To work or not to work? The cost of childcare -v- wages and family time

As I am sure most people are aware, this week the government announced new plans to cut the cost of childcare.  These plans would see childcare workers requiring higher qualifications, however, the number of children they could look after would increase from 4 to 6 at age two, and for under ones the number would increase from 3 to 4.  Although I am sure we would all like our children to be looked after by highly qualified staff, surely any benefit this may have would be wiped out by the fact they are looking after more children and therefore they will not have as much time or attention to spend with each child anyway.  I can say, from our experience, we have never had any problems with either staff that are still training or those that are already qualified at either of the nurseries Little Mr A has attended.  They have all been very professional and Little Mr A has had a really great relationship with all of the workers who have looked after him.

Little Mr A at his first nursery!

Little Mr A at his first nursery!

Also, any saving made in being able to look after more children will be wiped out by the fact that higher qualified staff will demand higher wages?  In my opinion ALL nursery workers deserve to be paid more, regardless of qualifications.  They are under a lot of pressure not only to look after your children but also to fill in the ridiculous amount of paperwork in order for OFSTED to be satisfied   I really don’t need it documenting every time my child poops/laughs/smiles (OK maybe I am exaggerating but you get the picture!)  We have even attended parents evenings to find out how Little Mr A is getting on!  Is it really necessary?  I would rather my children got their workers’ attention 100% of the time than get a photo/description of every single thing they have done.  So what if they can’t recite the alphabet backwards and count to 100 when they go to school – maybe I am wrong, but I thought school was for learning?!  Whatever happened to having fun at nursery?  Why do we feel the need for kids to be taught right from being a baby?  They have plenty of time to grow up and learn when they start school, I really think nursery should be more relaxed and fun.  Do they need to learn phonics before they start school?

Little Mr A had a great relationship with all the nursery workers

Little Mr A had a great relationship with all the nursery workers

I know the government will not win whatever ‘solution’ they come up with as there will always be someone who disagrees but I really don’t feel their proposals are an acceptable solution to any parent.  Any parent will know how difficult it is to look after one or two children, let alone four or even six!  In my opinion I feel that reducing the actual cost of childcare is not the solution.  I think more help should be given to those parents that do choose to go back to work.  I appreciate that some help is already given in the form of tax credits/childcare vouchers/free nursery hours but I feel that these could be increased upon, rather than cut as they have been.

Since going on maternity leave in September we have been thinking a lot about whether it is worth me going back to work when my maternity leave ends.  If I choose to go back to work we will get no help with the cost of childcare and, unless I work 5 days a week all of my wages will be eaten up with the cost of childcare and transport, etc.  We would probably be lucky to come away with an extra £100 a month!  When we just had Little Mr A it was not really an issue.  I could work 3 full days a week, still leaving me time off with him, and, because we were on lower wages (and the tax credit thresholds were lower!) it made sense for me to work.

Now, as I have to fit in work around Little Mr A’s school times, it really doesn’t seem worth the hassle!  With Big Mr A getting his new job at the start of the year it means he needs the car everyday, he is out the house at 7:30 a.m. and doesn’t get home most nights until gone 6:00 p.m. which I am sure is the case in a lot of working households.  For me to be able to get Little Mr A to school in time, Little Miss A to a nursery and then get to work at a reasonable time on the bus would just be an almost impossible task.  By the time I got to work it would be time to leave to pick them up again!  This would mean buying another car.  So as well as paying for childcare for Little Miss A we would have to pay a car loan, insurance, tax, petrol as well as any maintenance jobs that needed doing.  Maybe that £100 a month is looking a bit optimistic!!

In some ways of course I would love to go back to work and have a bit of ‘me’ time away from my family but I don’t want this to come at the expense of family time.  If I do go back to work, when are all the other jobs going to get done such as cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping etc?  The only time to do these would be the weekend which would take away from precious family time.  Children grow so quickly, before I know it Little Miss A will be at school and I don’t want to look back and regret not spending time with her.

I really appreciate the fact that we actually have a choice of me not having to go back, I know some people don’t have that choice and have to work to survive.

Does anyone have the perfect family/work balance and if so, how on earth do you manage it?!


9 thoughts on “To work or not to work? The cost of childcare -v- wages and family time

  1. Having worked in childcare and now being a parent myself, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments! I work part-time but have to take on extra hours to qualify for help with childcare costs, which luckily I can do as I am self-employed, but I am lucky that the company I do most of my work for is flexible because I have to walk my son to the childminder (who is luckily just around the corner from us) then walk into town to catch a bus! I know if they weren’t so flexible with hours I couldn’t work. There is so much for parents to think about and I do not feel the proposed changes by the government see these issues at all, and certainly don’t realise how hard childcare staff already work! It worries me how they seem to be on completely the wrong thought path. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! I hope you work out what is best for you and your family!

    • Thanks for your comment, I am sue we will work it out, you don’t want to have to think about these things do you, I would love to just be able to enjoy my new baby without the worry!

  2. I was in exactly the same situation as you and found that my solution was to go freelance as a writer. It meant a lot (and I mean a lot!) of soul searching and agonising plus worrying, but we just about manage. It’s tricky because it’s a risk, calculated, but still risky. However over time I’m hoping to see more money coming in and for now I try to enjoy the moments with my children and being there for them as you dom’t get a second chance.
    I have had to swallow pride and ask for help when needed, but the longer it goes on the more I realise that solutions to problems do appear, it’s just that sometimes you have to be creative about them!
    Best of luck in your search for what will work for you, and if I can ever be of any help, please drop me a line.

  3. I dont think I have any kind of clue how we will manage in the future. i’m currently where you were a few years ago with one little boy and I work 3 days a week so it works fine at the moment. I’m already thinking about what we’ll do with more children – how will we manage and spin all those plates…I don’t really know at all yet but think I’m in denial about it all 🙂

  4. Hmm. Its a tricky one. I think there should be some learning at nursery and I like that the EYFS continues at school so its a better transition. But I agree that childcare workers should be paid more. They look after our babies- its a very important job.

  5. Hi hun, We had this issue when I had to go back to work a year ago now. i really wanted to go back to work 2 days a week. I didn’d need to go back to work as luckly the other half has a good job on good money. I wanted to go back to have a bit of money that was mine, and if i wanted to go out and buy something I could use my money, that I had worked for. The other half would of preferred me to stay at home. Little man goes to nursery one day a week, then my mum has him one day. We pay £206 a month on childcare that’s just to the nursery for his one day a week. It works great for us, i get some me time at work, see my friends, little man also gets a break to go play with his friends, and I have my own money at the end of it. After nursery costs are taken out I work 2 days a week for roughly £600, which I am more than happy with. We dont get any help with the childcare costs, non do we get any benefits. I totally understand your situation thought as you have a little one at school too, which is harder with school times etc. x

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