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.