Being a working parent is like swimming against the current with a whopping great hippopotamus strapped around your neck. Physically, emotionally and financially you will constantly be treading water, trying to keep your head up long enough for a breather.
We’ve tried a number of ways to make it work over the last three years and we still haven’t cracked it.
It’s less ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming’
And more ‘don’t fucking drown yourself, or your children’
Do that in the Dori voice.
I first tried it working part time, straight back from maternity leave. The money I earnt working three full days a week would have just covered three full days of nursery fees. In fact, each month I would have actually come away with a profit of around £25.
I shit you not.
Luckily for us though, we have help from Grandparents and so I only had to give up one third of my earnings each month on child care fees.
Lord only knows where we would be without the Grand-parentals, up shits creek without a paddle no doubt. Most people don’t have this extra help and there is no way we would have survived without it.
Any-who a third of your wage on child care doesn’t sound too bad does it? But when you’ve already reduced your hours to part time, the money you are actually making is a pittance. I was now earning 3/5 less than what I had been pre-baby. I had been bringing home around £1200 and now it was around the £500 mark. Of course, my husband was still earning his full time wage but it became increasingly more difficult to make ends meet. Whenever something unexpected happened, like a failed MOT or a busted washing machine, we had no where to go. There just wasn’t any spare cash, for emergencies or holidays or days out. Nothing.
Of course, you can get by without a holiday or a trip to the zoo. It sucks no doubt, but life goes on. However its pretty fucking difficult trying to get by without an exhaust pipe or a front windscreen.
Trust us, we know.
I next tried it working full time, which improved our financial situation slightly. But inevitably, the more I worked – the more we had to pay out in childcare. And the more commuting and ferrying around we had to do. At this point I’d say that around half of my after-tax wage each month went straight to child care costs. Again, had we not had the two days a week help from Grandparents, my money making efforts would have been entirely futile. It was incredibly deflating to work the first half of a month and have nothing in your pocket to show for it.
It is only now that our son has reached three years old and we receive the 15 hours free childcare, that we have found some kind of balance. And in a strange turn of events, it is actually more financially viable for me to work part time than it would be for me to have full time hours. We’re now paying around £100 a month in child care fees – whereas previously it has been as much as £600.
In a bid to help us working parents, the fountain of knowledge and relate-ability that is our Government are soon introducing the 30 free hours scheme. This wont apply for us because Finley starts school in September. However it sounds like a great idea, at least on the surface…right?
It is indeed more free childcare but it aint-actually-all-that when you read the small print.
First off, you aren’t getting 30 free hours each week, you’re only getting it for 38 of them. So if you do the math – that’s actually 22 hours for each week of the year, not 30.
I believe that’s what people tend to call a ‘poetic licence’. Or we could call it a ‘bull-shit fabrication’ , if you prefer.
Secondly, it’s still only for kids aged between 3 and 4 – so it’s not helping anyone for at least the first three years of their child’s life.
And lastly, there are valid concerns that placements will start charging for ‘extras’, such as meals and nappies to supplement their profits. So you could end up paying for a load of stuff out of your own pocket anyway.
In my opinion, giving more free child care is just a bottle stopper way of fobbing people off and not actually dealing with the real issue.
Story of our lives right?
The real issue, is our attitude towards working parents and our crap viewpoint on flexible working.
In my experience and from conversations I have had with friends who are also parents – it is impossible for two parents, to work full time hours in everyday office jobs without some level of help and flexibility from their employers.
And by impossible, I don’t mean physically. Of course physically it can be done, like two rabid, headless chickens running around with hoover extensions up their bums (I know we did it for 18 months). But impossible in the sense, for them to live balanced lives and give their jobs and children the attention and enthusiasm they deserve.
Times are a changing folks, we need to find out what actually works.