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?

BiddyPop Wed 16-Jan-13 17:49:57

Sorry, I hadn't read the whole thread, hope my thoughts haven't made the decision more difficult - it worked for us as DH and I both work city centre (not TOO far from each other) and DD was in creche between both jobs, so DH could drop and I collect mostly but allowed flexibility to swop.

Sounds like a nanny may be most useful in your home (maybe not live-in but agreeing to long-ish hours?), costs allowing.

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 17:51:09

Definitely on board ifnotnow! I completely agree and am not trying to make excuses for DH. A big part of me also knows that I'll WANT to be the one rushing home to see the baby, even if that means knocking my pan in as a result.

I think I might need to start preparing DH for the possibility of forking out for a nanny. I hadn't really thought of the difference it would make in the morning... but that would be HUGE and would significantly reduce stress levels at both ends of the day.

CailinDana Wed 16-Jan-13 17:57:51

To add some balance to the great advice you've had so far, I just want to say that you may decide when you're on maternity leave that in fact you don't want to go back to work, and that is a valid decision too IMO. ML is a good time to see what you really want, and I don't think anyone should feel obligated to go back to work if they have the possibility to stay at home and they want to do that. For me, hanging onto a career, while important, would never trump my desire to stay at home with my children. Not because I love my children any more than anyone else, but because for me being at home is something I absolutely love and get massive satisfaction from. It is definitely true that taking time out of a career will almost definitely put you behind, but you might find that you're not worried about that.

In my case, I left teaching, which was a job I'd become disillusioned with anyway (despite loving the actual teaching, I hated the overall job IYSWIM) and I just couldn't justify spending long hours away from my child to do something that just made me frustrated and exhausted. As it happens I landed a part time job working from home in the middle of last year which neatly fits around my DS (I can get the work done in the evenings and during naps) which was pure luck and means I don't have a gaping hole in my CV. So I've ended up with the best of both worlds.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that leaving your job isn't necessarily a bad idea. But you need to be sure it's what you want, and that your DH will support you, really support you, and not treat you like a skivvy or a sponger. You have time yet to figure that out.

Tigerbomb Wed 16-Jan-13 17:59:01

When you are working from home, don't you still need childcare provision? My friend had to provide evidence that she could actually do her work from home

Fairylea Wed 16-Jan-13 18:03:21

I think you may be underestimating how exhausted and emotional you'll be after having a baby and a year of maternity leave. If finances allow you might find it a much better balance practically and emotionally to work part time.

LaCiccolina Wed 16-Jan-13 18:04:16

I worked at a us bank. It was impossible on the expected hours and conf calls to make it work as 5 days. They baulked at 3, compromised on 4. It was hell on earth. Impossible with nursery hours and work expectations. Mine too. I hated them and myself. My dd was upset unsettled and it didn't work.

That's me. I'm now a sahm. Personally works well for us. I thought when preg I'd be happy to return. I was shell shocked to discover I didn't want to. My opinions turned on their head. I had no idea before I would feel that way. I was also uneducated about children, how long a day that truly is for them. Timings of a toddler/baby day and how it affects them. Feeding/sleeping patterns.

What I mean is, plan a two options; return and no return. Identify internal processes to alter hours best u can. Plan possible nursery and yes put name down now. Plan finances for no return and also redundancy as us firms have good record of losing women who request flex working.

U really don't know yet how u will actually feel about anything. I cannot stress how much ur life is about to alter and if u have an ability to be flexible in taking a year please do at first as u can then shorten if u turn out to be a person that hates it.

What u need here is options so while u can plan what u can and cannot do. Whichever u choose in the end will be because of who u are about to become, not who u are or think u are at this moment in time.

Good luck

BlueStringPudding Wed 16-Jan-13 18:04:21

If you have room for an au pair, then a combination of au pair and childminder or nursery could work well. The au pair can help with the morning, and if necessary drop off and pick up. They also do light housework etc. You would need to have a spare room though and not mind having someone else living with you. I did this when my DDs were younger, and it meant they were always home and had settled in earlier than they would have been if I was picking them up. So it meant I had much better time with them in the evenings as I could then go straight into the bedtime routine.

SoldeInvierno Wed 16-Jan-13 18:06:26

we did nursery + aupair during the first 2 years, and then we staggered our working times so that one of us could do drop off and the other pick up. However, if you can afford it, I think a nanny is a much nicer option.

IfNotNowThenWhen Wed 16-Jan-13 18:06:53

Thanks for the applause! blush
It just seems that in the media I am always hearing about "women having children" and I always shout at the telly "men have children too!"

Thanks for not getting offended OP!
Of course you will want to rush home to your child, but if things are a bit more evenly spread between the two of you, and you know that sometimes someone else who loves your child will be rushing home too, it will help.
I think you should sit DH down and have a full and frank discussion of what you both expect to happen. Too many men assume that nothing will change for them, and often it really doesn't (aforementioned sister works with a lot of men who have sah wives which is a lot easier for them, and she works harder than they do just to stay in the game) but if DH wants to get on board there might be ways of making it work.

Look, even if he does ask at work, and they say "no way" it matters. The more men do ask about flexible working, partial home working etc, the more the idea of two parents will slowly seep into the conciousness of employers and society in general.
I hope.

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 18:07:21

tiger - oh yes you definitely still need to have childcare. There is no WAY I could do my job AND look after a baby. But it takes a lot of pressure off at the start and the end of the day IYSWIM because I wouldn't be doing a commute to pick up the child (if that's what I do) just popping along the road to pick up.

As for the SAHM debate... It is a door I have definitely left open. On paper I like my job and like having a career. In practice I have never been one of these people who actually likes work. But I'm conscious that kids are not tiny forever and don't want to be suffering from empty nest syndrome in 10 years time...

IfNotNowThenWhen Wed 16-Jan-13 18:08:58

Also, on the childcare issue, if you are in London a Nanny might not be too much mroe than nursery, and, as someone else said, will not be more expensive should you have another child.

dizzy77 Wed 16-Jan-13 18:11:16

Popped on to also applaud ifnotnow too. Delighted to see you're already on board. Keeping your hand in is an investment in the future, even if the cost/benefit analysis is a close run thing for a while.

My tuppence worth is that definitely approach all conversations about childcare as a shared decision: yes, on ML you may have more time to do the leg work but it has to work as a family.

Also, high flying career men also have flexible working request rights when they become parents, and in my experience (sitting in on senior promotion discussions) can be seen as a bit of a hero for what is a perfectly normal bit of what would otherwise be seen as "female" juggling angry.

Checking his assumptions now (about the future family vs childcare balance, whether he already assumes something different to you on the go back full time <-> SAHM contiuum), flagging different possibilities/options/combinations of nanny/CM/nursery etc and that HE could request and action a change in hours will help plant seeds with him for when you really do have to make all the decisions as a family later in ML

My CM works until 7.30pm, and has done since I went back to work. It suits her - and us, obviously. If you're going to impose a very long day on your children then (just in my opinion) a CM is better as it's a more chilled out environment. When DD was younger, the end of her day at the CM was watching In The Night Garden on CBeebies - at my request - as that was what she did at home and it got her mentally ready for bed even though there was a car journey first. Generally DH picked her up just before 7 but we had her booked until 7.30 because we couldn't guarantee he'd be there then.

DontmindifIdo Wed 16-Jan-13 18:13:50

If you both have to work long hours and neither of you want to compromise on your hours, then there's no choice but use a nanny. You could compress the costs, could you both look at doing 4 days a week but longer days.

Also talk to your DH about the effectiveness of the hours he's working, DH often logs in to work in the evneings, but is normally home for 5:30pm (although he's at the office for 8am). Does your DH have to be in the office for those hours? How much is just paperwork that could be done from anywhere?

Pilgit Wed 16-Jan-13 18:18:28

I've been in your position - I've not read the entire thread so apologies if this is repetitive! We chose a nursery just round the corner from our house, partly for convenience but mostly because it was fantastic and our DD settled in straight away. They are open 7.30 - 6,30 and I commute to London (1.5 hours door to door) so drop offs mean i get into work at 9.15 and to pick up i have to be on the 5 o clock train (so leaving the office 4.45 - utterly impossible in my job except occasionally so when DH went away to uni 200 miles away, my mum and other friends stepped in to do pick ups.

I also have had to do considerable amounts of work at home in the evening. I am lucky in that my DD mostly settled well at night so I could be back working by 8pm for a couple of hours then up at 5.30am for a 6am log on and an hours work before getting DD up (this was during a particularly busy period). It's hard but it can be done if you are planned, have your routines in place, are highly organised and have a compliant child (thankfully DD usually is!) For me this kind of life was worth it as i love my job and career. However the highly timetabled, efficient and organised life where the slightest blip causes a butterfly effect is stressful and it has to be worth it! Crucially DD adores her nursery. Had she been unhappy we would have found another solution. Her being happy and settled was the most important thing.

MulledWineandScully Wed 16-Jan-13 18:21:00

I have no family around either, at all, and no friends who I could or would ask to help out. For us it's a combination of:

I drop off, he picks up. We are flexible on this and communicate if one or other of us can't do it though
My work are really flexible - I do my hours as and when and can sometimes work from home
My CM is pretty flexible and charges same whatever then just tots it up. If I need to drop before 7.45 or pick up after 5pm I just let her know and she's fine about it but there is a trade-off and it works both ways iykwim.
My CM is near to home, not work, as DH works all over and I only work 10 mins away.

Even with all this in place it's still really hard sometimes and I don't recognise my working life any more - I hate having to rush out of the door regardless if I'm picking up and there's an impromptu meeting. But I'm just sucking it up for now, if I get pulled up about it at work then I'll have to go part time or make some other change. I am considering quitting and working for myself anyway so it may be the push I need. You have my empathy and sympathy, I couldn't work it if I had your commute and was doing drop off and pick up.

MuggledWoman Wed 16-Jan-13 18:21:57

Once you actually have the baby you may well find your feelings towards work change and that you don't want to be away that late in the day. You can always talk to work about a more flexible arrangement. I have a professional job with a big finance company and have arranged to work 8 until 4 and if I need to, I can log in from home later on once DS (2) is in bed..don't really have to that often though as I am ten times more efficient with my time at work since returning from mat leave. I only work 4 days as well and treasure the other day to do fun stuff with DS. All babies are different but at 1 years old, DS was in bed asleep not long after 6.30 so it just wouldn't have worked picking him up that late...

Spuddybean Wed 16-Jan-13 18:26:18

I am reading this with interest OP. It will be unlikely i can return to work because of this same issue. I am facing the few skills and abilities i have to dwindle and i will be virtually unemployable in 4 years time.

BikeRunSki Wed 16-Jan-13 18:29:08

I commute into Leeds, my commute is also 40-60 mins. Today was more, both ways! I a to work 8 am to 4pm and pick up the DC from nursery. DH aims to work 8.45 to 5 pm and he takes them. Could you and your partner do something like that?

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 18:30:11

pilgit - your routine sounds like hell - you must really really like your job! smile

I am going to discuss with DH again. We have the same basic job although have followed very different career paths in terms of subject matter expertise, working environment etc. So, I get the fact that it is not just him saying 'I can't / won't' it is just not set up like that. The women who make it to his level are either childless or battle hardened (one I spoke to recently took 6 weeks mat leave with all three of her boys). This isn't right. I'm actually an employment lawyer, so a) I'd like to see my company try to sack me for asserting my rights; and b) I am extremely alive to discrimination issues and see how they play out in real working environments frequently.

I do worry about the time he will get to spend with the children and we've already in theory agreed that he'll have at least one 'early night' when he comes in time for bath time. Fortuntately, his MO has always been to have hellish weeks but free weekends, so at least he won't be sloping off to the office on Saturdays / Sundays as well. I guess it is fair to say, though, that I have not really tested his expectations. I assume they are in line with me, but I guess ingrained assumptions work both ways, right? I also DEFINITELY think he can work from home a couple of evenings, so even if he is working, he's there and present and visible for DC.

riverboat Wed 16-Jan-13 18:34:26

Reading this thread with interest. I have no DC yet, but have always wondered about this very same issue. No family anywhere near us, both have an hour's commute...very interested by all the useful advice on this thread. Good luck with finding the best solution for you OP.

givemeaclue Wed 16-Jan-13 18:42:43

Can you reduce your working hours? 60 plus hours per week in childcare isn't ideal. I say this as a working mum working for an American company do calls from home in evening etc. But I work 4 days per week

BonaDea Wed 16-Jan-13 18:56:33

Yep, pretty sure that I will reduce to 4 days per week (and honestly if they say no to that I think I will just leave). I also hope to get a regular day from home to take pressure off a little bit.

KellyElly Wed 16-Jan-13 19:01:06

I had to reduce my hours. No choice as no family close by and as I was going back to work my relationship with DDs dad was ending. I spoke to my work and said I could work 9-5 four days a week with a half hour lunch bread. If they hadn't agreed I would have had to look for another job but luckily they did. I have friends who work in much more high powered jobs than me and they finish at 5 and then work at home in the evening and try to work from home one day a week. You just have to talk to your employer and make it work, not just dropping off and picking up but when your child's sick etc. It's not easy smile

louschmoo Wed 16-Jan-13 19:05:21

Hmm, it is really difficult. We have been very lucky that my work are quite family friendly, and we found a fab childminder who lives down the road. My husband drops off at 8 and I pick up at 6. I went back to work 3 days per week plus managing email remotely on the other 2 days (so officially out of office but able to deal with urgent request and generally keep on top of things). Work were amenable to this and rstructured my role to suit - I was very lucky. But my husband has also altered his attitude to his career considerably since DS arrived. He has always worked long hours (in office 8-7/8 typically plus work from home at weekend). And he is the main breadwinner. But he found after we had DS that he wanted to be home more so he now goes in later on drop off days and makes a concerted effort to be home for bath and bedtime at least twice a week. He also has taken on his fair share of sickness cover when DS has been ill, and generally being as available as poss for the unexpected things that come up like picking DS up if my commute is buggered, for example. And the working from home has been pretty much knocked on the head. It is important to my DH that I am able to commit to my work as much as poss, and he has accepted that that means we both have to make adjustments, not just me. This has made it much easier as I feel like we're doing it as a team. I think DH likes me working as it is less pressure on him financially and in the long term it will benefit us all. So he has compromised to enable me to do this. It does mean though that he is 'ticking along' a bit at work right now. But he's still working a lot of hours so it's just tough for his company to be honest!

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