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Returning to work dilemma: career, family finances and childcare

(36 Posts)
dontrunwithscissors Tue 11-Aug-09 09:54:08

Hello,

I'm a newbie (although I've been lurking a little while), but would really like to hear people's opinions on my current problem.

I work full time as a University lecturer (which means my job is very flexible, and I can work from home a lot.) I love my job so much - I spent 10 years at University, and both I and DH made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am. (He hates his job, BTW).

I have a DD who's 2.4, and I'm currently 17 weeks pregnant with #2. My DD currently attends a local nursery 4 days a week (DH and I share care on a Friday). It's OK, but far from brilliant. I've already decided there's no way I want to send a child who's under 2 years there. My dilemma is what to do about childcare, therefore, when I return to work. It boils down to:

1) Return when #2 is 5-6 months old, and hire a nanny 3 days per week, and use a CM for the 4th day, until DD starts school. This would be a real squeeze for us, and would probably mean us wiping out almost all of our savings, and living like hermits. (We never have holidays and drive old-ish cars as it is.)

2) Return to work when #2 is 10 months old, and hope we can find a CM for the two of them. (There is a shortage of CM in my area). If not, use the local nursery for DD, and CM for youngest. We could more or less live within our means (although it would still be very tight.)

I'm really stuck over what to do. My DH's job has no flexibility whatsoever, and is extremely hostile to him taking any time off when DD is sick. (My DH is very supportive, and does as much as he can, but his work is very awkward.) As a consequence, I've spent the last 1.5 years covering a large proportion of DD's sick days, and doing the vast majority of drop offs and picks ups. (I really feel like I'm on my own a lot of the time, and find it hard work doing this with just the one.) My DD has never settled at nursery, and struggles to do more than 7 hours a day. As a result, I work very short days, and then desparately try to make up time when she's asleep. The impact upon my career has been profound, and I know there's a good chance it will fall apart if this continues much longer. It seems that a nanny would help solve a lot of our problems (not having to get two children ready and out on my own, not having to try to cook an evening meal whilst caring for them, and it would lessen the impact of sickness), but it could also lead to financial ruin. I'm lost as to what to do: perhaps I'm idealising life with a nanny, or perhaps I'm just too 'soft'? (Which is DH's opinion.) If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions or opinions on what they would do, I'd love to hear them.

comeonbishbosh Tue 11-Aug-09 13:12:21

Hi there

I'm an academic too, and 14 wks with my first. Interested to hear how you are getting along, I'm about to try and badger my HR department to put me in contact with other academic mums in the Uni who are working PT. I know this means my career will take a hit, but as you say, trying to juggle everything with small children doesn't make it easy to put in good effort and concentration either. I'm assuming that's not a route that you want to go down otherwise you would have mentioned it.

The thing that jumps out from your post is that your DH hates your job, and it's awkward in all sorts of ways. No idea what he does and why he chose it, but are there options to move to another workplace, retrain? (I know it's not a great time to be suggesting this!) But it's not great to be stuck in a job you hate. If he could make a plan that could include taking on some of the childcare, and you could manage financially, that could be worth investigating.

Of your 2 options, no. 2 seems a bit better (I've no idea about the relative costs of CM and Nannies so no idea about that side of it). If you are 17 weeks now, and you could take 10 months off, you must have at least 14 months before you need to have the CM... probably possible to find one for the both of them in that time?

Hoping these are useful questions not irritating ones! feel free to discard. good luck with it all.

dnmama Tue 11-Aug-09 15:30:38

Hello there, depending on where you live, having two children in nursery/with a childminders might be more expensive than having a nanny. A nanny could be a good solution for you and depending on where you live they are between £8/h and £12/h (for both children).

dontrunwithscissors Thu 13-Aug-09 21:08:16

Sorry, I've only just got chance to get back on here.

bishbosh - it's nice to hear from another academic Mum (to be). They're a great rarity where I am. I've considered going PT, but decided against it as I suspect I will end up doing an almost-full time job for part time money. I also think it will result in me being permanetly sidelined at work (never promoted.)

As for my DH retraining: we moved to our current location for my job. As you are no doubt aware, you rarely get a choice as to where you work as an academic. I'm in the Humanities, so-with hundreds of applicants per job-you go where the work is. Unfortunately, we live in an employment blackspot. It took DH 9 months to get this job. There are very few well paid jobs around here.

dnmama - I've done the sums, and a nanny (at around £10 ph gross) would cost a lot more than a CM (£3-£3.50 per hour). I think I may be willing to do what it takes to get a nanny. The thought of going back to work when #2 is 6 months is daunting, though.

I guess I'll just have to try to relax and not worry for a little while longer....

Lancelottie Thu 13-Aug-09 21:15:39

I think you have to remember that the temporary financial ruin will be the price you pay for still having the career in four years time -- in other words, don't just do the sums for now, but factor in your long-term prospects. Seen in those terms, it's a case of doing whatever it takes to keep afloat till the younger one is at school (apologies to your unborn bump for this unseemly looking ahead!). It'll be greatly in their interest after that to have a parent with your sort of work, to judge from other academic parents I've known.

MrsMattie Thu 13-Aug-09 21:18:01

I think you should investigate both the childminder and nanny options. You'll get a better idea of how much it will cost (can vary wildly in my experience), how much flexibility you'll have (again, this varies so much from CM to CM, and to a lesser extent with nannies), and what you feel comfortable about (down to the individuals you meet).

You could start sounding out local CMs fairly soon, I'd imagine. Worth placing an ad for a nanny a bit nearer the time and seeing what response you get, too.

I absolutely agonised over childcare when my second child came along (couldn't afford two nursery places), and in the end we opted for a P?T live-out nanny (although I am lucky that my my DH and mum cover the other two days, as I work full time). It's expensive, but for us it's been totally worth it in terms of the level of care my children receive and the benefits for me (she does a fair amount of the whole domestic slog related to kids for me, too!).

A good childminder would've been almost as great, to be honest, but we couldn't find one who could accommodate our particular needs.

MrsMattie Thu 13-Aug-09 21:19:45

Oh, and agree with Lancelottie

K999 Thu 13-Aug-09 21:20:00

Dontrunwithscissors - you have found a CM at £3.00/£3.50 per hour???!!

dontrunwithscissors Thu 13-Aug-09 23:17:52

MrsMattie - that's good to hear. A nanny sounds wonderful (particularly avoiding the morning/evening fight.) I would never rule out a CM, but I've been looking for one on/off for DD since she was 1 year old, and have never managed to find a spot. I think it's going to be difficult to find one with spaces for 2 children. I'll just have to see.

Lancelottie - I agree completely. Thinking about it, my dilemma might partly come from my DH not being entirely supportive of a nanny (he worries about money way too much.) He thinks we'll manage - but he won't be the one trying to juggle drop offs, pick ups and all the rest hmm He totally agrees that we can't jeopardise my job, though.

K999 - yes. £3.50 is probably more common - there's a few who charge £3.75. Perhaps I've overestimated the average wage for a nanny in this area. I don't know - I've found it much harder to gauge the cost of a nanny.

Dillydaydreamer Thu 13-Aug-09 23:31:41

Well, as a CM I can say they are good LOL However, as a nurse returning to work I have had problems like this and have finally settled on a nanny. Where do you live? I went online and rang lots of agencies until I found one that actually listened to my needs and found a great one. 6 pounds per hour and flexible smile(gross btw in the south west).

Dillydaydreamer Thu 13-Aug-09 23:32:40

Thats live out btw.

Quattrocento Thu 13-Aug-09 23:42:07

Why can't you or your DH take a leave of absence until your youngest is 2? You could maybe split it - so you have your maternity leave for a year, then your DH has a year off. Whaddya think?

Dunno why a CM is to be preferred to a nursery incidentally. Nor why 2 is a magic number.

pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:00:50

What's a leave of absence?

Sorting childcare is extremely stressful and it all seems insurmountable when you are facing new arrangements. However, things always seem to work out and aren't as bad as first expected.

Yes it is harder looking after two children when you work and they are in childcare. Yes, a nanny would be easier, I expect.

Couple of points:

1. You need to find out exactly how much a nanny would cost. I'm surprised you don't seem to know, are short of money, yet are considering it as a serious option.
2. It will be hard to get a cm for just one day a week.

Quattrocento Fri 14-Aug-09 00:03:45

YY agree with Pointy. Would also add that you might want to fast forward to school - what are your plans for after school care? I ask because a CM might be able to help you out at this point - so why not go sooner rather than later.

Quattrocento Fri 14-Aug-09 00:03:50

YY agree with Pointy. Would also add that you might want to fast forward to school - what are your plans for after school care? I ask because a CM might be able to help you out at this point - so why not go sooner rather than later.

pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:05:02

quatt, what is this leave of absence of which you speak?

Dillydaydreamer Fri 14-Aug-09 00:06:20

With 2 children I found a nanny to be the cheapest option in my area and we also have a shortage of good CMs (and now I'm stopping as well!)

pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:07:44

Cms are £3.50 an hour here as well.

Quattrocento Fri 14-Aug-09 00:09:40

Oh, sorry [[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaveofabsence here's a definition]]

I nearly suggested a sabbatical then I remembered that academics only usually get those to write large and weighty tomes.

pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:15:07

Are leaves of absence common? Not an option I've ever heard of but maybe that's just particular to me.

dontrunwithscissors Fri 14-Aug-09 11:09:37

Unfortunately, a leave of absence wouldn't work - financially + DH works for a small business, and I'm pretty sure they would say no. Also, I don't think he's cut out to be a SAHD.

As for how much to pay a nanny - I feel a bit daft going any further right now. It's a year+ away. I'm panicking, I know. Could I make a few calls to angencies now, and discuss typical wages around here, even though I won't be looking for a while? I've looked on Tinies.com, but I've never seen a job advertised for my city. (Lots for Edinburgh/Aberdeen, which have a much higher cost of living.) From what I've seen on Gumtree, there are some well qualified nannies looking for work in the area.

On a positive note, I looked at my sums again last night and figure that with some more pruning, and starting ML a bit later, I should just be able to wait until #2 is 10 months before going back, and still afford a nanny (providing I could get someone for around £9.50 ph gross).

dontrunwithscissors Fri 14-Aug-09 11:27:28

Forgot to say - pointy - it seems the opposite around here. I've seen lots of CM with vacancies for a day or two per week, but very few for full time/almost full time. Quite a few CMs just work a few days per week.

Libra Fri 14-Aug-09 11:50:55

Hi Don'trun. There are a lot of academics who are mothers on here. There was a long thread last month about the impact of children on one's ability to publish enough.

I'm a full-time academic and have two children. As far as child care is concerned, I have done it all - nanny, nursery, childminder and au pairs. So the first thing to remember is that a choice now is not a choice for life!

Does your university have a nursery? We used a nursery when DS1 was small and it was great because if there was a crises DH (it was at his uni rather than mine) could be there immediately. You could even go along during the day to breastfeed if you wanted to (although obviously DH did not have that option!)

We found a nanny very useful when DS2 came along and DS1 was at primary school. Gave me some flexibility about starting and finishing times.

Now they are older (15 and 6) we have used au pairs and childminders. At present we have a fantastic childminder who does after-school care for DS2 and will also take him during the school holidays. I find the October two-week break here in Scotland an absolute nightmare for childcare because of course I have to be teaching. Have sometimes used the local authority's holiday schemes for this.

Libra Fri 14-Aug-09 11:51:58

Oh yes, and I really wouldn't go part-time. I have several colleagues who went part-time after having children, and as far as I can see, they do the same amount of teaching and preparation. What they have given up is time for research - and that impacts very quickly on their careers.

dontrunwithscissors Fri 14-Aug-09 14:18:36

Thanks for pointing that out, Libra. I've just read through some of the old threads from academics. My University has a nursery, but it's a complete waste of time. (It only takes children from 2 years, closes at 5.15 and is next to impossible for staff to get a place for their children as it's run by the SU, so prioritises students' children.)

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