The eye-watering cost of childcare

There are two things that are absolutely certain with kids. One, they are going to keep you awake at night. Two, they are going to cost you a LOT of money.

But as parents we accept the toys – because we love seeing them happy – and new clothes – because they grow out of them quickly and they are so damn cute. We accept these costs and we fork out for them month after month.

But there’s another bill that lands every month that’s not so acceptable. I have a feeling of stone cold dread every time I go to open it and am always shocked, no matter how much I prepare myself.

It’s the childcare bill, and more specifically for us nursery.

Now let me say straight off the bat that my children’s nursery is bloody amazing. It’s staffed by lovely people, who my kids adore, and it’s a place where my toddler, who’s been there the longest, has learned and developed so very much that I count my lucky stars she got a place there.

I am not having a go at our nursery. Their costs are X and so they have to charge Y. They’re feeding my children three fresh meals a day, plus providing nappies, toys, trained staff and amazing facilities that I’m sure cost a fortune to maintain.

Nope, what sends me into a fuming, eye-rolling, ranting and raving tailspin is how utterly disgraceful the government support for parents (not just mums, PARENTS) who work is.

Let me break my situation down for you, so you can see why I’m so very irate at this insane lack of support working parents receive.

I work five days a week, Sunday to Thursday. My two children attend nursery three days a week, and have another day with their grandparents.

Our nursery bill for two kids, for three days – remember, it’s just three days, it’s not even the full week – is an eye-watering £1,900 this month. That’s with a 10 per cent sibling discount by the way. Ouch! Yes it did hurt, a lot.

This figure is not far below my monthly take-home pay.

So what help do I receive from the government, seeing as they’re all about patting us on the back when we go back to work and contribute to society. What do they do to make this more affordable for me? To support work that works for little old me?

I get £243 of childcare vouchers. That’s it. And, technically that’s my money anyway. This cash is sliced off my salary before tax, so it’s basically just a tax break.

Sure I’m saving some money, but come on, seriously? You think a measly £243 a month is enough for anyone to manage with two kids in full-time childcare? It’s not even enough for me and I only have my kids in for three days a week.

Now if the smartypants minister for less-than-perfect childcare solutions were here he would pipe up and interrupt me right now with great excitement.

“But wait!” He would call. “Your eldest turns three next month, then you’ll be eligible for our super amazing, oh-so clever 30 hours of free childcare a WEEK!”

And I would respond with a slow clap oozing sarcasm. Well done you, you’ve solved the problem.

Except that you haven’t. Because it’s NOT 30 hours of free childcare a week. My nursery will cap the number of hours I can claim per day and won’t offer the free childcare in school holidays (even though my child doesn’t attend school and I still have to work in school holidays and pay for nursery in school holidays).

Read more about how the 30 hours of free childcare isn’t what it says on the tin here. 

Yes it will save me money come April, thank Christ. But I’ll still be paying more than £1,200 a month. This is more affordable for me, we can just about manage this, painful as it is.

But there are many, many people out there who couldn’t afford this.

People who would simply decide it’s just not worth going back to work, even if they really want to.

Yes the 30 hours scheme is great, but why the hell isn’t it being offered from at least the age of one? This is the time when employers expect you to return to work, or decide you’re not coming back at all. Why don’t we get bigger, more significant support from the moment we get back to work?

I think it’s an absolute scandal how expensive childcare is in this country. An international study found the UK has the most expensive childcare in the western world.

Returning to work when you have had a child is hard enough. There’s the stress of settling back in to your career, juggling the drop-offs and pick-ups around working hours while trying not to irritate your boss and the worry of not seeing enough of your child. Do we really need to pile cost on top of this to make it any less appealing for parents to go back to work?

The current childcare support offered to working parents is not enough. If we want to create a culture that encourages parents to go back to work, to make a contribution to society and bring home the bacon for their families without having to rely on state handouts, then we must seriously rethink these so-called “flagship” policies.

Offer parents proper financial support. And make sure there’s the budget to do it, so that nurseries and childcare providers are not forced to up their rates in order to cover a shortfall in funding from the government.

As for me, I’m counting down the days until April and hoping my bank account can withstand the pressure until then.

What are your views on the cost of childcare? Have you been forced to cut back on working hours or leave altogether due to the bill? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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29 Comments

  1. Katy Lynn
    January 11, 2018 / 7:48 am

    The free 30 hours doesn’t even apply to Northern Ireland – which is a joke. I am rapidly approaching the end of my third maternity leave so I will have 3 kids in day care. My son is in yr 1 and his school provide the most amazing wrap around care which is very affordable, but still with my kids in 3 days a week it’s going to cost a lot per month, wiping out one salary. Why would I work? Because as much as I love my children I don’t think I’m cut out for 100% stay at home mum gig. My friends live in the south off France and their child care cost for 5 days a week, from 8-6 is around 300 euros!!!!
    We as a nation are screwed, how can they expect parents to work when it makes more sense to not???

    • themummybubbleblog
      January 11, 2018 / 2:12 pm

      Wow! That bill is amazing, what I wouldn’t give for childcare to cost that in the uk, it’s absolutely bonkers. I can’t believe you don’t even get the 30 hours where you are. I’m like you, not cut out for full-time stay at home mum. I know the cost won’t be forever but it still stings every month! X

  2. January 12, 2018 / 8:53 am

    This is exactly how I feel. Childcare is a second mortgage- by far the biggest bill! Forget being strapped for cash on maternity leave – you can survive that. It’s the 2 years after that make it unaffordable to work. When I contemplate having a second child I wonder how we would manage. It breaks my heart that it comes down to money.

    • themummybubbleblog
      January 13, 2018 / 9:47 pm

      Yes it’s such a shame isn’t it! I feel that as me and my other half work hard we should be able to afford to have more kids, but actually any more of a monthly childcare bill and we wouldn’t be able to afford to eat!

  3. January 14, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    I think it’s ridiculous. I’m self employed, which already means I was only eligible for the measly statutory maternity leave from day 1 (and my husband got 0 paternity as self employed also – not even 2 weeks government support!) and now I get no help if I go back to work. We have an ageing population yet not enough is being done to support parents and especially women in going back to work and having both a career and a family. The 30 hours of free childcare for 3-4 year olds is just being “tested” in SOME areas of Wales – Started in Sept 2017! #KCACOLS

  4. January 14, 2018 / 4:28 pm

    Gosh, £1900 a month?! That’s an incredible amount of money. My son goes to a childminder four days a week and after we’ve paid our childcare vouchers out of our salary there isn’t usually an awful lot more to pay. We must have it cheaper here where we are. I am very appreciative of childcare vouchers because I get the £243 but only lose around £150 from my salary. I was looking forward to having some extra free hours this year but then found out it’s only for people on low incomes so I think I’ll put off having another child until I know dexter has got the 30 free hours or is in school.

    #KCACOLS

  5. January 16, 2018 / 7:22 am

    My 22 month old Son is currently at home with me as I cannot justify the cost and am not entirely comfortable at leaving him with someone else at the moment. I do think the government should support parents more when it comes to childcare. #KCACOLS

  6. January 16, 2018 / 7:36 pm

    Child care costs seriously make me mad. I pay more on childcare than I do on our mortgage. It’s also the reason why we’re not expanding our family just yet – which shouldn’t really be a financial decision. As Georgia was born on 5 April… Yes… 5th… she won’t even get the 3 year funding till SEPT… even though if she were born 5 days earlier… it’d kick in from 1 April. How outrageous is that? I have to continue to pay full whack for 5 months because some nerd in an office deemed that an appropriate cut off. Grr. Great post lovely #fortheloveofBLOG

  7. January 16, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    It’s things like this that remind me just how lucky we are to have my parents look after my children while I go to work. If we’d had to pay for childcare, I would have had to work more hours for less take home pay, and we wouldn’t have had our second child (at least not so soon). It’s such a shame that there’s so little support for working parents. #KCACOLS

  8. January 17, 2018 / 11:37 am

    I feel you! We have one child in three days a week and it costs us £600 – £750 a month, depending on whether it’s a 4 or a 5 week month. We can get up to 15 hours free per week when he turns three, but that’s in state nurseries only and is limited to a 2 hour session per day. You have to take either all mornings or all afternoons. Given that it’s only a 2 hour slot, and you can’t pay to “top up” for a half or full day, it’s practically pointless unless you don’t work in the day. We’ve already worked out that we can’t take it up because of this so will be paying for private nursery until Small Boy starts school when he’s five. As an aging population we need to sort this out. We don’t have family young/fit enough or local enough to pick up the slack. #FortheLoveofBlog

  9. January 17, 2018 / 12:09 pm

    I’m so with you on this. The cost of childcare is shocking and is far too much for many people to afford – it’s why so many women drop out of the workforce after having a baby. It seems like the government doesn’t realise that putting a bit more funding towards childcare would help a lot of those women get back to work – which would be good for the economy overall. My childcare is only affordable because my daughter got a place in a subsidized nursery at my husband’s work. #fortheloveofBLOG

  10. January 17, 2018 / 12:20 pm

    I think childcare all over is expensive. I was lucky that my mom-in-law looked after both my girls up until the age of 3 when they went to playschool. Even though they went to playschool for half a day – the cost per month was exorbitant and that did not even include extra mural activities which my girls wanted to do.#fortheloveofBLOG

  11. January 17, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    It’s ridiculous. When I went back to work I was happy to go back full time. But when we worked out the maths it wasn’t worth it financially to do more than three days. After paying the extra childcare, working out tax and NI it worked out I’d pretty much be earning the same each month despite working two full days extra each week. And I’m one of the lucky ones. Some parents I know spend more on childcare than they earn. Parents that want to work shouldn’t be forced out of it because they can’t afford to. It’s backwards. But I also understand that the government can’t pay for everything and cuts have to be made somewhere so I don’t have a magic solution. But I definitely think it would be better for the economy if help was offered to working parents. #fortheloveofblog

  12. January 17, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    Every month, my husband and I discuss how much more he would have to make to replace my income, then how much we could save by me staying home and not having to pay for day care. There are so many pros and cons! Hang tight!
    #fortheloveofblog

  13. January 17, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    I think my wage for working 3 days a week goes entirely on two days a week of nursery (thank God for grandparents).. perhaps not our best financial decision. Such a good point, well made #foetheloveofBLOG

  14. January 17, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    Childcare nearly crippled Me at the start. Still not great but am working with it somewhat! #fortheloveBLOG

  15. January 17, 2018 / 10:17 pm

    I don’t know how my nursery does it if I’m honest. They are fabulous but I know by us taking the funded (which is laughable) hours it hurts them financially but we need those 30 hours. I honestly don’t think I could afford a second child in childcare, I really don’t. #fortheloveofBLOG

  16. January 18, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    It is eye-watering how much childcare is, especially I think in, and around the south-east. If the twins had gone to the nursery our eldest went to, I would have been paying the nursery more for childcare than I was earning as a teacher – it’s ridiculous!!!! #fortheloveofBLOG xx

  17. January 18, 2018 / 9:50 pm

    Childcare costs are a joke. They are ridiculously expensive. I left work due to a combination of lack of flexible working and cost of childcare. I’ve never understood why we have to wait till they’re 3 for extra help with the cost!
    #fortheloveofblog

  18. January 18, 2018 / 10:25 pm

    Either myself or my partner stayed home to look after the kids while the other worked when they were little because it didn’t make sense to work and pay it all out on somebody else looking after them. The cost is ridiculous especially as the government want to encourage people into work! Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS hope you can join us again next time

  19. January 19, 2018 / 12:33 am

    As the owner of a daycare, I used to hate having to give out the bills to the parents. It was always a shock but they knew I had to charge it. The worst thing was the pay. By the time I paid expenses for the daycare, my hourly salary was under $3. It was horrible. I worked almost 30 hours per week outside of my 60 hours of open daycare and many parents didn’t realize that. I had to leave the profession because it just became too much to work and receive so little. #fortheloveofBLOG

  20. January 19, 2018 / 11:23 am

    The cost of childcare in this country is bloody insane – I have no idea how we are all surviving it. I’m still in the early months of maternity leave with my second but I have no idea how we will afford childcare for two kids. I’m trying not to think about it for a another month or two to be honest! #fortheloveofBLOG

  21. January 19, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    Childcare is ridiculous on this country and I can understand why so many people don’t return to work after having a child. It just doesn’t always add up financially to do it. Never mind that this might be something that you want to do for you and your child. It does make you question about having a bigger family which is so sad to even take into the equation. #fortheloveofBLOG

  22. January 20, 2018 / 9:43 am

    For us it was never financially viable for me to go back to work. We started to use the 15 free hours for my 3 year old but somehow with all the rules on times etc we still had a bill of almost 300 pound so preschool did not last long. We are planning to homeschool now anyway so at least I’m prepared to have them both home full time!

    It is a shame to hear you are lumbered with this huge cost and not getting a return on the hard work that you do. x #kcacols

  23. January 20, 2018 / 11:11 am

    The government we have is disgusting. From nurseries to nursing care. It’s time they thought about caring about their own country. #fortheloveofBLOG

  24. January 20, 2018 / 5:35 pm

    Here the average cost of childcare is more than the average salary. My wife worked in a nursery until Snappy was born and even with an employee discount she would have to have worked 8-6, five days a wee to afford to keep him there from 9 to 5. #kcacols

  25. January 21, 2018 / 7:38 pm

    We were very fortunate that my MIL watched Ben whilst I worked full-time, but now twins are on their way she cant do the three and to be fair, I dont blame her! especially when she does it out of the kindness of her heart. Unfortunately this means I cannot work outside of home until the twins are nursery age which is great to be home, but not financially as I now rely on this blog and redundancy payout to survive! #fortheloveofBLOG

  26. January 22, 2018 / 7:57 pm

    It’s so frustrating , surely it’d do the government and country so much better if women were able to get back to work when they were ready. As you say most nurseries do a fab job but it’s so incredibly expensive #fortheloveofBLOG

  27. January 26, 2018 / 5:45 pm

    Here in the US we get bubkas (nothing), so I feel your pain! This needs to get figured out or we will never have any work/life balance Oy vey! #fortheloveofBLOG xoxo

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