A contentious issue
I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media recently, in respect of sending your child to a nursery or considering other childcare options. Views range, from how long it is acceptable to leave your child at nursery and how many days they should attend. Or whether they should attend a childcare setting at all.
You cannot judge other parents
I understand that everyone’s situation is completely different. Both in goals and aspirations, life experience and financial circumstances. Therefore, it’s pretty difficult to judge another person’s situation, when you are seeing a very small part of their life, on a social media post. I would say this goes for any situation in life, not just the difficult parenting choice – of whether to choose a nursery or childminder.
My previous thoughts on the childcare debate
I wrote previously on this blog, weighing up the pros and cons of sending a child to a nursery vs a childminder. And in that post, I very much said that any decision to send your child to a childcare provider is very much a personal choice.
It’s also important to make everyone aware, this choice isn’t taken lightly by parents. As someone who experienced going through this decision, the parenting guilt can be overwhelming. But the reality is, that a lot of parents have no other choice but to allow a childcare provider to look after their children. The cost of living crisis means some parents have to work. And a lot of parents who stay at home often face financial difficulty to make that choice. With the way the childcare system is set up in the UK, there is no winning situation for parents. It sometimes feels like whatever choice we make, we will be criticised.
Government plans to improve childcare in the UK – my concerns
I welcome news that the childcare system is set to change, to benefit parents in terms of cost and childcare being available at an earlier age. My personal opinion is that this is great for children. Even if you do choose to stay at home with your children, every adult needs a break from their child And deserves one. It’s healthy and it’s also great for the child to do their own thing. My concern is that childcare providers are already underfunded and places are limited. It would be great to hear more from the government on how they plan to implement this change. And ensure childcare providers can still provide quality care for children.
We should keep discussing this issue
Shall we discuss this in a bit more detail? I would love to hear your comments below. Or you can contact me on social media. All the details you need are here.
Our childcare situation
For anyone out there who is interested, or would benefit from knowing this information – this is what we did in terms of childcare –
Maternity leave ending
It can be a difficult time, when maternity leave is coming to an end, especially for mothers. You have gone from being the main carer for your baby (biologically, there is often no avoiding this), to then having to leave them with someone else and get back out into the world. It is daunting.
Managing childcare after returning to work
Following 9 months of maternity leave, I returned to work full-time. My partner managed to secure one day off work per week and my parents were helping with childcare (but also both working as well!). So at the time, my little one was in nursery three days per week, around 8 am to 5 pm each day.
I must admit, it felt very young to send her to a childcare provider at nine months old, but I had very little choice in the matter. And I know a lot of parents are in the same situation. However, she soon started to settle in and excel. She loved the nursery setting that much, she attends the after-school club and still talks about all the staff members fondly. The staff were fantastic, particularly in the baby room and the bond she had with the staff was like home-from-home.
Researching & finding the right setting
Once I got over the horrendous feeling of dropping her off on the first day, at just 9 months old. It started to become apparent that she loved being there every day. The reality is, that we could never have entertained her and provided the amount of toys and activities they have on offer. She was also well looked after. We viewed the setting before securing a place for her and fell in love. I understand that not every nursery setting is of this quality standard, but my advice would be to look around beforehand. And find a place you feel is home from home. It gives you additional peace of mind when you are at work.
Changing my circumstances
Because I experienced a mental breakdown, which meant I had four months off work (I needed longer off work, but was pressured to return to work) and was then made redundant. I decided to change my life circumstances. And considering childcare commitments, was a huge factor in this.
Before that, I had been feeling a bit guilty and weighing up the fact that I was working all day, to pay out 2/3 of what I earned daily, for childcare costs. However, I like working, and I’ve always been career-orientated. It is who I am and unfortunately, during the period I was off work, I didn’t do well not having a challenge or using my brain. Routine helped me mentally.
Not to mention the fact that financially, we both had no choice but to work. I had to get better mentally because our financial situation was deteriorating further.
What changed in my circumstances
When you experience tough life circumstances, it is only natural to evaluate everything. I started writing on my blog when I was recovering from a mental breakdown. I had the foresight to realise returning to a demanding, stressful and toxic workplace wasn’t feasible. It was about finding a job and managing childcare. It was important for us both as parents to spend time with my little one before she started school.
Because I hadn’t fully recovered from my mental breakdown, most of my redundancy money funded more time off work (5 additional months). Throughout this time, I put steps in place to finally pursue the career I wanted – helping other people. My first position, after the terrible time I had experienced, was working 3 days per week for a charity. I then progressed to a position I wanted and now work 4 days per week.
Leaving your career
I think it’s also important to mention that a lot of working parents cannot just leave their jobs for a few years – to return when a child starts attending school. Often there might be a career path, something they have worked towards and leaving the position just isn’t an option.
Whilst the corporate world is becoming more flexible, there are certain professions where this is not possible. And not all workplaces have caught up with policies on flexible working. It depends on what role you have and the values of your employer.
The financial cost of childcare
Financial difficulty is something I have written on this blog about before. Even though I had a high-paying job – pregnancy, childcare costs, COVID-19 and redundancy – forced us into a situation where we could no longer manage our monthly finances, and this all happened before we had the impact of the pandemic, lockdown and a cost of living crisis.
I speak about this topic on the blog because I know other people struggle with the cost of living crisis. And it is a horrible feeling to struggle financially. The stress and anxiety our family went through was immense. And the trauma you suffer is lasting. Even though things have slightly improved in our situation, I still worry about money, I hate having to organise our finances now and I do think about how unpredictable, future life circumstances could hit us financially again. Worrying about money never leaves you, once you’ve hit rock bottom in your financial situation!
Some tips for parents and carers, if you face the decision of putting your child into a childcare setting
Do your research on the government’s help towards childcare?
I am so happy to see that 15 hours of free childcare will be offered to eligible working parents of 2-year-olds from April 2024. More details on the proposals can be found here and some other changes are happening further down the line. However, as mentioned in my last post about childcare, please fully read the rules around this offer. For example, the 15 hours could apply to term time only and if like me, you need childcare all year around, this could impact the amount of help you expect to receive.
Had we received this support during our financial difficulties, the situation may have been different. We still use the 20% tax relief for after-school and holiday clubs – which does help.
My tips on settling your child into childcare
For those parents who have to place their child in childcare, I know how difficult it can be. I wanted to collate some useful tips for you.
- Research & visit childcare providers well in advance
- If you like the setting, secure your place (we paid a deposit before my little one was born)
- Take advantage of the settling-in sessions with your little one
- Maintain good contact with the provider, so they can contact you about any issues
- If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Change things
- TRY not to feel guilty (the first key worker told me that as soon as I leave, my little one stops getting upset and settles in fine, within a minute! Keep this in mind!)
- Be reassured that they will eventually LOVE playing at nursery and mixing with other children
- DO NOT be afraid to leave your child in childcare, to take some time for yourself. It doesn’t always have to be because you’re working
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – do not listen to the opinions of other people on the internet – who have no impact on your daily life. Do what is best for you & your family
Some great tips from other websites
NCT offers some great advice on settling your baby into childcare.
Pacey.co.uk also have some great tips.
Huggies talk all about settling into childcare.