., The Motherhood, Working Parent

I Can’t Afford To Return To Work

I had a letter today from Sarah Radford, her systems must have put me in a batch of Statutory Maternity Pay is about to run out and selected me for some advice. She wanted to let me know that “there’s a big financial gain to returning to work” and for every year I spend out of work – my wages will decrease by 2%, and that I could end up £550 worse off.

£550, shit that’s a lot of money. I mean that’s half our rent, almost twice what my car is worth…

But wait she said – for every £8 we spend on childcare the government will contribute £2, up to the value of £2,000.

So the Government are going to give me two grand towards childcare per child plus saving me that £550 a year, that could work I thought… 

“You are eligible, if you are in receipt of certain benefits.”

We are not eligible for any benefits.


On the one income, we will be too rich for benefits and too poor for any room to breathe. Yes, we’ll be ok to pay the rent and bills and feed the kids. But there will be no holidays, no takeaways, no new clothes, no after school swimming club. There will be no Summer days out to the Zoo or Legoland. There will be no bottles of wine or dinners out or trips to the cinema. There will be no having friends over for tea in that last week of the month, because the block of cheese wont split that far and I haven’t got the money for cupcakes or corner yogurts.

We don’t need those things to survive of course, but it’s a fucking hard slog without the occasional luxury.

When our shitty old car needs an MOT and fails we will forgo paying the electricity bill that month or borrow money from family that will take six months to pay back. Just so we can patch it up for a few more months, just so he can get to work, just so he can earn that survival money.

Always chasing our own tails.

When it’s that month in the year when everyone we know has a birthday and gets married and wants sponsorship for running a marathon dressed as a chicken, we will scour the house for things to sell on eBay so we can fund other peoples frivolities.

But wait Sarah Radford says – the government will give me 30 hours free child care a week!

30 hours a week that’s easily my three days a week, 8 hours a day office job!

Except, it’s not every week – it’s only 38 of them and I can’t get it until she’s three years old. She isn’t three for another 2 years and 4 months. My job wont wait that long.

So I sit and re-do the math. Surely I can find a way then?

If I return to work 3 days a week, I’ll be paying out around £60 a day in nursery fees for the baby. If it’s a five week month that’s £900, if its a four week month I’m laughing cos it’s only £720. Then I need to put my oldest into breakfast club at £2.50 a day (2.50 x 3) that’s £7.50 a week. Next hope and pray I can find a childminder to have him after school till 6, which is doubtful but lets just have a laugh here and say I can for the shits and giggles. How much does a childminder charge per hour? I honestly don’t know so I Googled and it suggested around the £10 mark. Hardly extortionate is it? Ok so that’s £10 x 3 hours x 3 days = £90 a week.

5 Week Month

£900 baby nursery fees

£37.50 breakfast club

£450 afterschool childminder

= £1,387.50

4 Week Month

£720 baby nursery fees

£30 breakfast club

£360 afterschool childminder

= £1,110

My take home pay after tax was a grand.

Sarah Radford said “there’s a big financial gain to returning to work”

But the maths says, I’m fucked.

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  1. Totally get this and fear I’ll have the same problem once I have my second child. Childcare is so expensive. But just worth mentioning that the tax free childcare scheme is open to anyone earning under 100k (per person in a couple so you could both earn 99k and still be eligible which seems ridiculous). And I think you can use it for some before/after school clubs and childminders if they’ve registered. Might be worth checking out. We use it and aren’t entitled to any other benefits (except child benefit). It tops up our nursery fees by 20%. So the fees are about £620 per month for us but we *only* pay about £500 (80%). The rest is topped up by the government. It might not help now, but maybe when the youngest is 3 it will make work slightly more profitable.

    1. Gema says:

      The only down side in this childcare voucher scheme is that if you, the mother are a higher tax payer you Get capped at £124 per month that you can get in vouchers.
      And because (for me anyway) I had a good wage, I had to work long days with child care being needed from 7am-6.30pm.
      Which sadly means the £124 per month tax free doesn’t go far towards the £1300 it costs for child number two…… and child number one is exactly the same problem as this brilliant article, so £2k per month childcare….. just doesn’t work 🙁
      I’m sure I’ll loose my brain before I can return to work/

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