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childminder

Childcare costs preventing you from working? What’s the story?

BBC’s Panorama ran a programme about the cost of childcare in the UK for working parents. It’s a hot potato but nothing new for a parent like me who has always worked since having my first child over 12 years ago.

Inevitably it brought out those who think parents should stay at home, look after their children and take a trip back to the 1970s in their home life – where do these people come from? 

I personally have no problem at all with mums or dads who want, and can afford, to stay at home and look after the children. All I can say is that for me, it just wasn’t an option. There are two reasons for this – one, I need to contribute and work at least part-time, the  other is that if I was a stay-at-home mum I would go stir crazy.

When I had my last child almost five years ago I had a year off work – and by the end of that time I was ill with boredom and monotony.  Some parents love the stay-at-home life, some don’t and I just don’t. Even my older children noticed how grumpy and down I had become – I need to do something which affirms me as an independent, professional person as well as a mum, step-mum and wife. I love all of my roles and I need all of my roles. If that makes me selfish so be it.

Having made such a decision, is it right for me to moan about childcare costs? Probably not, I guess.

By working, my children have more opportunities to do things....

I consider myself very lucky to have had a wonderful childminder for 12 years, who is a friend and a third parent to all of my children. It’s not cheap, especially in school holidays, coming in at round £60 a day.

I remember when I had two pre-school children at the minder’s – it made little financial sense to work at all. After fees plus travel, I was making about £10 a day. But my mental health was extremely good, I felt better in myself and I knew it was a medium term cost until the oldest started school.

However, I had a reasonably paid staff job with benefits at the time. I’m now self-employed and my income is not set in stone – but I’ve still made the decision three years ago to keep on my childminder for three days a week at least. I did not want to use redundancy as a reason not to work – I’ve not regretted this decision.

I recognise however that for people who work in lower paid professions eg. retail, a decision like this is much harder. I have a friend who is a single parent working for a national retail company – she earns about £850 a month. She has no choice but to pay for childcare as she’s the breadwinner in the family. But the childcare is a huge drain. She would actually be better off staying at home and living on benefits – I have to question whether that our society should ever allow that to be the situation.

My friend doesn’t want to stay at home. She has an eye to the future. In a few years’ time, her youngest child will be an adult and she’s anxious to have her foot in the workplace. She doesn’t want to be 50, with no experience and trying to find work then to make ends meet.

And where are children in this? My children are happy, that’s where they are. They have another adult they can talk to, confide in and trust. They have a range of friends of different ages and backgrounds. They are well socialised and have had no problem in fitting in at school because they’ve made friends from a very early age. They understand fully the concept of different homes, different adults, different rules.

I think back to my own childhood. My mum did not work, my dad wouldn’t allow it. Her day was structured around housework, food and children. She spent a good part of 20 years being bored. Rows at home were always around money. I didn’t go to toddler groups, play groups or anything like that. My parents had no car and little money so apart from an annual caravan holiday for a week, we went nowhere beyond our street and nearby countryside.

I knew much love and happiness as a child, don’t get me wrong. I always knew I was loved and cherished and for that I’m eternally grateful. But I also knew boredom, knew disappointment when I couldn’t do things through a complete lack of cash. These things do have an effect and help inform future choices. I  knew from the age of 18 that I would work and offer my children more opportunity. I hate not contributing to the family pot.

Childcare costs are an issue – but for many women, it’s not just about the money. 

Summer holidays which cost loadsa money!!!!

Where would you draw the line in paying for kids' activities?

Parents are now dealing with the summer holiday season and with that comes the cost of having children off school.
I’m not talking about the speed at which food is hoovered up (I bought six big yoghurts and they were gone within a few hours) or the amount of extra washing. (Anyone with teenage girls will know how children dump perfectly clean clothes into a washing basket to change into the ‘appropriate’ outfit for that particular minute).

 
No, it’s the almost visible rubbing of hands for those businesses who rely on children and families for their income. It’s not just holidays that cost more during school holidays, it’s any type of entertainment.

It’s our modern need to continually give our kids ‘things to do, places to go, people to see’. Why is this?

When I was a kid, we went on a week’s holiday no more than 100 miles away and then I was at home day after day, week after week.

 

Entertainment was self-generated. Imagination was key, as were friendships.

The biggest outing was to the local corner shop with 10p to buy lots of sweets. My parents didn’t have the money for day-trips or extras which we now take for granted.
This was brought home to me this week when my son, who’s 4, desperately wanted to go to a soft play area which had moved premises to a larger site, closer to our house.
Okay, I thought, let’s go. We walked in behind a couple, probably grandparents, with two children, one in a pushchair. They were complaining about the fact that they had to pay for the baby because she was over six months.
So I looked at the price list, which frankly I hadn’t considered. At other similar sites in Swindon, you can pay per half hour, so you can control the cost and keep it within reason.

 

No more, the fees here were flat – so £5.95 for each of my daughters and £3.95 for my son, oh and 75p for me to take up a seat within the premises. Total cost, almost £17. That’s before buying any drinks or refreshments.

Disappointing my son, I just turned and said that it was too much money. Even if we’d gone in and I bought four drinks, we’d be looking at probably £25 for that entertainment.
As a business person, I understand that costs might need to go up but surely there needs to be some moderation. What about more flexible terms – per half hour costs for example? Or a loyalty card scheme?

As a customer, it seemed I was paying through the nose for a new venue and I employed the simplest tactic in the book – I walked out.

 
Even if refreshments prices had risen a little – at least that’s an expense that I choose to make. Also what extras are on offer to justify more money? Is there free internet access? An internet cafe facility?

 
It’s a cheek to charge parents 75p for simply taking up space within a space that was alarmingly empty anyway.

 
I’m afraid this business has priced itself out of the its own market. It’s only been open for a few weeks but who’s going to go there often with prices like that?

 
As a working mum, I know that at it’s previous location, groups of childminders would sometimes go there as a treat for their young charges. I can guarantee that they won’t go now – the cost would be far too high.

 

If you ever want to know what’s good value for money for entertaining children – ask your local childminders, they are experts in value for money.

 
Let’s hope that this small business does some serious market research around its own competitors and adjusts accordingly. Lower your prices or offer something extra and shout about it.

If it doesn’t, I give it a year at the outside.

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