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Balancing Work and Parenting

(17 Posts)
Anna275 Sun 20-Mar-16 04:30:26

I'm not a parent yet, but I'll be turning 30 and getting married this year, so the thought of children has started to come up in conversation with my partner. I'm an American woman marrying a British man, so there are some cultural differences that come up when we discuss many subjects.

My career is very important to me. I support any woman who wants to make the choice to be a SAHM, but for me the thought has never even entered my mind. My partner knows this and is supportive of this, but yesterday we were having a discussion and he made a comment about how our future children will feel neglected because they will have two working parents. I was shocked by this. I had two parents in professional careers, as did most of the other children in my school, I never felt unloved or as if my parents were choosing work over raising me. I wasn't brought up to think that being a working parent was something to feel guilty about.

I was reading some of the threads on here and was most concerned about people mentioning that school starts at 9. Is this true across the board? How on earth are you supposed to get your child to school in time to get to work?

I lived in a suburb of a major city that many parents commuted to for work. School started at 7:30 (8:00 for primary) but you could drop your children off up to an hour early at no cost because the school served breakfast and children would be all be supervised in the cafeteria. There were several services in town that picked children up from school and took them to a centre where there were computers for homework, outdoor play areas and indoor recreation. This lasted until were were around 11. After that there were so many after school activities and sports practices that started right when school ended and last until 5 or 6pm. The children who weren't involved in after school activities were very few and far between, and they were usually the ones who were getting into trouble all the time.

So I guess my question is, for the working mothers on here, how do you balance work and raising your children. What are the main differences between my experiences in the US, and what my experience will be as a parent in the UK? What are the biggest challenges for you as a working parent.

bittapitta Sun 20-Mar-16 04:39:13

There are breakfast clubs and out of school clubs connected to almost every school in the city I live, so you can drop your kids off and head to work. 7.30 til 6 or something like that, similar to some nurseries.

Why is he assuming he's going back to work full time? Bit loaded to criticise 2 full time parents and lay on the guilt to you. Make sure you're in the same page before having babies with him, don't let him assume you will relent after maternity leave. That said - It's difficult to make assumptions before you've actually become parents and met your baby. Childcare is expensive for a start. We made flexible working arrangements so we each feel we are balancing work and spending time with our children and not giving them longer working days than us

Anna275 Sun 20-Mar-16 05:10:06

Well, that was my response. I told him that if he felt the need for them to have a stay at home parent he can feel free to do it (He's in the military so my salary is currently double his). Although he lives in the Southeast he lives in a farming area and I think the only person he knows who had two working parents is his brother's wife. From what he's told me she has very negative feelings about her parents working, so maybe that's where he's getting his assumptions from. I'm sure I will feel sad at missing out on some important moments, but I also feel enormous pride in providing for my family and giving my children all the opportunities that come along with financial stability.
I'm currently living in DC so will be moving back to the UK after our wedding but I'm already looking into companies that will allow flexible working and telecommuting. Not just for children. After the horrible daily commute I have now, I will do anything to avoid it at my next job. Where I'm currently working we have compressed schedules and teleworking and employees are really encouraged to take advantage of it, so hopefully I can find a similar arrangement when I move.

HeadDreamer Sun 20-Mar-16 05:36:06

DH and I both work FT and we have one in primary school and another preschool. I will be honest and say this is not the norm here. Most mothers are PT.

We use a childminder for wraparound care for our older. And a nursery for the younger. It is easier to sort out preschool care as nurseries are opened 8-6 all year round. Because of the short opening hours, you won't make both drop off and pick up unless your job is very local. Or very flexible with remote working. I would imagine for most parents it means one does drop off and the other pick up. You will need your DP to be full on board with supporting you to work FT to make this work.

For me, DH has a job with less than 10min commute so he handles the daily pick up and drop off. Even with that I needed flexible working because I have an hour commute each way. I leave home at 7 and leave the office at 3 to avoid the rush hour completely. Then I continue working at home until 5.30 when begin cooking dinner so we can eat at 6. When DH gets home with the children, he does homework with DD1 while looking after DD2. Both of us can take all our annual leaves during school holidays..

When you say you earn double his salary I'm not sure how much it is really. If you are a very high earner, you can get a nanny which will make your life a lot easier. Otherwise it might be a struggle for you. I would imagine the military isn't that flexible with working hours and leave?

Lamu Sun 20-Mar-16 05:38:58

Wrap around care in the uk is pretty sparse imo, I woundn't count on it. Where I am there are waiting lists in a lot of schools for these clubs as they're run by external companies not the schools themselves. Its is very dependant on the school of course. And I would assume it's slightly better in London. For us this is one of the reasons we chose to go private where the provision is guaranteed at a price.

Everyone's different but my mother worked for as long as I could remember. It was just how it was, no negative feelings about it whatsoever.

bittapitta Sun 20-Mar-16 07:34:37

When I was growing up it was the norm for both parents to work (including mine) though admittedly more likely the mother was working part time not full time. Now i have kids i happen to know many parents who both work FT but no idea if that's the norm. I'd definitely suggest moving to a city not countryside if you want as many options open to you as possible.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Sun 20-Mar-16 07:51:24

It's not the norm round here (market town in the SE) for both parents to work full time, in most families I know one parent works part time. Of those families were both parents work full time, in most cases one of them works locally so no commute. Of the remainder, where both commute and work, they use either a childminder or nanny or rely on grandparents. My DCs primary school has a breakfast club from 7.45 and after school club till 5.15, there are no options to be transported to longer hours provision. School holidays can be a juggle too.

museumum Sun 20-Mar-16 07:59:50

Round here it's most usual for mums to have 1-2 days st home and I know a lot of dads who do a weekday at home (either because that are pt too or because they work Saturdays).
I don't know any sahps. And the only couple I know who both work mon to fri, one of them is term only.

In the U.K. People have fought hard for the right to be pt and childcare is expensive so most people I know choose some kind of pt working or compressed hours.

strawberrybubblegum Sun 20-Mar-16 08:20:11

You really need to have some very serious discussions with your fiance now: about what he can/will do, and whether he can accept your choices too.

Will you be living in barracks, and be very restricted on location (ie less choice of schools to make sure of wrap around care, and possibly a longer commute for you)?

Is he posted to different locations, so you will be the sole carer for periods of time? That would normally be very hard to combine with FT work (as people have said, childcare hours aren't long enough to do both pick up and drop off with an 8 hour working day + lunchtime + commute).

I have no idea how it works for military families though: I get the impression that it is a very particular culture and things are done differently. You must make sure you understand the details.

You might find that you feel differently once you have a child: I did (expected to go back FT, but have gone back 3 days/week) but you need to feel confident that what you currently expect can work. Also that your DH wouldn't resent it. Have you lived with your DP already? Even if you do decide not to work FT, it makes an enormous difference whether your partner respects your views and is willing to be flexible - and take on some of the inevitable sacrifices involved in bringing up children.

Do think about different stages of your life too. Preschool is actually the easiest to juggle with work, because the childcare is designed to allow parents to work. It's expensive though, and if you have 2 children in nursery you may find that you are financially worse off working, even on a good salary. It does allow you to maintain your career though.

The early school years seem hard to manage. I haven't reached that yet, but I'm already worried! Many schools do wraparound, but not all. Do check that carefully (also be aware that many schools are over subscribed, so be very sure that you would get into any particular school you are relying on - it's usually based on distance, but occassionally with extra constraints). Holidays seem tricky. There are holiday clubs, but I'm feeling a bit unsure about sending a not-very-confident 4yo who hates change to a different holiday club every week through the holidays. And of course, you have to cover days they are sick, which eats into your annual leave.

It is definitely tricky! I console myself that other families manage (usually with a hodge podge of different solutions, and often a bit of help from family). It does often feel that our culture expects a parent to be at home though, and I find this even working part time.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Sun 20-Mar-16 08:27:53

Yes, term time working is another thing, quite a lot of the families I know with two FT working parents have one term time only (teachers). In most others at least one parent has some flexibility in working hours (eg one day a week at home, shifts, compressed working etc).

HarlotBronte Sun 20-Mar-16 11:48:52

People use various strategies to solve the problem of school and work starting at the same time: breakfast clubs, childminders, rely on family, try and stagger your hours so one of you starts early and finishes early, other starts late and finishes late. It's true that in some areas wraparound care doesn't really exist. You may want to factor this in when selecting where to live. You should also expect chidcare to be more expensive here than in the US, especially in the south east.

As for the working parents, career, impact on kids issue, those are personal calls we all have to make for ourselves. He's absolutely entitled to think 2 x FT workers doesn't provide the environment he wants for his children to grow up in. He's not entitled to expect you to be the one to address it.

bittapitta Sun 20-Mar-16 11:59:42

He's absolutely entitled to think 2 x FT workers doesn't provide the environment he wants for his children to grow up in.

Actually this is a good point by Harlot- please don't have kids with him if you won't see eye to eye on this. Perhaps both be prepared to compromise. My DH and I bucked the trend locally as we didn't want our kids in full time childcare until age 3/4, we both agreed with this and worked our hours and jobs to enable this ie I am more or less a sahm for now.

BeautifulMaudOHara Sun 20-Mar-16 12:07:04

I think it depends on your earnings, to an extent. But fwiw my advice would be to earn as much as you can so you can buy good childcare and pay for the mundane things to be done by someone else. And, don't hire a nanny who won't do anything other than childcare. Some won't. You want someone who will tidy up a bit, prepare food for you to come home to, do some washing, that kind of thing. Ie. do what you or your husband would do if you were there. Also if you can afford it, have a cleaner and shop online. Our nannies have always put shopping away too.

You need to target a large organisation if you want flexibility and one that really walks the walk rather than just talking the talk. So do your research well. And live as near to work as you can, that helps.

BeautifulMaudOHara Sun 20-Mar-16 12:11:00

It does sound as if you need to have a serious talk with him though - if he's sure you'll suddenly stop wanting a career when you have children and you're not, that's a conversation worth having.

strawberrybubblegum Sun 20-Mar-16 12:34:29

To give you an idea of childcare costs, a (respected but very normal) nursery for 5 days a week where we live in a London suburb costs £1500 per child each month when under 3. There is a government subsidy from 3yo which brings it down to £1400.

This needs to come out of taxed earnings, although you can get a certain amount in 'childcare vouchers' before tax, using salary sacrifice. This amounts to a subsidy of approximately £600 per working parent each year.

So even for one child this doesn't leave much change out of a £35k salary. The higher rate of tax kicks in at about £40k so you need more than twice that for 2 children.

Childminders are less expensive: about £7-8 per hour, and often with a sibling discount. But I think you'd be looking at a minimum of £2500/month (again, after tax) for two preschool children.

I think this is a big part of the reason that so few families have both parents working full time.

Indantherene Sun 20-Mar-16 15:08:15

Our primary school is 8.55 to 3.20. We have a breakfast club that starts at 8am but no ASC.

I found pre school easy because I put DD in a nursery near my work, so she came on the commute with me and I was able to do drop off and pick up. The nursery she went to is £57 a day for under 2s and £52 a day for 2+, open 8am to 6pm.

School is a different matter.

All the primary schools in our area (SW) have a long "settling in" routine when they start Reception, involving weeks of mornings only or afternoons only, then 1/2 day with lunch. Takes up the first term. I had to save up loads of leave plus rope in grandma to help. I also went PT (30 hours) when DD started school because I just couldn't fit in my hours around school. Most of the mothers at our school either don't work or are part time.

Holidays we are lucky that both DH and I get 7 weeks Annual Leave. We pay for 3 weeks of Holiday Club every year (£195pw, including early booking discounts) and grandma has her for a week, then DH has her for some holidays and I have her for the rest. The Holiday Club gets booked up, so there are clearly a lot of 2 x FT working parents.

Now that my DD is 9 I'm starting to worry about secondary, which finishes at 2.30!

minnymoobear Sun 20-Mar-16 15:20:54

Agree that nursery and preschool care is easier to arrange. I now have 2 DC in 2 different secondary schools with various things after school. I work from 9-5.30 and drop 2 off DH is self employed so does a lot of the after school pick ups and older ones on the bus as needed.
It is hard and a real struggle at times, but you do get into a routine.
I've taken some leave over Easter and DH has some second week - definitely worth a diaucssion about what you both want, but remember things can change a lot when you actually have the baby too! Just be open minded and look into different options smile

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