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?

lljkk Wed 16-Jan-13 16:03:08

You & patner juggle your shifts or find someone who can work more flexible hours like you need.

It turns into even more of a patchwork situation as they get older, and when you need to cover holidays.

swizzles Wed 16-Jan-13 16:10:23

I don't think evening conference calls will work that well for you. I could be wrong - both my kids were good at settling but TBH as I walked down the stairs I would be faced with a house that looked like it had been ransacked, clothes all over the floor, food smeared on the high chair. I would be exhausted and too tired to speak to friends on the phone like I used to or do anything much else. I certainly couldn't have engaged my brain.

I'm sorry...I'm not selling this am I? Somebody will be along in a minute to disagree and tell you about their superwoman abilities..but having a child is the most incredible upheaval you can imagine.

I think you should get your child registered with a nursery but I think your actual only option is an au pair/nanny.

Also, at risk of being judgy pants (and perhaps I've missed something), I agree that long childcare 5 days a week isn't ideal if you have a choice.

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 16:11:16

wisw - you are right to ask the question about my DH. It's likely he'll take care of mornings allowing me to get away easily and quickly. He earns a lot more than I do and his work is what means I will have the opportunity to take the full year mat leave which I desperately want to do, it means we are able to live in a nice area in a great house. NOW, I'm not saying that lets him off the hook with childcare and everything falls to me, but we have to be realistic about who can do what. I will probably return to work 4 days a week, and will be able to work from home maybe one day, whcih should take some pressure off.

crazycatlady (I am one of those too!) - I did think about childcare near work, but it doesn't sit well with me for the reasons you describe. Also, it defintely means DH couldn't do drop off (he works in central london, I work way outside london) and if something happened there is no one local to help out in an emergency - although I can't rely on a friend or neighbours regularly, there are people near home who could help from time to time if a problem arose but no one near where I work.

To the person asking whether I want my child to be in childcare for 10 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week.... Well, quite. Perhaps I should just be thinking of jacking it in for now, becoming a SAHM for a few years and taking a hell of a lot of pressure off everyone? It makes a lot of sense to me. DH is worried about the imbalance it would create between us, worries for my career (so do I) and I can't help but wonder if it would drive me mad.

CMOTDibbler Wed 16-Jan-13 16:19:09

We juggle our start/finish times to be there for the correct times. You'll be able to do the conf calls if you proactively work to schedule them for times that suit you. I'd work to negotiate some time working from home too - you'll need childcare, but you can be a bit more flexible with when you get things done.
Your dh needs to think about his long hours culture too, and what he can do to see more of his dc

I think it will be quite tough if your DH works so late and you might have late/unpredictable hours, and you both have commutes to worry about.

If you only have to go into the office 3 days/week, that helps a bit.

In your situation I would get a nanny for those 3 days, and perhaps a half or full day at nursery for the day you work at home.

It might be expensive, but you say DH earns a lot, you have a nice home, etc. Childcare is not the area to economise, if you can help it. The right setup will save your sanity and possibly your career.

WiseKneeHair Wed 16-Jan-13 16:33:01

It's ok Bona, it is one of my pet hates when childcare is seen as a mother only issue.
As far as working at all is concerned, then only you and your DH can decide. There are no right or wrong answers, just the right answer for you.
I agree that childcare is not the area to economise. If you have good, reliable childcare that your child(ren) are happy with, then you will be happy and better able to concentrate on your job.
Good luck. Hope you choose what is right for your family.

fairylightsandtinsel Wed 16-Jan-13 16:33:39

The issue of whether you want your child in childcare for 10 hrs a day is a totally different debate frankly. Provided you have added it up and realised the number of hours per week your baby will spend in childcare, ie going into it informed, then the decision you make from there is your choice where you balance your needs and your career with those of your child. For that many hours you may find a nanny preferable to the other options, especially if (as it sounds) your DP and you have well paid jobs. The advantage is that they come to you so you don't have to get your little one up, out and dressed before 7.30, plus they are "yours" so you can ask them to go to baby classes etc that you choose, rather than them fitting in with the childminder. We couldn't afford it but have long been envious of friends who can. they do the same job as us but often have extra evening commitments and just tell the nanny a few days in advance and she stays late, or even stays over. DH and I are constantly negotiating and swapping and juggling things to do the best we can by all concerned. You have lots of time to figure this out and you may find, once your baby is born and you've been on ML for a few months that you change your view about how much you want to do when you go back.

scaevola Wed 16-Jan-13 16:37:48

I'd say nanny when DC is very small, and swop to nursery + aupair when bigger (that way you can get some housework done for you too).

mumblechum1 Wed 16-Jan-13 16:41:49

I'd agree with saevola. I tried every permutation but dcs definitely happiest in a home environment, pref. ours, second best childminder.

Snorbs Wed 16-Jan-13 16:44:19

If transport to/from childcare is largely going to be down to you due to your DH's working hours, could you move out of London so your commute is more manageable?

lljkk Wed 16-Jan-13 16:46:46

There are a lot of threads on MN with posts from women who wish they had held on to their careers after having kids and not become SAHMs. Too hard to get back into work afterwards.
I don't regret leaving my old job (I was burnt out). Even though I fear I will never have a decent career again. But if you like your job, I encourage you to try to keep it going.

I would have killed for a nanny last winter when DS was sick literally every other week. He could not go to nursery half the time and we would have been screwed if we'd both been in full-time work.

The other good thing about a nanny is that you can keep your DC on the schedule that works best for them. We are very happy with our childminder but it's true that DS is very tired by the end of the week as he cannot nap there as well or as long as he does at home.

I think you will have a better sense of what you want a few months into your maternity leave. A lot will depend as well on your child's personality! It's definitely not too early to research now but keep an open mind for now as well.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Wed 16-Jan-13 16:55:09

Nanny is a fantastic option if you can afford it. Young DCs have a brilliant knack for vomiting/ coming out in spots/getting conjunctivitis the very day your board presentation is due and DH is travelling to Zurich - or at any rate mine did.

Working from home a couple of days a week also takes the pressure off - you'd still use childcare but only for 8 hours rather than 10/11. Any part time/WAH deal that's on offer is worth considering in order to balance things out, because packing the job in completely is a big gamble.

IfNotNowThenWhen Wed 16-Jan-13 16:58:24

Get a nanny. It will take the pressure off having to get a toddler out of the house on time every morning. It will relieve a massive amount of stress.

I do think that, although your Dh brings in more money, he does not seem to be under the impression that anything in his life/working day is going to change when he becomes a parent.
The fact that you are even considering quitting your job (and possibly career) altogether shows that you are bearing the entire brunt of the effect of parenthood alone. If you do this your career might never recover. This forum is full of women who did just that, and have become unemployable in their old career. I know some women desperately want to be SAHM, but it should be a genuine choice. You shouldn't be forced into it because you feel like you have no option.
Has your DH spoken to his employer about flexible working? Has he explained that he is intending to be a hands on parent? Has he explored the option of working 4 days a week?
Abd before you scoff, my VERY high powered sister went 4 days in her job, which technically she shouldn't have been allowed to do because she bloody well demanded it.
Until men step up and start realising that they have children too,and demanding that that be taken into account at work NOTHING will ever get easier for women.
Sorry for the rant, but it winds me up!

Omnishambolic Wed 16-Jan-13 17:00:18

Here here IfNotNow.

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 16-Jan-13 17:00:24

This has prob already been said but I do think that you will find things exhausting if you try to keep to the same working hours once your baby is here. For one if you are FT you will see very little of him or her and I would have struggled with that. I used to work until 7/8pm on a regular basis and I would have been dreadfully tired and unhappy if I hadn't made changes when DS1 arrived.

I now work FT and get home at 5.45 and still get to the weekends and feel I haven't seen my DC for a week.

I'm sure it is doable with a nanny, but not very enjoyable.

WiseKneeHair Wed 16-Jan-13 17:03:41

Three cheers for IfNotnow

Like many couples, I do the drop off and my DH does the pick up. We stagger our working hours.

Bonsoir Wed 16-Jan-13 17:05:28

A nanny offers far more than a CM or a nursery when your baby is little. First of all, you don't have to get your baby up and dressed and fed and deliver him/her somewhere early in the morning - on the contrary, you can let him/her sleep in late while you get ready for work. Secondly, when if your baby is ill, your nanny can still work. Thirdly, your baby won't be ill nearly as often because he/she won't be in contact with lots of other filth-infested DCs. Fourthly, you decide on the activities you want your nanny to do with your baby. Fifthly, it gives you evening flexibility (providing you work this out in the contract you draw up with your nanny).

Tbh looking at you and your DH situation, I think you need a nanny. Both my DH and I have very predictable hours. If we know we have a meeting so we can't make the pick up/drop off time, the other covers it. Remember childcare is only expensive for preschool years. And a nanny means the price won't go up when you have a second!

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 16-Jan-13 17:09:20

oh and would second hanging on to your career if you can. Tempting as it may sound to be a SAHM there will be a time when you want to go back to work and it's much harder once you have been out of the job market for a bit. Could you agree reduced hours with your employer ie 8-4 for 4 days a week. I used to do something like that and it really did take the pressure off. You may then be able to find a CM who would look after your baby until 5.30

Another round of applause for IfNotnow

Hang on to your career if you can - you sound a lot like me and I had a very hard time getting back into the workforce after about 6-7 years at home. I was lucky to find my current, well-paying, flexible job a 10 minute walk from home (not a stealth boast, really!) and been here for 3 years now and I finally feel like the old me again. I really was not suited to being a SAHM, if only I had realised it at the time I could have saved myself and DH a lot of heartache...

The time that your child(ren) are so small is incredibly short really, and before you know it they are in school and you are wondering what to do with yourself. But however short it feels, it is centuries long with respect to your career. A break of 4 or 5 years can easily set you back a decade professionally.

I know this is a long time away for you still, but our solution is a nanny. Worth her weight in gold! She is mostly an after-school nanny who picks up DD's from school, organises playdates, takes them to their after-school activities, makes sure they do their homewowrk etc. Most evenings when I get home from work (6.30ish) they are already in their pajamas.

We also have her work two full days (because she needs the money and quite frankly because the last thing I want to do on weekends or evenings is chores and errands and things) and while the kids are at school, she does our grocery shopping, drycleaning, laundry, makes dinner for DH and I to heat up when we get home, all sorts of things.

It will take some trial and error and some compromise from both you AND your DH, but you will find the right balance for your family. Good luck and congrats on the pregnancy smile

rainrainandmorerain Wed 16-Jan-13 17:26:12

I don't think this needs to be a SAHM v working mum debate, really, but...

Childcare is very much the responsibility of both parents, not just the mum, as others have said. And if I were you, I would be getting as many options on the table to give you maximum flexibility as possible right now (including being prepared for the possible feeling that you truly do not want your baby to spend a lot of time away from you - as well as the possibility that you may want to do some work to feel happy or fulfilled etc. You really don't know how you will feel until it happens!).

Which it sounds like you are, to some degree, if your dp is prepared to change his working hours. I would also check out how realistic your employers might be about reducing your hours, or flexible working. A word of warning - as someone who works from home with a small child, planning work calls or even planning when you can get a couple of hours in around bath/bedtime etc is really really hard. Unless you have someone else there to literally let you drop everything and run off to a quiet room to deal with it. And please - don't count on how much you will get to 'once they've gone to bed' with a small baby or toddler. They might wake up every hour teething - you might find yourself exhausted at 8pm with a mountain of domestic work and stuff to prepare for tomorrow, and no energy/inclination to several hours of demanding or creative paid work.

Seriously - it's not just a case of fitting childcare around your existing work, you do really need to think that this is a radical change in your lives, and much has to give to accommodate a child. I take it there are no relatives you can ask to help out with childcare, to give you any flexibility over pick up and drop off times? as far as career v childcare works when the children are v small.... in all honesty, for quite a lot of us, once you have paid for the kind of childcare that allows you to do your job, and that you are happy with, you may find you are making very little money. BUT for some of us, it is worth doing because it is easier to keep a career going, by the skin of your teeth, than it is to take several years off it completely and then try and step back in.

That said, many women find new and different work after having children, and after having time off. Horses for courses and all that.

Muminwestlondon Wed 16-Jan-13 17:43:53

As a fellow Londoner, I was horrified to find that most of the local nurseries were either too expensive (same price or more than a nanny) and there were no good childminders with vacancies in my area at the time (with waiting lists for the good ones). This was over 10 years ago, so things might have changed and my area is perhaps not typical, but I would start looking as soon as your baby is born and you have a back to work date.

As others have said, I think you would be very lucky to find either a child minder or a nursery that goes beyond 6pm.

One of my colleagues has a live in au pair who does the afternoon school/nursery run, and looks after the kids until the parents get home at about 6.30pm, but finding someone reliable and capable is pretty hit and miss in my opinion.

BiddyPop Wed 16-Jan-13 17:44:29

I got childcare near my office for similar reasons - I reckoned that if traffic was pants (not irregular situation), I could sing away to DD in the car or we could pull in somewhere for a quick feed or cuddle if really needed (b'fed). And it also meant that if work went manic, I could go, grab her and go back to work (didn't happen so much when she was a baby, but later on as a 2-4 year old it was handy).

It also meant that she was less time with them than if near home, and more time (even if commuting) with DH or I. When she got older, DH used to bring her in on his bike, and I'd bring her home in the car or I moved to the bus when she was almost 3 so we'd have decent chats on the bus (not just back of the head...).

And, an important consideration when she was little, was that if she got sick, I could pop over quickly and collect her, or even just see how she was doing (they were great when illnesses struck - phone parents and get agreement, give a spoon of calpol, strip off to nappy and see how child was in an hour, ring parents back - so parents had an hour to re-arrange and juggle if collection was necessary, while child had a chance to show it was nothing major if it wasn't). Rather than most near home where it was "come get your child immediately, and no we don't give any meds" - at least 45 mins away at BEST.

Does your employer have any childcare on-site or are there any options near the office? It may save lots of hassle.

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