A friend shared this article on Twitter this week about Childcare Costs and it pretty much sums up the bee I’ve had in my bonnet for a few years now.
It’s the part of becoming a parent that most of us leave until we’re on maternity leave to figure out. By which point the baby is well and truly here. Your life now resembles an endless slog of nappy changing-covered in crap-what flipping day is it-knackeredness. Then as soon as you start getting into the swing of things, like being able to wash your hair and change your knickers, you’re already having to sort out when you’re going back to work.
As if you didn’t have enough on your plate, you’ve now got to figure out merging your old life with your new life. Excellent.
Mama Gotta Work
Whilst some of us can’t wait to return, others dread it. Some of us don’t have to worry about going back and some of us have no choice.
Everyone’s story and their situation are different.
However, there is no denying the fact that most of us are being forced out of work because we have chosen to become mothers.
Childcare costs + our earnings + travel expenses and time + actual working hours are leaving most of us pretty much out of pocket. Or unemployed.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a family to support your childcare needs you’re pretty much left with two choices. You face becoming unemployed and therefore left to become a stay at home parent. Which isn’t an ideal situation for those who want to work or for families on a low income. Or you stretch yourself physically, mentally and financially by seeking out sometimes multiple sources of childcare in order to make it work.
The logistics can be a minefield and, having lost my free childcare support recently, (which moved down to the seaside to enjoy retirement) I’m now appreciating more than ever how childcare is a luxury that a lot of us can’t afford.
And I used to be that luxury.
Childcare Is A Luxury
Until Billie baby came along I used to be a nanny.
For seven years I cared for other people’s children and their home life.
I’ve seen first hand the expense, plus the benefits of this form of childcare, which is usually only an option for the wealthy. Their children were cared for in their own homes, around their own routines and schedules. These parents pay a premium for a personalised service that pretty much keeps their lives ticking over beautifully so that they are able to focus solely on their work and their careers.
The tables were turned, however, when I became the parent, and it wasn’t so easy being the primary carer for other people’s children anymore.
I worked a minimum of 44 hours a week before having Elsie, bringing in an equal salary to that of my husband. After having Elsie I went back to work, doing a minimum of 33 hours a week (40 every other week). I managed this by having the luxury of my parents being able to have her for us 2/3 days a week and then my employers kindly let me bring her the other days/hours needed.
It was hard work juggling it all. I did it for almost a year and it only worked out because I wasn’t having to fork out for childcare.
A Luxury We Couldn’t Afford
If I’d needed to pay for childcare things would have been very different. For starters, I couldn’t find a nursery close to me that opened at 6.30am. Early enough for me to get to work on time. There wasn’t a nursery that stayed open until 7.45pm. Late enough for me to finish work. Or stay late if the parents of my charges were running late, (which was pretty much every night) and then eventually make it to the nursery to collect my child who had been there for almost 13 hours.
Timings aside, the cheapest nursery I did manage to find charged around £65.00 for the day. I would also have to pay for a childminder on top to cover the hours before nursery and after to ensure my working day was covered.
You also get what you pay for in terms of standards of nurseries I might add. Some nurseries I’ve visited, (and I’ve seen quite a few), looked pretty dismal. Yet I would have potentially had to shell out 80% of my earnings for our child to be looked after by two different people for around 13 hours a day.
It just wouldn’t have been worth the expense, anxiety and guilt.
Mama Wants To Work
With two babies now, a husband who works shifts and no free childcare anymore, going back to work as a nanny was pretty much impossible. Which means that I find myself in the same position as my mum thirty six years ago.
Back in 1983, my mum continued to work full time in the City after she had me. Whilst my parents worked full time in London, I was looked after by an auntie and my grandparents all week. I then started school, just as my brother was born. By which point, going back to work in the City and paying for childcare for both of us just wasn’t an option. So it blows my mind that I find myself in exactly the same situation as my Mum thirty-six years later.
That’s not progress.
I don’t have the answers or a solution. It’s difficult to know where to start as the childcare-back-to-work issue is so different for everyone. I’m not asking for any hand-outs and I honestly don’t feel that I’m owed anything. As a country, we are fortunate to receive child benefits. Plus some free childcare hours once our children turn two years old. By which point returning to work may be even harder anyway.
All I want is the choice and the flexibility to have a family and the ability to financially support ourselves.
I hope that in another thirty-six years my daughters aren’t in the same situation.
That my daughters aren’t forced to stay at home looking after children because they can’t afford to work. They can’t afford to earn their own money. That everything they’ve achieved professionally up until becoming a mother will feel pointless.
I hope that by 2055 my girls won’t still have to choose between working and having a family.
That they can choose to have the best of both worlds.
Photo Credit: The Chronicles Of…Photography