The real cost of costly childcare

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.









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13 comments for “The real cost of costly childcare

  1. Katie
    03/07/2012 at 11:22 am

    I am the mother of a beautiful 19 month old little girl and I would love to have another. I don’t want my kids to have a big age gap but I’m not sure that we will be able to afford for me to work unless I can get a higher paid job. I work part time but due to high competition for jobs am working in a low paid retail job rather than my former career and I actually lose money on the day my daughter goes to child care. I honestly think getting a job was more of a rebellion against that fact than a real desire to work. It amazed me when we decided I should go back to work at how financially difficult it is to do so. It turned out I couldn’t make enough of a living to cover the childcare costs if I went freelance – very frustrating! Sometimes I wish that it was a case of the men work and mums stay home with the kids. I know it sounds sexist and I don’t mean it that way at all, but sometimes I feel it would just be easier!

    • Julia
      03/07/2012 at 9:26 pm

      We do need to reduce childcare costs but not by reducing staff quality, ratio’s or equipment. The government needs to provide grants to nurseries who provide outstanding care and education and allow workin parents more access to funding to claim help with fees. Even the 15 hr ‘free’ nursery funding leaves many nurseries out of pocket and unable to do the very best for our children no matter how hard they try.

      • Rebecca
        04/07/2012 at 12:34 pm

        This is true… to reduce quality is not the answer. What i don;t really understand is how other countries have more affordable care – is it simply the case of getting more government funding?

    • Rebecca
      04/07/2012 at 8:47 am

      Hi Katie, thanks for your comment. I know exactly what you mean about not having any real desire to work as such, and an act of rebellion is a good way of looking at it. I also know how you feel about the return to a simpler time when you just didn’t work at all after having kids. At least then there would be no feelings of guilt when you do work – or envy when you don’t – which pretty much sums up how it can feel for a lot of us mums these days…

  2. beth
    03/07/2012 at 11:54 am

    I was blessed to be given identical twins as my first pregnancy. When they were aged 1 i attempted to go back to work and lasted 6 months before the childcare costs got the better of me. People complain about benefit scroungers but as a single mum how else can I feed my two 2 year olds?

    • Rebecca
      04/07/2012 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Beth it must have been really tough giving up your job, and ridiculous that it meant you had more money. Something really needs be done to reverse this.

  3. Anonymous
    03/07/2012 at 12:05 pm

    I’m all for my husband working while I stay at home. Unfortunately my husband can only find a part time job which now means we both work part time. What a stupid point in history to get to. I’m educated, I have a career, but frankly my son Joshua is the most important ‘job’ at the current moment. I just find that things are turned on their head in that the sentiments that women now have no choice to stay at home with their kids is exactly right. It sucks. And for finances to dictate to me how many children I can have frankly is wrong. In other European countries and in Australia, being a mum is financially rewarding (you get a a very large grant to enable you to stay at home for the first years of your children). I don’t see why in this country we can’t follow their lead?

    • Rebecca
      04/07/2012 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks Leigh, a think you’re right that being a mum should be financially rewarding – and receiving a nice big grant would certainly help. It should also be the case that way you and your husband both working part-time is an ideal situation.
      What makes the whole thing worse is the fact women only achieved the freedom to be able to go out and work 100 years ago (if they wanted to) after centuries of only being able to look after children, and now this to being made unachievable due to childcare costs.

  4. Sarah
    03/07/2012 at 12:45 pm

    I am facing exactly this dilemma at the moment. Mother of two with one in school and one at pre-school. I am finding it impossible to find a job to fit in around their various pick up and drop offs and even re-training is proving to be too expensive as I have to pay for the course and the childcare without a guarenteed job at the end of it. I don’t think there is enough support for women who can work, want to work, but need to do so around school hours.

    • Rebecca
      04/07/2012 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks Sarah that’s a good point. I haven;t really thought that far ahead but presume the only way jobs fit in around school is to do after school clubs – and to try and keep to part-time hours – but then the childcare costs are still the same issue..

  5. 03/07/2012 at 1:36 pm

    I completely agree. I am also doing some Freelance work (I am a French translator). Things are starting to take off so I have increased my son’s days at the nursery but due to the nature of the work, I always feel the pressure to find new clients in order to be able to pay for the nursery. I can’t just increase and decrease the number of days based on my activity; they should create “flexible nurseries for flexible workers”;-). I find it easier when my son gets sick (I can come and pick him up right away without having to ask a manager) but you still have to get the job done for your clients and this just increases the pressure (besides looking after your little one who will usually be quite difficult because he is sick). But overall, this is probably the best place to be for a mum. I wouldn’t like to go back to a full-time job involving a long commuting, very little time to spend with my son but at the same time, staying at home 100% and not using my brain will drive me insane.

    • Rebecca
      04/07/2012 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks Karine yes, freelancing is the key I think, and agree more nurseries should be flexible. Mine is pretty good if I need to book extra days at short notice (no such luck if I want to cancel any though.)
      I think more women should try and embrace freelancing if they can – and more could be done to help women achieve this. Failing that working from home seems the next best thing – at least that is reliable work, and surely most companies could facilitate this. But this is obviously not an option for many jobs. And setting up our own little business or cottage industries seems far too much hard work as we’re seriously knackered from being mums anyway!

  6. Sarah
    02/08/2012 at 3:53 pm

    I have an eight year old son with autism, he is currently in mainstream school but his needs are no longer being met so the LEA are looking for a special school placement for him. I’m currently on maternity leave as I also have a 4 month old daughter, I’m supposed to go back to work in 5 months but I have no idea how we are going to manage this. The original plan was to continue using the original( very cheap) option of sending my son to breakfast club and after school club and have my daughter in nursery ( not so cheap) but as my son will no longer be attending a local school we will have to completely re-think this.
    If I’m totally honest, I don’t want to return to work. My son used to start breakfast club at 8am and was picked up from kids club at 5:45pm. I would get home about 6:45 and he would go to bed at 8pm. We didn’t even eat dinner together. This time on maternity leave has made me realise what we have both been missing out on, what’s sadder is that not only do we have to go back to being away from each other but now I have another child whom has to put up with an absent mother. I hate being in this position and would love to be able to afford being a stay at home mum.

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