To be completely confused about how childcare is supposed to actually work?

(154 Posts)
BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 15:34:25

Sorry for long post.

I'm 29 weeks pregnant and have been having a very preliminary look into childcare in my area. Partly because this is something I've never had to look into before and I just wondered, partly because someone mentioned waiting lists and putting babies on them when they're born (ok, this person might have been mad). I'm planning to be off for a year on mat leave so I have a bit of time in hand.

We haven't looked at nannies / nanny shares in any detail. Obviously this sounds easy, but very expensive and we'd like to explore other options first. So, have been having a look at nurseries and childminders. ALL the nurseries in our area have a closing time of 6pm, and you can possibly pay up £6-10 per day extra for a 6.30 pick up. Childminders are usually the same, some finishing even earlier. Am I mad to wonder how the hell anyone actually makes that work??

I live in London, where the vast majority of people have a commute of at least half an hour. At least. My own commute (I drive out of London, driving back at night) is anywhere between 40-60 minutes. The closer to 5pm I leave work (apart from the fact that my actual contractual finishing time is 5.30, but I am lucky enough to be able to relatively flexible) the busier the roads are, so it actually can easily take longer.

I'm in a professional job and work for a US company (I mention that because the time difference means often having to do conference calls and meetings near the end of my working day at 5, 6 or 7 o'clock). I don't see how I can actually make it work to have to leave my desk at 5pm every day, hoping to hell there isn't a problem with traffic and drive like a mad woman to get there on time. How do other people do this? Are there people who cover that 6-7pm slot for you - family (mine live far away), baby sitters, anything else?!

Or is the reality that it simply won't work unless we get a nanny at huge expense because then they are at our house with the baby and don't have 'closing hours' - although I appreciate you can't take the proverbial with them either?

We used a nanny share. A lot of people have one parent or GPs who can do it. We didn't have that.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Wed 16-Jan-13 15:36:57

You choose childcare close to work, not home.

bemybebe Wed 16-Jan-13 15:39:41

we have not started with our cm yet, but she provides 24hr care and charges extra in 15min increments for late pick up. the rate is 1pound more than her usual rate.
the point is there may be some cm like that in your area, try to look more around

My childminder has DD until 6.30pm, DH picks her up as I don't get home until closer to 7pm. If we are late due to train delays etc we let her know asap, she doesn't usually charge as we are rarely late, but in the contract she is entitled to charge £5 for every 10 mins late we are collecting DD.

I used to use a childminder as I found that CM's were more flexible on times than a nursery, although of course, there will be nurseries who do the longer hours as I am sure there are plenty of working mums who need longer/later hours.

wigglesrock Wed 16-Jan-13 15:40:18

Can your partner juggle work times a bit?

dinkystinky Wed 16-Jan-13 15:41:05

If you might be working late on a regular basis/stuck in traffic, I'm afraid a nanny or a nanny share is your best childcare option. I had friends who had their children in nursery and were having to pay £1 a minute for every minute after 5.30 they picked up their children! The stress levles were ridiculous.

We chose a nanny because my working hours can be erratic - yes its expensive but it works for us.

The alternative is find a childminder/nursery near to work so there is more likelihood of you picking up on time. Though a commute in rush hour with a baby/toddler is no fun either...

I think some childminders will keep children later, you will have to search specifically for this though.

From what I can tell, usually people arrange it so that only one parent has late or unpredictable hours, or they have family backup to help out.

Or, one parent will arrange with work that they cannot stay past 5 on two days a week, the other parent does the same for another 2 days, and they have a babysitter for the other day.

There are really lots of options. Perhaps you could make a deal with work that you have to leave by 5, but can be available for phone calls etc for an extra hour in the evening when you get home?

Sirzy Wed 16-Jan-13 15:41:37

Can you partner not help out at all?

Any friends who would assist?

I think childminders are more likely to offer the flexibilty you need but only to a certain extent.

EuroShagmore Wed 16-Jan-13 15:41:57

In the couples I know where both work, they time shift their jobs if possible, so one starts earlier than usual so they can be back for the pickup; the other starts later than usual and does the drop off. The alternative, for more flexibility, is a nanny, as you say.

Yy to childcare near your workplace if you have a long commute.
However...central london nurseries=more expensive. At least that was the case when dd was in nursery. That was 13 years ago though so it may not still be the case.

beachyhead Wed 16-Jan-13 15:44:02

Often one partner might drop off and the other pick up, so you can work slightly different hours each, but that never worked for me, so I went down the nanny route. It gets more economical with each child you have, though!

splashymcsplash Wed 16-Jan-13 15:44:23

Some childminders offer flexibility. Otherwise have you enquired at work about flexible working? You probably won't want to be working such long hours with a young child.

JassyRadlett Wed 16-Jan-13 15:48:14

Central London nurseries are a lot cheaper than my SW London one!

My DH stagger our start and finishing times. Two days a week I'm at work early and he does drop off. On days when I drop off, he picks up and I work later. We try to be flexible and cover each other in the case of early and late meetings. Both our employers are fine with this. We also work a lot after DS is in bed.

I don't know how single parents make it work, to be honest, unless they are able to work v close to home/nursery.

Omnishambolic Wed 16-Jan-13 15:49:06

Bear in mind that having childcare near work will mean doing your normal commute in rush hour with a pushchair.

What does your partner do? This is a joint decision, it's not all on you.

oneforthemoney Wed 16-Jan-13 15:50:34

Tbh, once you have the baby you may well feel that you want to make some changes that mean you don't have to have your child looked after by someone else well into the evening.

HappyJustToBe Wed 16-Jan-13 15:51:15

Would flexible working be possible in your job? Your employer has to consider it, I believe, whilst you have children.

We have an amazing child minder for DD. DH does drop off at 8. I start work at 7 so can pick her up at 4ish when I finish. My job mainly involves going to court so sometimes I have to work later. CM is happy to have DD until 6 and is so much more flexible than a nursery.

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 15:52:35

Thanks for all the replies.

I think we would try to work it so that my DH would do morning drop off with our childcare provider (potentially allowing me to get to work early so the early finishes aren't so much of a problem?). He works really long hours - often finishing at 8 or 9pm (getting home at 9 or 10) so a 5pm finish for him would be like finishing mid-afternoon! That's just the reality and he earns well because of it.

Because he won't be home, I do wonder about whether I will in reality be able to say to work that I'll do any calls at home which might be necessary. If I'm home alone with a little one I just don't know how practical that is - even if in theory they are in bed at 7.30 or 8pm (when DO 1 yo's go to bed?!) I guess you never know if that will happen - what if they are crying or won't settle or are ill?. Perhaps we can work it so that at least on a couple of nights he comes home 'early' at 8pm so that I can at least be free to do any extra work I might need to...

I'll also just need to explore individual childminders in more detail I think. Many of those listed on the register don't have a website so you can't check these things easily without calling... which I feel foolish doing right now when the baby hasn't even been born!

maddening Wed 16-Jan-13 15:52:54

When I went back to work I got a nursery near my work - which was 45 mins from home - I started work at 8am so had to have the nursery there as they don't open early enough to drop near my house and get to work.

Especially in london it might be better financially to have the nursery near your work as I take it you work further away?

WiseKneeHair Wed 16-Jan-13 15:56:24

I'm sorry, I am sure you didn't mean to but you have annoyed the hell out of me! A child has two parents. Ok, some aren't together, but I am assuming that as you are having a year of maternity leave, that you are with a partner.
You work together as a team to cover cover pick up/ drop off. When your child is ill (and they will be) you work as a team to cover their illness. It should not be just down to you.
For your info, we have used various methods over the years. If YOU are doing the drop off/ pick up always, then I suspect you need a nanny. That is what we have now and if money were no object, that is what I would advice as, talking from personal experience, it has worked really well for us.

WiseKneeHair Wed 16-Jan-13 15:56:52

X post! i'll stop ranting now grin

SamSmalaidh Wed 16-Jan-13 16:00:15

For nurseries you probably do need to get your name down soon, many have 12 month waiting lists for baby spaces.

Your options are:
Nanny (then you are an employer and must sort tax, NI, holiday etc)
Nanny share (potentially very complex unless you are on good terms with the share partner)
Find a CM who will do a later pick up
Get a babysitter to pick up from CM/nursery
One parent does drop-offs, other does pick-ups
Reduce your working hours

Also I think you need to consider whether having a baby in childcare 11 or 12 hours a day, 5 days a week is what you really want for them.

CrazyOldCatLady Wed 16-Jan-13 16:01:08

We tried childcare close to work and it was a disaster. Our commute was an hour and a quarter and DD spent a solid hour each way screaming her head off. Most days I ended up crying with her. We lasted about a month.

We moved her to a creche in our village and she's much, much happier now. Unfortunately it restricts the hours we can work but we have no choice. Thankfully our creche owner realises that most parents in the area have a very long commute and has set her opening hours accordingly.

Our kids now do 11 hours in creche 3 days a week and are practically catatonic with tiredness by friday night.

There's really no easy answer.

NickNacks Wed 16-Jan-13 16:01:50

Because childminders have lives too!

With some parents wanting flexibility at the start of the day, it can be incredibly long day. And presumably nursery workers have to still commute home after you collect at 6.30pm??

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