Opinion: Midwinter Break Hurts Parents | Avi Gutfreund

It seems like every year people end up fighting about midwinter vacation – how long it should be, should it be just girls or boys as well, and for whom the vacation is actually a benefit to. Others argue, for a variety of reasons, that midwinter vacation shouldn’t exist at all. I am one of those people.

Unlike some others, I am not opposed to a midwinter break because I think children get too much vacation. On the contrary, I wish there was a way to lessen the educational burden we put on them and let them be kids more. Instead, I am opposed to it because the overwhelming majority of Lakewood families simply don’t have the financial means for a midwinter vacation.

Forget for a minute about the fact that many families feel the need to go away on a vacation during midwinter break – vacations that they can barely afford. Forget that midwinter break comes with competition between children over who went on the coolest trip or to the most fun getaway, creating friction and animosity in classrooms. Instead, think about the financial plights of our Lakewood families.

For many Lakewood households, simply paying tuition for their children’s education is daunting. Parents often need to work multiple jobs just to have a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothing to wear. Parents work hard, very hard, to make sure their children have the basics. What do you think a midwinter vacation does to those efforts to make a living? They make it unnecessarily more difficult. Even if families choose not to go on a midwinter trip, the vacation itself takes a significant toll on pocketbooks. Kids are home Friday through Monday, forcing many parents to stay home to watch them. Those parents then lose the money they could have otherwise earned by going to work. This isn’t fair for parents and should be stopped.

Of course, there are rebbeim and morahs who can desperately use a vacation and for whom midwinter vacation is very welcome. I believe they deserve that vacation, but doing it by way of giving the children vacation too is, in my opinion, misguided. Instead, I think that schools should give teachers a few extra vacation days and hire substitutes to teach their classes while they are gone.

Midwinter vacations should be focused on giving a break to our children’s superstar teachers. It should not interfere with a parent’s efforts and ability to pay for their children’s education. As things are now, the kid’s delight of midwinter vacation comes at the expense of their parents.

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  1. I totally disagree, kids need a break too.
    Parents should be mature enough to decide whether or not take a vacation based on there financial situation.
    why should my kids loose out If some parents can’t take off from work or make arrangements for someone to watch their kids.maybe they can midwinter vacation optional But I strongly believe kids need a break, it is a healthy and rejuvenating experience.

  2. Come now.. get real. Most boys’ yeshivos are only giving off Friday – not even Sunday. So, this is hardly a vacation for kids or rebbeim. And Fridays are not even a good day for “vacationing” because it’s erev shabbos. An off Sunday would certainly be welcomed by all!

  3. What about preschool Morahs who have no sick days or vacation days (other then yom tov days off. I know I know they’re technically “paid” off days) who pay a sub upward of $25 an hour for every sick day or performance they attend. There’s no way to “make up” those lost hours by staying later at work… They also work incredibly hard (some straight thru the summer) & have no built in subs to take over.

  4. I agree that teachers and children can use a break, but there are many issues with the way it is set up now… and the boys don’t get much either – my boys only get no english on sunday… parents that work – either lose pay or can’t take off then – or fathers end up losing out on learning, the peer pressure of the children (forget the parents) when they come back to school of who went where… I think the best idea would be to give off Friday and Sunday across the board (boys and girls) – so they have that and on Monday and Tuesday allow the girls to come in a bit later than usual so they can sleep in or do something small in the morning ( 2 hours later) and even once in school no tests, no homework… similar to most classrooms on Chaunkah! some extracurricular, a show, a choir a play… a better lunch, there are so many options to give them all a change of pace so they can continue refreshed!!!

  5. Here we go again! I was waiting to see when it would come up…
    Oot of communities have a week to 2 weeks of midwinter of vacation and don’t complain but somehow in Lakewood those 2-3 days are so terrible…
    I’m having a hard time understanding why it’s so hard to take care your kids!!

  6. Another entertaining article. Thanks TLS!
    Basically since I can’t afford to take off work or go away no-one else should be allowed to either.
    Why not have school on Chol Hamoed? Parents would be able to work and there would be no competition. I am incapable as a parent of teaching my kids that life isn’t always fair and different families live different ways so I don’t want anybody to go on a nice vacation.
    My wife is a therapist and it’s crucial she’s around during winter break, so we don’t go away. My child understands the concept of Sameach B’chelko. He may not go away but has other things many of his friends don’t have. He goes to a great camp but some of his friends don’t. He has grandparents and other family close by to spend Shabbos with, others don’t. It’s about raising children to understand how the world works. It’s not about shutting down anything you can’t handle or afford.

  7. K seriously. I’m so tired of this conversation, as I’m sure are most people. It is a fact of life. In NY we had a week plus a Friday and we all planned for it. Stop complaining about it and just plan for it like a responsible adult.

  8. Drive around most of Lakewood, Toms River, Jackson and look at the homes. Go into the stores and restaurants and see the furniture, clothes, food, luxuries people are buying. The restaurants are packed. Kiddushim like weddings. And they can’t afford a vacation with their kids?? Italian furniture and all brand name clothing they can afford without complaining. I know this doesn’t apply to everyone but judging from the spending that goes on here I would say they are the minority. Stop spending so much on frivolous luxuries and people will take you more seriously!

    • Lakewood has lots of people, there are some who can afford luxuries and buy them, and others who can’t afford them and don’t. It’s not the same people saying they can’t afford midwinter.

    • Mommy, your comment is very offensive. Just because you see some nice houses that doesn’t make Lakewood “rich”. I’m sure those people can afford expensive trips & a few unpaid days off.

      However, most of Lakewood is living below the poverty level (& the poverty level doesn’t even factor in tuition so if a non jew is considered poverty struck at $x/year, a jew still has to pay $30 thousand for tuition- that leaves many “middle income” people very poor)

    • Drive over to Tomchei Shabbos give outs and deliveries, take a peek into Mrs. Shanik twice yearly Ahavas Chesed campaigns, check out the stores with all ppl buying on credit or with tzedakah cards, check out the Hachnosas Kallah funds for all those needing assistance to marry off…and the list goes on. There are those who have and those who have not and not necessarily are those who are spending the ones who have! Yes, midwinter vacation is a pressure for us struggling parents who are working hard and can’t take off and on the other hand, the children (especially older grades) do need the break, as I’m sure do teachers. There’s no solution other than remove Tuesday, which hasn’t worked when BF tried it. So here we are again, mid winter “vacation” here we come!

  9. Kids deserve a break too! It’s a few days for family time! I don’t feel pressured to run to Florida. Everybody’s can do what works for them . I do small trips with them that doesn’t cost a fortunate and they are more then happy! Happy vacation to all:)

  10. I actually can afford a vacation for my kids and would love to take them to Vermont on a ski trip!! But all my kids have different midwinter times. My high school daughter is not off my elementary school daughter is off. Mesivta boys are not off and elementary boys have only a Sunday . I’m ok doing midwinter and taking them on a reasonable trip (not a plane ride ) but we can’t due to conflicting schedules. I wish the school would coordinate days if they are giving off any way why inconvenience parents multiple times . So instead of going on a nice family trips we’re doing three or four separate little getaways which does get time consuming and we miss out on the family time. My children’s schools all have rules about going to Florida on midwinter and the vast majority adhere to it .

  11. I work and my kids either come along and watch videos the whole time or I send them to a young babysitter if it works out. I cannot afford to take off work and cannot afford the expensive in-between-camps. It doesn’t help to complain so we just grin and bear it.
    I noticed that it’s very different between having girls in school or boys as the girls have much more time off.

  12. Raise your hand if you find shlepping in a car or plane somewhere with your kids the furthest thing from a vacation, let alone something to covet.

  13. Right? Wrong? Really!!? Does everything have to be right or wrong?

    I personally think that there are valid reasons on both sides, so what does an opinion article do? Present one side? SHKOYACH! Present the pros and cons and weigh them and then when you have a clear idea. Once you have that KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!
    Whoops, I just contradicted my own advice, but don’t admonish me or you’ll be too…

  14. This year it works out great.

    All the parents can watch the SUPER BOWL with their children, and if they don’t understand the game, then they can explain it to them!!!!

    Let’s count our blessings, THAT WE HAVE THE SUPER BOWL THIS SUNDAY!!!!!!!!


  15. So Avi Gutfreund, what are you doing with your kids this mid winter vacation?
    Maybe you can give all of us “non travelers” cost efficient tips that actually satisfy teenagers?
    Good luck!

  16. Kids get off 2 plus months in the summer, yomim tovim, some legal holidays, a week before pesach. So yes, its unwarranted to manufacture a mid winter vacation. Forget about the fact if people can or cant afford it, do the simple math, anyone who has a basic 9 to 5 job working for 60k a year gets off a lot less than a rebbi, so yes its uncalled for

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