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?

ceeveebee Mon 28-Jan-13 23:05:43

Absolutely get a nanny.
My DH is not a lawyer but works for a bank in M&A and is just not able to be around during the week. I did a sideways move from a senior finance role to a technical/compliance role which allowed me to reduce to a 3 (long) day a week job when I returned to work after my maternity leave with twins

Our nanny is wonderful, she does breakfast, dressing them ECG so I can get out of the door in the morning, she takes them to lots of groups and activities, cooks for them and sometimes us, does all their laundry and some of ours, writes me a shopping list and receives knline shopping order, leaves the house clean and tidy every night, helps me with bath and bedtime and (within reason) doesn't mind me being a little late back now and then. She also babysits for us occasionally. I couldn't go to work without her

bringonyourwreckingball Mon 28-Jan-13 22:42:55

Blueshoes I'm glad it worked out for you - I am a PSL and frankly it's grim, no money or respect and no career prospects but still stress and travel. That's probably partly due to the ethos of my particular global law firm but it's not an easy option

Queenoftheharpies Wed 23-Jan-13 13:18:06

My childminder is amazingly flexible - the norm is she works til 6 but she doesn't charge for late pickups.

One of the other children she cares for is with her from 5.45am until 9pm for 3 days of the week.

blueshoes Wed 23-Jan-13 12:57:57

Love your post, Murtette. Brings back a lot of memories which I blanked out now that my dcs are older, especially the bit about toddlers arching their back and going rigid in their carseats or rushing around in morning. Also, I used to dress dcs to bed in comfy clothes that they need not change out of to go to nursery, so that is one less battle.

Wreckingball, if OP finds it a little too much, rather than leave the law as you suggested, there are many other options she can explore first, like working as a PSL or inhouse lawyer. I left the law and worked in support services in my law firm. I regretted it - pay was poor, work was dull, the culture of the people you work with too different. But then again, I loved fee-earning and being a lawyer, just did not want to hack the hours and unpredictability.

I am now a ft inhouse lawyer in a global law firm (US-based). The hours rock and the work is still interesting. Pay is decent - will never compare with senior fee-earning but way better than non-law - and worth getting out of bed for. The best thing is the flexibility and my work life is quite stressless. I have a live-in aupair and children are now in ft school.

dixiechick1975 Mon 21-Jan-13 10:50:15

You are not being silly re looking into child are now. I can remember feeling awkward looking around dd's nursery at 3 m pregnant but if I had left it I wouldn't have had a place.

Agree it is good to discuss this now.

If your dh is surrounded by partners with sahm wives he will have no idea re the impact on work.

I work in a small law firm (not London) where all the partners are male and have sah wives. It is like 1950.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Mon 21-Jan-13 10:07:03

Do you have a spare room? I would suggest you get an au pair who can do nursery drop off and collection for you. They don't do all the childcare but can be very useful in working families to bridge the gaps. They'd also be able to help with putting baby to bed, useful if you and DH have to work from home in the evening. This is much cheaper than having a nanny but obviously you do need to put the au pair up as well.

mrsSOAK Mon 21-Jan-13 09:54:54

having a child means making changes to your lives for both you and your partner.
Things are unlikely to be able to go on as they did before and quite frankly you shouldnt expect or want them too.
Your priorities should have changed.
Childcare is a difficult thing to organise, there are options but your work life is not going to be the same as before.

noviceoftheday Mon 21-Jan-13 09:28:05

I think Murtette makes some excellent points in her posts. I just can't imagine the stress of getting dc1 ready on a workday. As it works, I get the cuddles and breakfast together and then the dcs disappear with their nanny to have a wash and get dressed while I have my shower. We then meet up again 25/30 mins later, when everyone is dressed. They are usually already in the car waiting for me as they drop me off at the station. This routine vs what Murtette describes is one of the big pluses to having a nanny.

Also if your dh is a partner in a global law firm then he is on a minimum of £250k. You can afford a nanny, even if it Means making cut backs elsewhere. Women often make the fatal mistake of looking at childcare costs as coming out of their money (which is usually the lower) and this inevitably pushes them into a position where their career is effectively over because it plays second fiddle to their dh's career.

As regards Murtette's point about not being popular with colleagues if you duck out of calls between 5pm and 7.30pm, i totally get it, but equally, I suck it up. Ie at times it isn't going to make me popular, but there are other ways that I make up for it, so I don't feel guilty. <dons flame retardant hat!>

Murtette Mon 21-Jan-13 09:04:53

One other thing I thought of after I'd gone to sleep last night - if you work for an East Coast US firm/company then disappearing between 5pm & 7.30pm isn't the end of the world as its their lunchtime and, as far as they're concerned, there are still plenty of working hours in the day in which to have a conference call as 7.30pm is still only 2.30pm. However, think about the impact it will have on your UK colleagues if you're constantly having to re-schedule calls which could have been at 5.00pm until 7.30pm. I really resented it when I was on the other end of this. Say you have a call at 5.00 which lasts an hour... that means you can start doing whatever follow up you need to do on that matter or turn your attention to another matter at 6.00 which means you may still be able to get out at a sensible time (by which I mean 9.00). If the call is pushed back to 7.30, obviously everything else is pushed back by those 2.5 hours. And during those 2.5 hours things may have cropped up which you obviously haven't been able to deal with and so its had to be fielded by one of your colleagues whose left in the office thus pushing their going home time even further back.
Obviously, people do do that (women in my firm do) but do not expect to be popular as a result, especially amongst the juniors who it is most likely to affect. And do not expect the person left in the office to be sympathetic to the struggle you had due to traffic problems/toddler tantrum/forgetting to buy milk as they won't give a damn as, not having had children, they don't understand - or care!
The other thing to think about if you do do that is how good your home printer & scanner are if you need to be dealing with long documents. I did not appreciate the person working from home in the evening calling & asking me to run the deltaview/write down their dictated comments etc as they couldn't do it from their blackberry.
Its only in writing this that I'm remembering how much I did resent being supervised by a mother who disappeared at 5pm to do the nursery pick up every single day!

Back to the nanny thing - if you do do a day from home, flag this up to the nanny in interviews and think about the practical side of it. Where will you work in the house? Will you have any contact with your DC during the day? How will you make this clear to your DC? Most nurseries I've come across will not take a child for just one day as they never settle and can't join in the activities properly (by which I don't mean the singing & the running in the garden but the themes which they do - for example your DC would only ever have a very minor role in any Christmas play thing as it would only be able to rehearse once a week). So, you either have a full time nanny or do nursery for two days and a nanny for the other days.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 21-Jan-13 07:55:42

I would add to Murtette's excellent points that if you have a nursery that does late pick ups some DCs get genuinely distressed by being the last to be picked up in the evening, can be quite upsetting for all concerned.

bringonyourwreckingball Mon 21-Jan-13 07:13:56

Get a nanny. We didn't when we were in a similar situation (both lawyers, big law firms, very long hours) and I regret it hugely although the money would have been a struggle. I am now in a fixed hours role and do all drop offs and pick ups, dh is a partner and works very long hours, my career is effectively over and I do resent it. I think if you go back to work you need to have a shot at doing it properly, then if you find it's not working out I'd say get out of law altogether, do something different. And whatever you decide regarding childcare you need to make very sure that dh understands that children are a joint responsibility - it's too easy to sleepwalk into assuming it will always be you who takes time off if dc are poorly etc.

emmyloo2 Mon 21-Jan-13 06:59:33

and should also add I am a lawyer and have worked in a number of law firms and find them quite incompatible with parenting yuong children. Partners tend to be male with SAHW and they never see their children. I moved into an inhouse role, hence the ability to walk out the door at 5.15pm every day.

emmyloo2 Mon 21-Jan-13 06:51:46

I'll repeat what others have said - get a nanny and be prepared to adjust your hours. My DH and I both work full-time but we have good hours and are both home by 5.30-6pm at the latest. I am never home later than 6 and he sometimes works until 7. If you are not finishing until 7pm or your DH until 9-10pm, he won't see his child. And it's much much harder putting a child to bed than you would think, plus there is dinner and bath time and stories. It's all quite exhausting and time consuming and so I wouldn't be expecting to be able to do hours of work afterwards. However, my DSIS tries to have conference calls etc after she puts her 18 month old son to bed, and she is about to have a breakdown because of the stress.

It is very difficult juggling but as someone else said, you really can't work long hours (mother or father) with a young baby. It's very difficult.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 21-Jan-13 06:40:45

Wise post, Murtette.

Murtette Mon 21-Jan-13 00:42:10

I guessed from your first post that you and your DH were probably both lawyers! A few things which I'm not sure have been mentioned or, if they have been, may need to be re-iterated as, as a lawyer myself, I know that they will crop up:
- if you use a nursery, your DC will be out of the house all day (inc for breakfast). Therefore, you will get home to the house just as you left it. For the couple of weeks when DC1 was in full time nursery, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it made our life as all we had to do was make sure she was dressed in the morning. We didn't need to worry about food or anything else for her. Having said that, I hate the thought of a young child being in group care for such long days every day but I felt I should point out the upside!
- if you nursery does offer early drop off & pick up, be aware that your DC may not like it. Our DD is perfectly happy to be dropped off at normal time when some of her friends are there and she knows others will arrive shortly. She hates being dropped off when its just her and one or two other children & not her keyworker (the early drop offs & late pick ups all get put in the same room with whoever is on the early/late shift at our nursery). It makes drop off much harder.
- if you are always doing pick up, what will happen if you have work drinks or a training thing etc in the evening?
- if you are always doing pick up, you then have to be home all evening. You can't pop to the gym or the supermarket or for a drink with a friend. On the other hand, your DH's post-work social life won't be affected
- does your DH ever do all-nighters? If so, who will do drop off then? Or what happens if he gets a new client who wants 8am meetings? Will you be able to do both drop off & pick up?
- you may well be knackered. DD didn't sleep through until she was 2.3. From 15 months on, she usually only woke once and it was brief but she still woke and needed our attention. In the mornings, she had to be got ready as well as us. As she's got older, all sorts of things I'd never thought of can delay us...not having any clean Peppa pants could lead to such a meltdown that we now have about 30 pairs of Peppa pants so that is not an option; other mornings she'd just decide she didn't want to leave the house and, whilst you can physically remove a kicking, screaming toddler from the house, you cannot strap them in the car seat when they go rigid & arch their back even when (embarrassingly) you have asked your neighbour to help. So, there's that to deal with and then you race to work... and then you race to get to pick up on time...and then you're doing bathtime and your DC's 6th sense knows you're distracted as you're thinking about the call you've got to do later and so plays up (again) so you get more tense, they get more tense etc
- if you have a nanny, they should be able to receive and unpack the online supermarket shop, let a plumber in etc. Whereas you & DH could survive for a week without, say, the boiler working by showering in the office, it would be more a struggle with a baby
- work on the basis that you're going back to work full time and line up childcare now. If you change your mind later on, all you'll have lost is a nursery deposit - and goodwill if you then need to use that childcare provider later down the line. DO NOT make a SAHM/WOHM decision until the baby is at least 9mo. Between about 4mo and 8mo, maternity leave is bliss. The baby should be in some sort of sleep, feed pattern, you'll have made some friends etc and the baby isn't moving. As soon as it starts crawling & pulling up, life become very different & you may change your mind about what to do!

At my city firm, there are at least 4 women working full time in my transactional dept & managing to juggle childcare. They do seem very tense at times though. There are also partners who have SAH wives and a full time nanny so I don't think your DH should quibble the cost too much if you have a nanny if you return to work. You're going to have to pay a premium whichever childcare route you take as you're going to be asking someone to work pretty anti-social hours & will need them to be completely reliable, flexible about extra hours & generally prepared to go the extra mile to make it work for you.

blueshoes Sun 20-Jan-13 01:19:50

Novice: " If nothing changes you can kiss your career goodbye and join the long rank of partner wives, most of whom are effectively rich single mothers because the husbands are never there for the day to day parenting."

Now ain't that the truth. My thoughts exactly, having worked in 3 'global law firms'.

quoteunquote Sun 20-Jan-13 00:46:04

My sister in law who has a similar situation to yours,both on long hours London, uses a combination of a childminder/nursery and has a live in aupair(s) who drops off children and picks up, does the running around clubs.

foreverondiet Sun 20-Jan-13 00:13:53

Read more of the thread - I think best to have same environment every day, I think one day a week at a nursery would be unsettling so not sure its a good idea - perhaps a couple of mornings from 2 years would be good.

Also if your DH is a partner at a global law firm surely you can afford a nanny?

I also think would be reasonable for your DH to say that one day a week he leaves at 5.30pm to see his child and put them to bed (although he could work at home later, ie take calls from 8pm after your baby in bed) that way you could have one day a week to stay later. The day could vary depending on meetings but be blocked by his secretary in his diary.

foreverondiet Sun 20-Jan-13 00:07:52

Having read some of the thread, I think you have to get a nanny. I tried with a nursery when DD (my oldest) was 6 months old. The one near work didn't work as she screamed in the car both ways (hour drive). The one near home didn't work as it finished at 6pm and it was a full hour on the train and it was too stressful to leave work at 4.55pm every day and then stress if trains delayed. Also she was ill several times during the first couple of weeks, lots of days off for me. We couldn't find a suitable childminder (ie one with any flexibility after 6pm who had spaces at short notice). And unlike your situation my DH was very flexible, he was doing either the dropping off or picking up.

We ended up doing a nanny share with a friend (who we met in NCT class) and it actually cost LESS than the nursery. We bought a double buggy and a travel cot each and took day about... She looked after them even when they were ill and we made sure that either my parents or DH's parents or an emergency nursery (or our annual leave) could cover her holidays (actually 2 of the 4 weeks is at our choosing (ie when we are away), luckily she (the nanny) is rarely ill.

Also she does other things a nursery couldn't do, like take the DC to the doctor's, buy them shoes, take them for haircuts, take them to the dentist. Ok shoes and hair can be done at weekends but doctor and dentist can't. She took them to be weighed at baby clinic etc.

And actually 8 years later we still have the same nanny (although its just for us now). Unless you want to renegotiate your hours, its the only way to keep your sanity. Yes I give her more than half of what I earn, but its the only way I could keep on working. At some stage soonish once DS2 in school we will get an au pair.

re: socialising - we had nanny share so the 2 girls played together and from 2 the nanny took them to baby groups. DD went to nursery at 3 and was not disadvantaged from not being in childcare earlier.

re: work calls from home, I wouldn't agree to take conference calls in the evening at a set time unless you don't mind your baby crying.... but fine to call people if you know she/he is settled. I work part time and have taken work calls in baby groups / while watching baby gym, walking to school etc etc.

noviceoftheday Sat 19-Jan-13 22:27:08

We have a live in nanny for all the reasons you mention OP. more importantly, what has worked well for me is (sorry to use a hackneyed phrase!) thinking outside the box with the objective being to maximise my time with the kids. the majority of my clients are in the US. it means i leave home just before 9am (so spend a couple of hours with the dcs in the morning )and I leave by 6.15pm each day which gets me home just 7pm. It means calls have to be done by 6pm but I do any further additional calls from 8.30pm onwards when the dcs are asleep. It is rare that something is that urgent that it can't wait 2.5 hours. I am able to make this work because I don't enable dh to carry on as if his career is more important than mine or allow only my life to change because we have had kids. He does M&A but my expectation is that unless they are closing that week, that he will be at home to see the kids at bed time. Once they are asleep he can get back on it. Eg last night he didn't come to bed till 1am but he was home at 6.30pm and put one of the dcs to bed.

Your dh does long hours now but the key question is how is he going to change his working patterns once your baby is born. If nothing changes you can kiss your career goodbye and join the long rank of partner wives, most of whom are effectively rich single mothers because the husbands are never there for the day to day parenting.

Mutley77 Sat 19-Jan-13 21:55:24

I think you will need a nanny if you and your DH want to continue working full-time at the sort of hours you do. Certainly as time progresses if you want your child to attend a local pre-school.nursery school at age 3 where they will be likely to join the school community, and then going on to school at age 4/5 you will need a nanny to facilitate that for you.

It's a personal choice whether to do this or to re-negotiate your hours and let your career take a back seat and obviously that's dependent on numerous factors, not least whether you need the money.

PurpleCrazyHorse Sat 19-Jan-13 21:44:54

If we could afford it, I'd pay for a sole nanny for DD. We have a lovely CM and DH covers almost all the drop offs and pick ups (he has his own business so is very flexible). However, it's a problem when DD is ill and at the moment we have snow so haven't been able to drop DD off on Friday and possibly not Monday at this rate. CM is open 8-5:30 but if DH is away, I need to leave work early to pickup. My job is also flexible but it is a stress. I'm now getting anxious about DD starting school full-time in September. We'll have to totally change our arrangements, find a new CM and DD won't be able to have friends home after school. At least a nanny would be a constant.

I'd agree about not worrying about socialising at nursery. Our CM does loads of things with DD and I'm sure a nanny would go to groups too.

DH and I both work full time and DD is now 3.5. At 1yo, DD wasn't sleeping through the night, was still taking ages to go down at bedtime and there's no way I could have done anything in the evenings!

bemybebe Sat 19-Jan-13 21:07:38

I was also considering childcare close to the uni and decided against it as it is pretty horrible for the lo to commute. besides, if you need to use childcare but not travel to work it is better to have someone local to your home.

toobreathless Thu 17-Jan-13 16:00:26

It was me (on the April 2013 thread) that mentioned sorting out childcare well in advance & no I am not 'mad' just a professional in quite an inflexible job like you.

I can only tell you how we make it work:
- I work mon to fri 8.30 am till 7pm, I drop DD at nursery weds to Friday at 07.30, we pay more for breakfast club.
-DH works weds to Sunday. 0700 till 1700. He has DD Mondays and Tuesdays and I have her Saturday and Sunday.
-DH is home in time for pick up weds/Thursday/Friday.

So DD goes to nursery three days a week which I am happy with, we both work fulltime. On the downside we get very little family time together as without one of us taking annual leave we work every day of the week.

If DD is ill, we discuss and the person with the 'least important day' IYSWIM looks after her. This is about 50/50. It is a massive pain for both our employers as I am a Dr and would have to have up to 30 patients rearranged & DH is an RAF pilot! But we make it work. DHs attitude helps hugely, he is such a great support and we are in this together. You need to discuss this with your DH as it is not fair on you or your employer to have all the responsibility for picking up collecting etc.

olgaga Thu 17-Jan-13 14:03:57

I have a friend who is a childminder (not in London) and she has a waiting list which includes a number of children who've not yet been born!

I think the earlier you start making enquiries re childminders and nanny-shares, the better.

If you're commuting into London don't even think of getting childcare near work unless you drive. The overground and underground are both pretty awful re crowds and accessibility with a buggy at the best of times. They're horrendous in the rush hour.

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