I can’t remember the exact time I started stressing over childcare issues, but it was probably shortly after the ‘stressing over wanting to be pregnant’ stage.
For a brand new mum, there is little more daunting than the prospect of leaving your child. Be it to return to work, for a much needed break or in an emergency situation.
Over the 3.5 years of parenting so far, we seem to have navigated through several different types of childcare. Poor T-G must feel dizzy on that roundabout of people taking care of her, although in hindsight, she’s probably a tougher little cookie for it. We also survived, so here’s some pros and cons of the different options we learnt along the way.
For my return to working a newly part time schedule (3 days) we were fortunate enough to split childcare between 2 sets of grandparents, a great auntie and a childminder to fill in the half day gap.
1. Grandparents – We are lucky to have three sets of grandparents for our kids to be spoilt by. One set totally retired, one part time working, the third tied up with full time work. As a child of a modern day family, my parents split, remarried and continued to reproduce, meaning early retirement off the cards, and energy being spent still running around after kid set #2. (note the benefits of this are reaped later! see point #5). The wonderful thing about leaving your baby with grandparents is the reassuring thought that they are building precious memories together, safe with family they know and love. It’ll save you a pretty penny too. This can be offset by (as with most parenting issues) the guilt factor that your knackered parents are dealing with dirty nappies, tantrums and potty training when they should be reading a book with a Pimms in the garden. There is also the balancing act of fairness to all, as the rest of the stream of grandchildren arrive.
2. Childminder – When our baby was around 11 months old, a nursery seemed such a huge and daunting step, so we opted for a childminder to fill in the half day gap. We used the childcare UK app to locate some local carers and also entered our details, letting them find us. We were so blessed to find an amazing lady who lived the next road along and had a daughter the same age as our little one. her older son was at a local nursery too, and she seemed such an expert compared to us newbie parents. She was happy to do just one half day per week, and included all meals n her rate. The only ‘problem’ with the situation was the need for her to prioritise her own family and health. Totally reasonable of course, but this means when her kids are ill, or she’s taking holiday, we’d have to find a back up. The day schedule revolved around her children’s school run, and ultimately we had to replace her when she had went on maternity leave with her third child.
3. Private Day Nursery – Once said childminder was off fulfilling her maternal destiny with child #3, we made the decision to replace the childminder with a nursery. Mainly because nursery cant get pregnant, doesn’t take holiday and don’t send you away if their kids are ill. We also figured that TG (now nearly 2) would have to make that jump in the future anyway so may as well do it now. Most nursery require a minimum of 2 half day sessions, so we took the decision to alleviate mum and auntie of their duties, and let them focus on other commitments. We booked our little one in to a local private day care nursery which caters for working hours (8-6) and she coped fantastically. Our work offered flexible benefits childcare vouchers which gave us a tax saving, and we found the flexibility great. For example, get out of work an hour early? Pop to the shops child free, oh and guilt free. Need an extra day? An early morning meeting? No awkward asking around for favours. It also meant the grandparents now felt more able to help out at weekends or evenings for social events without feeling like you’re totally taking the piss. This all comes at a cost of course. These places don’t come cheap, but if you’re working a half decent job, you should still be making work worthwhile. With one child that is! (Note, check out the government funding policies as some nurserys will only gov- fund 3 hours of a 5 hour session, leaving a hefty bill after age 3).
4. Pre-School Nursery – whilst TG was happily doing her 10 hour days at nursery, I started to compare her childcare and development to some of her pals out in the pre-school world. Commonly taking from age 2, these cute church and school linked nurseries host 3 hour morning or afternoon sessions, requiring mum, nan, grandad or A.N. other to be available to drop and collect during the day. Although I knew this wasn’t an option for me, I started to feel TG was missing out on something? especially when photos of ‘first day at nursery’ started circulating. She’d been at ‘nursery’ from age 1, so it was all quite unceremonious. My options changed when I was on mat leave with baby #2, and was made redundant. The only positive I could see from the situation immediately, was that I’d be able to move TG into a proper pre-school for her last year before school. I set about getting her name down (about 3 years too late by all accounts) and was lucky to get her in to a local school nursery starting in September. I can’t wait to see her benefit from structured learning sessions, which I feel she is so ready for. Make friends that will be there every day. Bring home books and paintings, and above all, let her fulfil her potential. let’s just hope she likes it too!
5. Teens – Aside from daycare, we all need a night off from time to time. When the parentals are busy doing the same, I’m v lucky to have a whole generation of siblings coming up to ripe babysitting age. Always happy to earn a few quid and the little ones love them. Down sides? Your night out just got very expensive, before you even left the house. You’re also going to have to provide transport home; so a nominated driver or a cab fare is to be added. That spontaneous after party / night club is off the cards, but You’ll be thankful in the morning.
6. The loyal friend – She probably has kids of her own, you trust her with anything, including your precious offspring. This is a win-win situation as you can return the favour another time, provided a) your kids get on b) your calendar allows. Make time because these partnerships are golden…Provided you aren’t planning a night out together.
7. And finally….there’s you – Mum, Dad. As I prepare to be a stay at home mum, this option which I hadn’t chosen as such, certainly has its benefits. A colleague said to me in a moment of reassurance…. ‘You know you won’t say on your death bed, you wish you’d spent more time at the office’. No more wondering what to wear to the office, no more stressful confrontations over business disputes. No more of those colleges you have to pretend to like. Just cuddles, play dates, baking, painting, watching the girls grow and enjoying what it’s all about.