The cost of childcare is easily the most unexpected and debilitating aspect of parenting for many parents.
Everybody knows that having children is expensive – after all, they need food and clothes and a lot of plastic tut. But to be honest, childcare wasn’t on my list of expected expenses. At least not to the extent that it rules and drains my daily life.
Would that have changed my outlook on whether we were ready for having a child? Probably not. If it were, then only the elite would have children.
But that doesn’t mean that the cost of childcare passed onto working parents is right.
Is childcare a choice?
When considering childcare and going back to work, I didn’t have the choice of free childcare. Unless you have family that live close and are willing to help, there just isn’t a cheaper alternative to childcare.
I shouldn’t have to rely on friends or family. I should be able to access affordable childcare that allows me to work, contribute to our society and provide for my family.
My choice, was either paying the price of going back to work, or staying at home. We couldn’t afford for me to stay at home (and I need to work for sanity), so we paid the price.
The nursery we send my daughter to is a good one, but it’s by no means the most expensive around. In fact, at the time of enrolment it was one of the most affordable. It opens at 7.30 and closes at 6.30 giving us the flexibility of a working day. For us, it was the right choice of provider.
But as with every year, her fees are now increasing by about 5% to around £10k per year for four days a week. If she was in full time, 5 days a week? It’d be nearer to 12k per year (that’s with a discount too).
Sorry if you’ve just spat your tea out. I’ll let that figure sink in….
But before we start pointing the finger at expensive childcare being the issue, bear in mind that my nursery made a grand total of 0.003% profit last year. The problem isn’t greed of childcare providers.
In Ready Steady Cook style, nurseries are given a wobbly bicycle wheel and a carrot stick in the form of Government funding and asked to make nutritious meals, nurture minds and do crafty activities that parents daren’t attempt at home. To top it all off, the same Government then inspect to check that they’re doing a good job.
It’s hardly a fair system.
The problem is clearly Government support. Not just helping parents get back to work despite childcare costs. Or accepting that you can only go back to work without crippling costs when all of your children are over 3 (as long as your job is flexible of course which is another issue…).
Childcare vouchers mean that we, like many other families save a little on the bill of nursery fees, but to be honest, it makes a very small dent in a very large bill.
£243 each as a tax free payment direct from our salaries. I’d hardly call that a voucher as it’s still all my own hard-earned money. We then top it up with more of our hard-earned cash.
Some people are even having to cut back on working due to the rising costs of childcare.
Does that sound like a system that’s helping parents to get back into work? No.
For most people like me, childcare isn’t a choice, but a cruel necessity.
Having a child and wanting to work shouldn’t be met with “well, you should have thought about the cost before having children” response. Trust me, I’ve had somebody tell me that before.
The cost of childcare and my salary shouldn’t have to come into the equation of whether or not we have children. Neither should I have to rely on my other half to earn enough to support our entire family.
We live in 2018, not 1918.
It shouldn’t be this hard for parents and something has to give.
Forced into a corner with the rising cost of childcare
Parents are being forced into a corner with the rising cost of childcare meaning that they can’t afford to work.
Surely that should be an oxymoron and an impossibility, so I’ll say it again…
Not being able to afford to work.
To top it off, with the lack of a national acceptance to a flexible approach to working (I’m talking Flex appeal, not “I’m going to start work 15 mins early, so I can finish 15 mins early, but actually work double because I feel guilty about it”). Parents are having to tackle too many hurdles to simply earn money for their family.
It’s no wonder that childcare costs is cited as THE biggest risk factor for families who are on the edge of living in poverty (source: 2015 statistics from Gingerbread). More fancy sources of ‘believe it or not’ stats here in my Working Mums Infographic post).
We shouldn’t simply accept that it’s just the way it is. Other countries have proven that.
Norway, as an example have a cap on childcare costs being capped at £250 a month, with the rest being covered by their Government. In comparison, that’s a quarter of what we currently would pay for full time nursery fees.
We have a long way to go, but the first step is accepting that our system doesn’t work. Or, I suppose not accepting it. It’s choking parents and it has to stop before it’s too late.
Nursery fees are more expensive than…
To lighten the mood, I’ve also done the math (oh you knew it was coming)…
Nursery is more expensive than private school.
Our nearest private school fees (let’s take lower prep school as an example) per year are £9,855, including lunches.
Of course, that doesn’t include the wrap around care, but still…
Do you know what else is cheaper than nursery fees for a year?
- A mortgage for a 3 bed detached house in Northamptonshire
- Buying a second hand car outright (or a small new one)
- 2 weeks holiday in Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort during summer holidays for 2 adults and 1 child, including flights, car hire and Disney tickets (£6.3k)… or a luxury holiday to the Maldives is about the same price which would still mean you could go on 2 luxury holidays a year.
How has the cost of childcare affected your family? Did it affect your decision about going back to work? Would a more flexible approach to work, or lower costs affect whether you’d work (either now or going back to work in the future)? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
Also, if you feel strongly about the cost of childcare, then I’d urge you to sign Save the Children’s petition on childcare costs, urging the Government to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. So… what are you waiting for? Click this link to sign the Save the Children Petition on Childcare costs, pop your name down and make your voice heard.