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Work Life Family relationship balance HTF do we balance it (really bloody long)

(145 Posts)
worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 10:19:49

Is this unreasonable?!?!?!

Me and DW both work in IT. I'm a programmer, she's a project manager. She works for a eCommerce outfit, I work in the IS department of a Big Financial Services outfit. We're both expected to start work about 8ish and finish 7ish (that's desk time). Before anyone jumps to conclusions we don't earn the huge salaries that are the perceptions of the IT industry.

We're a nuclear family living in London - I have no family to call upon, DW's family are all in Oz, we don't have many friends to really call upon for help as neither of us are from this part of London.

Our dd1&2 are in reception and Y2 they start school at 8:30 and can finish at 5:30 at the latest.

We've had some difficulties with organising childcare to deal with our situation.

We don't earn enough or have enough surplus to afford a qualified nanny, we don't have enough space in her house for an Au-pair and don't have the savings or resources to move.

DW and I are sort of in agreement that one of us should quit work to do the necessaries to look after the kids - but one of us needs to get a job with a salary bump otherwise we will really have serious financial difficulties (we have them now but just get through it). As an example this is our basic breakdown house 1200 (double, big single, boxroom) council tax 250 energy and water 200 pcm. Oyster (* 2) 280. Fortunately, nothing goes on debt because we've been very careful to avoid it.

Everything left over seems to hemorrhage on food, clothes, children, childcare, a bit of weekend entertainment for the kids when its raining, books, learning materials and trying to have a nice comfortabe-ish life. You know the sort that you would expect to be a given our careers and education.

DW is better suited to getting a salary bump in her career than I am, but each of us accepts that one or the other may have to quit work as we don't see it becoming easier over the next 5-10 years, sustaining the work and family/school obligations. As an example DW's boss (double her salary, his wife has a very big salary, a nanny and weekend nanny) got narky that she was starting work an hour earlier so she could leave an hour earlier to collect the kids from school. My boss (no kids, unmarried starts work at 7am) pulls a face cos I don't get to my desk until 8:50 cos I do the school run in the morning (I drop them at breakfast club at 8am and if the underground is behaving its-self get to work 50mins later).

Problem is is that its starting to cripple me and DW relationship, the work constraints and obligations causes us a lot of stress on top of the stresses of running a household and looking after the children. We end up in a situation where I vocalise it, DW internalises it and we end up having a bit of an unhappy time, snipping snarking, snapping. Which neither of us wants, we don't expect it to be easy but it seems to be a lot harder than we both expected, especially as we are both knackered after a long day doing stuff and never seem to catch up over the weekend.

We are great-full for our incomes, and from my own background and experiences i know there are many people in much worse financial situations. but and I guess here comes the question. How do we manage all of this? because we suspect that we're not, what should we do to make it easier, bar winning the lottery (ain't never gonna happen eh!).

I feel that we live on a knife edge of destroying our relationship and our children's psychological health and well-being over having to work. ABIU I guess.

CailinDana Thu 08-Nov-12 10:23:46


hermioneweasley Thu 08-Nov-12 10:24:25

Would it be possible to move out of London. Cost of living is less and commutes are generally shorter. iT roles are pretty transferrable.

janx Thu 08-Nov-12 10:27:08

Could one of you get a part time job? That way you could take a bit of pressure off and not fork out too much for childcare. I live in London and have similar age kids. We do breakfast club one day a week and have childminder for pick ups.
Btw - no-one in IT in my organisation works those hours but it is public sector so not great pay!

WileyRoadRunner Thu 08-Nov-12 10:33:15

Moving probably wouldn't be an option realistically would it. Schools, prices in London etc.

What about one of you going part time. That way someone would be able to get the jobs around the house done without losing all of one persons salary. If the other could get a salary bump this would make the shortfall easier to deal with and the travel costs would be less. Do you have enough left over to get a cleaner or someone to do the ironing? Could you work out a rota for cooking and cleaning with each other.

It is very difficult and it is all doom and gloom in the economy at the moment. Life is stressful for a lot of people. You have to remember it won't be like this forever, things will get easier as your children are at school now and getting older. I think it has just all got on top of you but you don't have lots of debt, have your own house etc.

Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) do a really good household income budget spreadsheet. It is very useful for looking at all your in/outgoings and seeing exactly where you stand. You can also fiddle around with it to see what other options (1 staying at home) would work.

Not much help I know.

trio38 Thu 08-Nov-12 10:34:14

What Hermione said. Get the hell out of London and don't look back. My friends who work in the same industry as me in London generally live in 2 bedroom flats an hour (or more) from where they work.

I live Up North and live in a 4 bedroom house 10 minutes from where I work. I need less childcare and it costs less. And I see more of my kids.

I would only choose to live in London if DH or I earnt a massive salary (which unfortunately is never going to happen!).

worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 10:40:25

janx Public Sector IT/Part Time not a bad idea its just finding them... salaries aren't that dissimilar especially when you consider the pay v expected work hours. Private sector you get more money but there's the hidden expectation that you've got to be in an hour early and leave over an hour or two later.

hermioneweasley things aren't that much cheaper in the home counties and adding additional travel time for further out (plus the vagaries of the rail transport system). I have a Mate who lives in Leicester leaves at 7am arrives Monument 10am.

goingupinsmoke Thu 08-Nov-12 10:40:53

Could I ask where are family based? I think in your situation I would seriously consider moving closer to family so the children get grandparent time maybe.

Failing that I would look at options of freelance or contract work for one partner, you need one breadwinner and one flexible worker of it to work if the income doesn't cover nanny or other childcare.

It's really tough me and DH both work full time hours, he is away lots but I run my own business so can be flexible for the 2 DS, we are yet to get on the housing ladder aged 40!! So like you say we are all in similar boats just with different ways of sinking!!

The sniping, tireness, grumpiness is normal under the pressure you are both having right now, like the other poster said it's not forever but it's tough right now.

Personally I would move, or contract.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 08-Nov-12 10:59:53

If you're a programmer, is there no scope for working from home? I write scientific software, part time from home. No commuting, for starters and I can get a load of washing on while recompiling. Prune the garden while I'm trying to figure out how to code something. But if I need to be on a Webex in the evening (the rest of the team is in california) that's no problem.

Those are ridiculous hours ..they must be breaking the working time directive. There have been studies showing that working long hours regularly (as opposed to occasionally in the pre-release bash type situation) leads to lower productivity. Not just lower per hour - lower per day. My company started as a small start-up with a work-all-hours culture; as its matured the management has realised this is not wise and we're allowed to have a life shock. I don't suppose there's much you can do as individuals to change toxic corporate culture, what I'm trying to say is that you might be able to find a better alternative - there may be some middle way between you working all hours and not working at all.

Good luck to both of you...sounds like you deserve it. smile

worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 11:01:27

Don't really really want to leave London - its too interesting.

goingupinsmoke I don't know where my family are and DW's family have emigrated to Perth Western Australia

TheProvincialLady Thu 08-Nov-12 11:12:49

Well you can't have it all. You can either:

~ Leave London
~ One of you get a much better paid job so the other can stay at home or you can pay for good childcare
~ Take on more mortgage debt to live closer to work
~ Cut all your living and entertainment costs to the bone to afford better childcare
~ Sell a child

All of these (except maybe sell a child) involve doing something difficult or unpleasant. Or you can stay as you are. Them's the options, there's no point whining that you don't like your situation but refusing to accept the alternatives.

TwitchyTail Thu 08-Nov-12 11:13:21

The harsh truth is that unless you're loaded, "interesting" may be the price you have to pay for a poor quality of life, unfortunately.

I grew up oop North, spent 10 years in a posh area down South for university and early years of the job, before moving back up here. On average kind of jobs, my husband and I can afford a lovely spacious house in a good area with good schools, reasonable commutes to work, and a generally comfortable life. If I'd stayed down near London there is just no way I could have afforded anything, even with London weighting of my salary. Just the way it is. Some of my friends in London are Properly Rich and are still living squashed like sardines with no savings. Many don't mind this, but if you do mind, it's time to start considering alternatives.

Other cities are interesting too! Manchester, Birmingham, etc all have more than you might think. Especially if you have no particular family/friend ties to London, you're in a great position to move. Is "interesting" worth destroying your relationship and you're children's wellbeing (quoting your OP) over? Only you can decide.

TwitchyTail Thu 08-Nov-12 11:14:40

Your children's, even blush

worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 11:14:45

GrimmaTheNome you've made me totally jealous. There now the opt out clause of the EU Working Directive that you're sort of encouraged to sign and if you've worked in a software chopshop like DW's or or the Corp world where work time allocation seem to be mismatched. I wholly agree with your statements on productivity.

WileyRoadRunner my budget planning drives DW bonkers, to Paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke no plan survives first contact with the enemy eg our bank balance and the cost of London. Fortunately, my analretentiveness has prevented us from getting into debt. But still there seems to be a massive difference when I reconcile my statement to my plan...

goingupinsmoke (sorry hit post button too quick) Trouble is I feel like I'm nagging DW too much... we've got to do this, we've got to do that... don't forget this, don't forget that (I nag myself btw as well) and I wish I could find a way to get things done without the nagging.

fiorentina Thu 08-Nov-12 11:29:58

I really sympathise with you. We are in a very similar situation with me working the same hours as you and a lot of pressure on my DH to do his job along with Childcare. We do have a cleaner once a fortnight which helps. Similarly though we get grouchy with each other and it's putting a huge strain on our relationship, very hard to know how to improve things.

Hopefully things will get better for you soon, perhaps freelance for one of you may give more flexibility. I'm hoping eventually one of us will be able to do that.

ioness Thu 08-Nov-12 11:43:05

I think we would have been in your position but decided to move out at an earlier stage.

We moved out within an hour's train travel to London.

I gave up my career, and I now have a part-time relatively low paid job (mornings only). My dh commuted for a while and then found a local job.

Lifestyle now - mortgage payments are £1k per month. Co tax a bit less at £180. Good schools on our doorstep. We have a small detached house costing £250k. There are occasionally cheaper semis or victorian terraces with 2 or 3 bedrooms on the market here.

I take dc to school, work for three hours, come home do a bit of tidying up. Collect dc from school, take to after school activities, have friends round. My hours are flexible so I can attend school meetings, plays, drop in sessions.
My dh rides his bike to work and it's ten minutes each way so he leaves at ten to nine and is home by six. If dc are ill I can work from home.

The price - I am a little unhappy about having given up my career but there are other options. I was unlucky in that the type of work I did was very much London only. I do miss London. But not so much I want to go back to that lifestyle. Although my dh often goes up to London of an evening to have a few pints with old mates and we can easily go up to visit museums, galleries etc.

I grew up in London and saw my parents struggle in much the same way as you have described. It's a hard slog.

I can't help thinking one of you is going to end up ill with your lifestyle though - it sounds incredibly stressful.

worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 11:49:47

TheProvincialLady Yeh! there in lies the rub... at some point we've got to make hard choices some which will go contrary to what we like.

TwitchyTail My interesting statement was trite sorry. This may be a shock but both DW and I have never been north of Enfield. What little roots and ties are here and the DC's have now got roots and ties.

I do accept the concept of moving... except we have no surplus cash to pay a deposit, rent in advance and general moving costs.

BTW I'm at home today cos I'm looking after the DC's who both have a cough/cold. Which is another one of my gripes, that even though there is provision in employment for having time to look after children, I still feel (and so does DW) that its frowned upon.

Also, I just got a call from DW who's lurking on this thread, that the option of moving is now on the table after cwjobbing a better paid job in Glasgow and the rental prices are so much lower.

So that's a big thank you from us.

schobe Thu 08-Nov-12 11:53:11

I do sympathise but if London is 'too interesting' to miss out on then maybe this is the price you pay. Is it worth your relationship and your children's psychological health and well-being to use your own words?

I know there are issues with getting jobs elsewhere, moving, finding schools etc. But London just being too interesting is not a good excuse for dismissing that possibility tbh.

Lots of other towns are great and so much cheaper. I meet a lot of people who are very closed-minded about moving outside of London. For some of them I think it's just fear of the unknown - nothing particularly special or unique (not saying that's you OP wink).

schobe Thu 08-Nov-12 11:53:33


JustinBoobie Thu 08-Nov-12 11:57:07

In a very similar situation, you have my sympathies.

Luckily we have GP close, who help a couple of times a week.

Seriously considering a cleaner, that's the part that is the most depressing - I can never get on top of anything. Missing out on the precious years with the girls is another, which is compounded by the housework getting in the way of the fun stuff at the weekend... I hope a miracle poster will help grin

autumnlights12 Thu 08-Nov-12 11:57:45

Contracting pays a lot more. IT contracts can pay you about £300-600 a day depending on your skillset. Less job security, but my husband has been doing it for 12 years without a break between contracts.

worklifedifficult Thu 08-Nov-12 11:58:24

ioness I'm envious you'de described what we don't have and what we want. I'm not bothered about giving up my career - I'm stereotyped into being a codemonkey and its difficult to get prospective employers to see beyond that (or I don't put a good enough case for myself).

fiorentina I feel for you and understand how you feel, thank you.

WilsonFrickett Thu 08-Nov-12 11:58:32

You know the definition of idiocy is doing the same things and expecting a different outcome, yes? wink You need to make some changes, and that will involve a degree of sacrifice - that's kind of how it goes in families. I freelance and - while it's lucrative - it's feck boring, to be honest. I miss the challenge and stretch of being in a work environment. But we couldn't both keep on doing what we were doing, something had to change.

Glasgow is a good change to make, by the way. Awesome city...

GrimmaTheNome Thu 08-Nov-12 11:58:45

Sorry - I should perhaps add that I'm now 51 - I was able to put in some graft before we embarked on parenthood to get to my enviable state (I know I'm very lucky), and also we live in the North...which is much more interesting than London if you're into walking, wildlife, watersports. Cities are great for half-term breaks but I'm sooo glad every time I use a metro anywhere that I don't have to do it daily.

However - I could do this job in london as well as here if that was my bent. There surely are going to be more and more IT type jobs which don't require physical presence, which don't demand set hours. There should be more IT companies maturing and realising that if they want to retain productive staff they need to let them live. So don't despair - start looking for an alternative.

Scholes34 Thu 08-Nov-12 11:59:40

There is life beyond the M25. I lived in London for 12 years and moved out when DC were 2 and 1, gave up a job to be at home full-time. We had a hard time financially to start with but we're reaping the rewards now. DH cycles to work, and so do I to my part-time job, housing costs are lower, gardens are bigger. We've even got museums, entertainment venues and restaurants here.

I thought I'd miss London terribly. I don't. It's great to go back to visit, but always very lovely to come home.

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