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Having children in London - how?!

(29 Posts)
MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 11:54:14

Hello all -I do hope this is the correct place to post this;

My husband and I have been married for two years. We?ve lived in London for about 15 years and can?t imagine living anywhere else. Now we?re in our early thirties we are eager to start a family. None of our friends have children in London, and the friends who did have children moved out of the city. We don?t want to have to make a choice between London and children ? we want both! But how on earth do young couples in London do this?

We live in a small one bed flat in east London? we could share our room with a baby, but that would only work for a year or so. We could probably afford to buy a decent place in 10 years, but I?ll be over 40 by then. I don?t want to leave babies this late.

We both have jobs that we love, but are both on short term contracts. Because of the nature of our industry, we will work this way for the next 5-10 years. This means I won?t get a good maternity package until I am over 40! But we have some savings and I could afford to take 6 months off work.

Then there is day care. It seems so expensive in London. How do people manage? Does baby go to a child-minder or a nursery? Are fees really more than £1200 a month? We don?t have any family here that could look after baby whilst we work, but we are lucky to have sisters, brothers and great friends who could help us out occasionally.

And then, when baby is older, there's the horror of finding a decent London school. Spending £15k a year on fees may not be an option!

So?how do people do this?!

MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 11:58:31

p.s. sorry about the question marks instead of apostrophes. Not sure what happened there!

waterrat Thu 22-Nov-12 12:30:32

well...I think if you just get on and do it it will work out! London has cheaper edge areas that are still on the tube and commutable - where you could get a 2 bed place for what you pay now - and it has amazing parks and so much free stuff to do, I think that balances out the issue of housing.

I pay a fiver an hour for a childminder in east london - there are others more expensive, but she is really nice - no complex contract like a nursery - so if your job suddenly changed you just give a months notice.

Friends of mine are all talking about child care collective, swapping baby sitting/ child care - join the NCT and you will I'm sure find that you make many new friends from having a baby - if you are going to move perhaps it's better to do that before you have the baby as you will then really settle into your area. I have made so many new friends this way.

and there are many, many excellent state schools in London - I wouldn't worry too much about that. You could always move again at secondary age if it was really a problem.

MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 12:39:23

"well...I think if you just get on and do it it will work out!" - I like this advice!

suburbandream Thu 22-Nov-12 12:49:38

Well, I think when you have DCs there always have to be sacrifices unfortunately. We lived in Pimlico until 2 years ago when we simply couldn't contain our growing boys and their leg any more in our tiny shoebox of a flat. It was wonderful while it lasted but actually you may find your priorities change once they get bigger. Where we were, the primary schools were amazing, we had brilliant free stuff like the museums nearby and lots of toddler groups etc, but the secondary schools were not great and by the time they were 7 and 9 they really wanted a garden and to be able to have a bit more space each of their own.

We moved to Bromley so we're still only 20 minutes from London and we still get to enjoy all the things we love, but the boys now have their own bedrooms, a school with massive playing fields and the chance to do loads of sport that they couldn't do at their old school, plus we finally have the cats and dog they were dreaming of. DH hates his commute of course but really it's only 1/2 an hour and he gets a seat both ways so he can do his emails, read, whatever. And when we go to bed at night we hear nothing - no car alarms going off, no tubes rumbling below our basement flats, no noise from our neighbours coming in late, no night buses zooming past our door grin.
You'll cope for a few years, I know plenty of people who lived in one bed flats with DCs if they really love where they are or have no option - the kids get the bedroom and the parents have a sofa bed! Do it for as long as you can then compromise as best as you can.

QTPie Thu 22-Nov-12 12:50:47

I agree with the "get on and do it and it will work out" really assumign that you and your partner are level headed, fairly easy going people this will work.

I am 38, we left having DS until pretty late (then it took a year and an early MC before we conceived him) - he was born about a week before my 36th birthday. Now we are trying to conceive DC2 and will have to start IVF shortly after my 39th birthday. Sometimes it is easy to get pregnant, sometimes really not: don't hang around too long.

Personally I think that you will find that your priorities will change hugely after you have children: you may not see/predict that now, but you will be surprised. You may well find that the things about "Central London" that are important to you now, will become less important. What do you like so much about London? Are there maybe other places that can also fulfill your needs/desires (but a lot more cheaply)? I live in Bath, for example: a compact city with a lot going on, but quite a bit cheaper than London. However it depends on what your professions are etc...

The important thing is not to have kids and then resent them for the change in lifestyle that often accompanies. Kids aren't the end of life, but it does change life quite a bit (unless you are seriously loaded and can afford a live-in nanny...).


drjohnsonscat Thu 22-Nov-12 12:59:38

Agree that you shouldn't let the logistics worry you too much. I wouldn't wait till I was 40 if I had the choice (I had DC2 at 40 and felt I just got him in under the wire!)

I live in central London and with DC1 I was in a tiny flat until she was about 2.5. It was a 2 bed flat but it was tiny (no room for a toaster in the kitchen!) It was absolute fine. Had to move when DC2 came along simply because there was no room in the lift for toddler, parent and buggy. Literally no room. So we had to move but I wanted to stay in London - not for museums and galleries and all that lark but more to be close to work and avoid the suburban commute which I hate. It works for me - we have little space and a tiny garden but the children walk everywhere and I can get home quickly so we have more time together.

I think there's lots to be said for an urban childhood. Our local school is very good - that is a bit more of an issue I suppose unless you are lucky enough to have good schools around you. But there are a lot of good schools in London so don't rule it out.

Re childcare I had a nanny but if I hadn't gone that route I would have used a childminder. There aren't really any where I live because it's very central so not much demand or supply round here but I think it's a good solution.

PrinceRogersNelson Thu 22-Nov-12 13:06:38

Horror of finding a decent school. Really?

Have to actually been to any schools to see how horrific they really are?

I live in East London with my DC's. We have a lovely house, great friends and neighbours. Childcare that is £5 an hour and flexible and loving and my kids go to a wonderful, gentle school where they are nutured have lovely friends and even shock do well.

Really London is fine please don't listen to the scare stories.

Pyrrah Thu 22-Nov-12 13:14:55

It can be done - even if it feels terrifying. And things that seem dire before just sort of happen afterwards.

We have a small 2-bed flat in SE London. DD still however at 3.6 sleeps in our bed with us.

We waited till I was 37 before having DD as it wasn't financially feasible before then.

We found a nursery that cost £900 a month for 8-6 full-time (from age 2 - baby nursery places elsewhere are around £1200 a month full-time).

Primary schools round here are a mix from dire to good and lots of faith schools. For secondary we will tutor like crazy and hope for a super-selective and bursary, while looking for some decent back-ups which may involve moving house.

London is at least very cheap to entertain children - free museums and lots of parks.

A second child is not on the cards for financial reasons - mainly housing cost - but we are very happy with the life we currently have with DD.

MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 13:24:16

Thanks for all the replies!
I agree with the majority that sharing a small space with baby/small child would be fine. I guess the issue comes when baby turns into a larger child with a need for its own space. But by the time our potential baby is big enough to need space, we should be able to afford a bigger flat. Or we may feel more comfortable with the idea of moving the suburbs!

Apologies PrinceRogersNelson, I didn't mean to suggest that all London schools were bad. You're right, I have listened to the scare stories, but will do some more research.

PPL Thu 22-Nov-12 13:28:00

We live in east london with 18mo DS. I love it, there is more to do here for toddlers than anywhere else by far from what I can tell. So many classes, amazing parks, unbelievable children's centres. We also have an amazing network of friends we have met through having DS.

I am lucky enough to be SAHM for now, but all my friends use local childminders or nursery and it all seems a lot less that the figure you suggested.

Our local schools are mostly great, diverse and nurturing.

BUT - we are leaving, for more space and quiet, and family support. And having said all of the above, every single one of our NCT friends will have left London by the time their DC is 18mo.

I ended up changing my priorities and I am simply a different person now. I never thought I would ever leave. I don't remember the last time I went into town on a night out. Or gone to the theatre, or enjoyed a museum (I have been, with DS, but I wouldn't describe it as enjoyable!) But It doesn't bother me in the way I thought it would.

I am longing for a peaceful nights sleep without the helicopters waking DS up at 3 am, and to be able to lock my bike outside my own house without it getting nicked.

But we are not leaving because I think it is a bad place to bring up DCs - DS loves everything we get up to and I am sure he would thrive growing up in our little community here.

MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 13:36:09

Pyrrah and others, before you had babies did you get to the end of the month with a spare £900?! Where did the money come from? Was it a matter of re-budgeting? I imagine social life expenses (after work drinks, dinners out, weekend pub visits etc) would fall after baby comes! But £900 a month is almost £12k a year, and if I had £12k left at the end of each year, my life would be infinitely better!

I think this afternoon will be spent with an excel spreadsheet and details of last year's financial transactions!

tethersend Thu 22-Nov-12 13:49:11

I'm in east London too- childcare £5.50ph, great schools, happy children.

BUT I am in a HA flat. This makes an enormous difference- we couldn't afford to pay private rents.

It may be worth investigating part buy/part rent schemes and seeing what you could get; lots of my friends have done this and have nice flats big enough for their needs which they can afford. It's still pricy, but nowhere near the same as private rent.

Have a look at First Steps to see if you are eligible. Even if you don't see anything, it's worth registering with them now as new flats become available all the time.

Woodlands Thu 22-Nov-12 13:50:41

I don't know, you just manage somehow! We live in a 2-bed flat in east London with our 2 year old and are about to move to a 3-bed house in the same area, but further away from the tube/amenities etc so about the same price as our flat.

MrsDeVere Thu 22-Nov-12 13:59:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BillieKentIsHeavenSent Thu 22-Nov-12 14:11:25

We live in zone 3 and there are affordable 2/3 bed houses. Sometimes they are no more expensive than some of the 1-bed flats. Look at the East Ham/Stratford area, for example.

I believe London state schools are a lot better than they used to be. Also, look at

Blu Thu 22-Nov-12 14:13:19

Do you own your flat or is it rented? Either way look in areas that are on the overground rather than the tube, and look at S London, where you often get a lot more house per £ at the same distance from C London.

The first 2 years of childcare is a killer, no doubt about it, but you can find ways. We each worked from home for a day a week and paid for childcare for 3 days. You can't actually wfh while looking after a baby and especially a toddler but we caught up in the evening or at the w/e while the other one was on baby-duty.

I only took 3.5m maternity leave, it was fine.

Schools have also been really good. There are pockets between catchments, and areas where you might not like the schools, and this is obviously stressful, but people also work themselves into a comptitive frenzy wanting the one and only 'IT' school that is deemed the best, sometimes for rather dubious reasons. There are hundreds of ordinary London schools that are in no way a horror.

teachertrainer80 Thu 22-Nov-12 14:15:06

Agree with others that it will just work out. We are also early 30's and in East London. Just had DS and think it is a great place to bring up kids- so much to do. Like others, we may re-evaluate when kids get to secondary school age (planning one more) if we can't afford a bigger place in London as they'll need more space then. This will probably be a move to my hometown of Oxford or DH's Leicester. London is definitely do-able while DC are small though.

Primary schools around me are Ofsted outstanding and the children's centres are great. I want DC to have the benefit of the free museums, galleries while they are small but other cities in the UK have plenty going on too (Oxford, Bristol, Brighton etc). You may find that you want to move out when you have kids and your priorities change. It may be worth moving to a cheaper area in London now if you are really set on staying though, before prices go up there! (Walthamstow, Peckham, Forest Hll etc, I'm talking to you!)

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 17:10:56

Just to add a different perspective re people moving out. We too moved out of London when our second was on the way. For all the reasons above eg when was the last time we went to the theatre etc. BUT as our eldest started to grow up, could be left etc we realised that as time went on it was important to us as people to do the things we loved. Theatre, the arts etc although inaccessible when the children are little - it won't always be so. They will grow up and move on. We didn't want to sacrifice what made us happy. So we moved back and are happy as larry. All I'm saying is that you don't need to completely give up London IF that's not what you want to do.

Floggingmolly Thu 22-Nov-12 17:18:47

People do it all the time...
Honestly, the horror of finding a decent London school. How bloody pretentious can you get hmm

MsCat Thu 22-Nov-12 18:09:56

Floggingmolly- I'm not being pretentious. I would never send my child to the kind of London school that I had imagined existed. It's not a pretention, it's a reality. But as I have learnt from the helpful posts above, there are good schools in London. I probably have nothing to fear. Thanks for your thought provoking and considered response though.

Wheresmypopcorn Thu 22-Nov-12 22:28:42

No doubt about it, Childcare is expensive. I have moved to another city now and am still finding Childcare a challenge. Childcare was costing 70 pounds a day in london, but i had found the right person and when you do you'll pay what it takes. The thing that I did find difficult was the Childcare hours. I struggled to find daycare after 6 pm which meant I would have to leave the office at 5 pm. As a freelancer it was very difficult finding any business in my industry that would accomodate these hours as I was always expected to work late if need be, so it did require a lot of juggling. Saying that, once it got going with work it was okay. I would advise you to save a bit to give you a little bit of extra breathing room in case you need to have a bit of extra time to find a new contract. As a contract worker who has their own limited company? You may be entitled to the statutory mat pay - seek the advice of a good accountant.

rrreow Thu 22-Nov-12 22:42:59

I live in Central London and I have found it is always other people (who don't live in London or who are not 'city people') who think it is a problem to raise children in London. Personally I have no problems with it, there are lots of facilities, groups, parks, playgrounds etc.

With regards to nursery, when the time comes look into state (council funded) nurseries in your borough. They charge very fair rates. Just put your name down early as places are rare (but definitely not impossible to get).

iwontbackdown Thu 22-Nov-12 23:25:49

I live in central London in a council flat. I would investigate the various housing options available, there are quite a few options for certain workers (e.g. teachers) and it might be worth looking at a career move if that could help get you on the ladder. My particular estate is probably one which you'd need high priority to get on (I was a single parent with health issues when I was allocated mine). But there are other options, like housing co-ops which tend to take more professionals.

I was lucky not to pay for childcare as my parents helped out. But I had a very low income when DD was small and she didn't miss out at all - lots of free/subsidised activities, easy to get around to different places, lots of parks etc. I wouldn't have wanted to leave London, I really love the cultural vibe here and the freedom to be an individual here as well and I refused to give that up just because I became a parent. I am very glad I did - DD is older now and I can access sports, evening classes and arts events which just aren't available in the suburbs. And amongst my friends, I feel there's a community amongst the type of parent who does stay in London, we are all drawn to the opportunities offered here and don't just want settle down into suburbia, despite the various downsides.

I think some London schools can be awful, or at least very tragic as the dc there are often so deprived - not financially (I was in the same financial position as many of the families) but of aspirations. The first school I sent DD to was like that, but she was diagnosed with SN and then I was able to get her a priority place at a much better school. The difference between the two was quite stark, simply in attitudes and wanting to provide opportunities for the children. So I'd say, there are definitely some great state schools in London, but you have to do your research about where they are and how you will be able to gain admission to them.

waterrat Fri 23-Nov-12 09:18:34

dont forget if you are self employed - or freelance and not entitled to maternity payment through work, you get £500 a month Maternity Allowance from the government for 9 months. If you could live on your partners income while off work, you could save that up for when you need childcare

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