, maybe I’m under-analyzing it. Who knows?

9 Mom On The Run February 18, 2008 at 11:02 am

As a SAHM (on mat leave) I welcome my hubby home for a day that he wouldn’t normally be with us.

10 Karen MEG February 18, 2008 at 12:25 pm

I found out that the Federal employees are not eligible for this holiday and that doesn’t seem right. I mean, they (you) still live in Ontario. I’m hoping that things iron themselves out as this holiday rolls out. I’m not against it, I think it’s just the implementation – I’m certain a lot of small businesses are suffering as well.

I for one am happy to have my husband home for a day with us. The Europeans seem to have more off time, and I just wish we would adopt of their attitude toward stat holidays than the trend toward them adopting more of the N. American ways.

As for underprogramming, I’m more like you. I tend to schedule my son only to a couple of activities during the year; although I’d like him to take up music, he’s resistant. I was always on the run as a kid, eating on the run, lesson to lesson, it was nuts. That’s what I remember of being a kid. Not exactly what I want for my kids. A lot of his friends are involved in more activities, but I don’t want to stress him unless it’s something he wants. The girlie will probably want to do more.

Although the computer is now sucking up a lot of his off time, so I need to enroll him in something to move away from that!

Glad that your nanny took pity on you, you certainly have your hands full these days!

11 Kerry February 18, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I would have given my left arm to have today off, frankly. I don’t care what they call it (it’s Louis Riel day in Manitoba!), I think we should have a day off in February, which feels like the longest month of the year even if it’s technically the shortest.

The problem with this one is that it’s not a federal holiday. That’s why we don’t get it as public servants, and we won’t until all the provinces and territories add another holiday to their year.

You might be upset about the name, Dani, but I think next year, when you’re back in the office, you’ll be outraged that you don’t have the day off. I say to those people who get it “congrats!” and to those who don’t, write your MP and ask for a federal day off in February. Make it Sir John A day, or heck, make March 8th’s International Women’s Day a holiday. Or, just call it “I’m so tired of snow I need a day off” day. The only way we’re all getting it is if our federal MPs make it happen.

12 Annika February 18, 2008 at 12:39 pm

This post raises a number of good issues. I am happy for those who get the day off, especially people who are generally stuck working on Remembrance Day, Easter Monday, etc. As a fed gov’t employee, I don’t get it, but am not disappointed. I have the option of taking a vacation or personal or family day off if I would like. My daycare closed for the day, so hubby (also a fed worker) took the day off with our child. I do realize, however, that others may not have this type of flexibility available to them, and for those people this new holiday may be causing an undue amount of stress with regard to childcare and employment issues. I feel for them.

As the mother of a young toddler (with baby #2 on the way), I take a keen interest in the comments by you more experienced parents re programming/extra-curricular activities and how to balance it. I can tell you that there is no way my children will be in any more than one organized activity at a time when they are older. My husband and I both work full time and, between our jobs, our commutes and keeping the household running, I cannot imagine having the time or money for multiple outside activities for each child.

I think daily family time, family dinners, family conversation and a solid sleeping schedule are always more important than the number of hobbies a child has. Keeping it simple and (hopefully) minimizing the stress is how I hope to approach it! Glad to see I am not alone with this philosophy. The main way we have found to maximize family time is to not have a tv in our home. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s been almost two years for us and we don’t miss it at all! I am also pleased that my child has not yet been exposed to television and loves to play, read and talk up a storm. =)

13 mamatulip February 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I wondered the same thing when I first heard that Family Day was a stat holiday — what are we supposed to DO on Family Day as a family? Thank god the local dive down the road was open today…we went out for brunch with my dad, brother and his girlfriend — and thank god the local bowling alley is open, which is where Dave and Julia are now. But it makes no sense to make Family Day a stat holiday and have most things closed.

14 Cait February 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Just from a personal perspective, I’m not minding Family Day. I got to avoid the slippery sidewalks by walking uninterrupted down the middle of the street most of my way into work this morning, AND everything being closed forces me to resist both junk food and shopping!
But then again, I don’t have a family, so I get to enjoy more, rather than less, peace and quiet on Family Day!

15 bubandpie February 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I think it’s a lot easier to enjoy Family Day when you actually get a day off for it. 🙂 And I’ll tell you, I’ve never enjoyed it more than when hubby got pulled over for going 33 k over the limit, with both kids screaming and carrying on in the back seat, and the officer let us off with a warning, wishing us a “Happy Family Day!”

16 snackmommy February 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I find this thread very amusing. As a Manitoban, we have our very first Louis Riel Day today. To be honest, it started as a group of citizens moaned and groaned that we endure some of the harshest winters out here on the Prairies, with no Stats between New Years and Easter. We had petition drives and suddenly the gov’t listened and granted us our day off. We then had contests to pick a name, and the local youth thought it would be ideal to honour Louis Riel. We tossed around the notion of family day, but LR won out.

Personally I love it, although as I drove downtown to pick up my passport (federal), and then to the local mall to get my son a new hockey helmet, I did have to wonder who in fact actually got the day off as they town was bustling.

That said, my whole family is home, and my son gets to have a hockey game in the afternoon as opposed to sparrows first fart…..so I’m happy. :~)

17 suze February 18, 2008 at 7:09 pm

I disagree – not about the fact that the premier has no business telling us to spend more time with our families, but that if we had to have another stat it should be in the summer. I hate February with a passion, and a day off in this the cruelest month is so needed. Even though I don’t get it as a stat as a federal employee, I took it off anyway.

18 alison February 18, 2008 at 8:56 pm

We spent part of family day skating at the local arena. It was open, and the family skate was free today. Being a federal civil servant, I had to take the day off (my caregiver was taking the day off), but it was no big deal. It was nice to have an extra day at home with my girls.

19 MomOnTheGo February 19, 2008 at 9:01 am

I was glad for the long weekend that allowed my sister – who did get the day off – to bring my mom for a visit. I didn’t mind taking the day off at all and have to say that February is a great month for a break – whatever they want to call it. We get such great leave provisions that I’m happy to have someone else free to help me spend my time off.

As for why federal government works don’t get the day off, it comes down to our union contract. Right now we all get the same number of days off – federal employees in Quebec have St Jean Baptiste, those in Ontario, Nova Scotia and other provinces have the first Monday in August and others in other provinces have other days. I’m not sure how they’ll address it in the next round of bargaining – perhaps another floating day off or maybe they’ll point to the folks who work in Quebec who have to take the first Monday in August off in order to be off with their families.

20 kgirl February 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I think it needs to be a national holiday, and each of the provinces stepping in and declaring it is a strong push in that direction. I’m sorry you guys didn’t get to enjoy it, but we are part of the 40% (I’ve heard it’s actually 60%) that were quite thankful for it.

21 Elise February 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

As a French (from France in Europe, I mean), I can say that I am pretty amazed to see so many people pissed off at this new holiday !

22 Sue February 20, 2008 at 9:44 am

Sorry Dani – I enjoyed the extra day off. The winter is so darn long, and without this holiday, Easter was barely a glimmer of hope and spring on the horizon. Just when it was starting to feel as if winter would never end, a day off.

I think they were grasping at straws with the name, however. “Family Day” struck me as a pretty lame reason and name for the holiday. They should have just been honest about it and called it “Holiday to Avoid Teh Crazy”.

23 valerie February 20, 2008 at 11:43 am

I agree with some of the others, that a day off in Feb is great though the naming of it is perhaps lame. My sister is in AB where they’ve had it off for a few years. She said there was controversy at first, but now everyone has settled into it and all the malls are open. We had a few issues this year, but another year we’d probably enjoy a skiing or skating holiday or similar, especially since Sarah’s school had a PD day the Friday before. K did take Sarah skiing in the afternoon while Sammy & I napped. 😉

I agree with limiting activities. We started putting Sarah in all kinds of things because we couldn’t bear to pass any up. But this year we cut way back and it’s so much better. But it’s hard to pick just one when there’s so much you want to expose them to and how can they choose if they haven’t tried, kwim?

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