When it comes to choosing to have a baby, our finances of course play their part, but not having a choice when it comes to going back to work, due to the astronomical costs of childcare in the UK, is quite a depressing reality.
Contraception gives us a choice when it comes to the size of family we want, but now this choice is being restricted by economic forces which we can’t take preventative measures against.
According to the DayCare Trust, average weekly childcare costs now exceed £100 for a part-time place in many parts of Britain, with the average yearly costs for a child under two being £5,103.
When you double these figures, you can see why so many women find their monthly income will only cover the cost of putting one baby into childcare.
This means having more than one baby is a bit of a luxury these days – especially if you want to maintain living at the same standard, which for most of us involves both parents earning.
One way round this is to put a big enough gap between each child so that one is in school and one is in childcare – but that’s often not possible due to age.
It’s not surprising then that much higher numbers of parents in the UK resort to using informal childcare arrangements e.g the grandparents, when they have the option.
But what options are there when family aren’t nearby to help out as and when you need?
One option becoming more and more popular is to freelance – which I’m doing.
It means I constantly need to find enough work to cover the cost of Arthur’s time in childcare, but there are often months where I don’t manage to.Then, after doing a massive trawl out for work, I am suddenly confronted with too much, all to be squeezed into my two days a week, during nap times, evenings and weekends.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful as I do realise I am lucky to be able to afford these two days – and keep my hand in with the skills I spent a lot of hard work gaining. But it’s interesting that the emphasis is on affording to work, rather than the other way round…
Given how much we all love our children – and being mums – it can be a difficult thing to actually admit how important work is to us.
We have grown up in a society where self-worth is directly attributed to our status, having experiences, being consumers, taking nice holidays etc, which is all linked with our earning power at the end of the day.
When this is limited, or even taken away from us because we can’t afford to pay the childcare costs, our mental wellbeing is at stake. And while it’s fair enough to stick with one child because you want to, not having another one because you can’t afford to continue working seems a bit harsh.
So while it is good news that the government are working on bringing the costs down, it is also worth thinking about work on its own merit – such as whether it is worth it, just to keep our careers going or because we are going a bit crazy staying it home full time.
Perhaps we all secretly hate working when it comes down to it, but want the right to choose whether we do or not, instead of being forced not to for reasons beyond our control.
For all the mums out there who love their job, there are just as many who can’t wait to give up work for good to be a mum.
In the majority of cases I’m sure that works out just fine – but then again, does that not depend on the type of baby you end up having?
However you feel about this, please write in and share your views/experiences.