Childcare

For any woman planning to return to her job, the childcare you put in place will be the biggest decision you make to ensure work and being a Mummy work in near perfect harmony. There are multiple options available such as:

  • Nanny
  • Childminder
  • Nursery
  • Friends and family support

Take the time you need to consider all the options. There is no 'one size fits all' answer. The decision will depend on what feels right to you and your partner.

It is better to book your childcare as soon as possible. Leaving it until the last minute when you are under pressure, feeling stressed and another mother has taken your potential coveted spot with the childminder, will only infuriate you and add stress to the approaching days before you return to work.

Back up planning

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Childcare back up plan

Depending on what type of childcare you choose, you are going to have to consider a backup plan. There will be days when your child is ill and you are meant to be presenting to the entire company at a breakfast meeting. Dependent on the job that you do that may or may not be a crisis for you to miss it. Only you will know.

But this is the moment to think about the types of scenarios at work when being absent would be a potential crisis. All companies/jobs are different and it may be that your company would manage this easily, but from the women I have spoken to there are days when you really just need to be there. This is when you need to consider your back-up plan. Think what you’ll do if:

  • Your nanny is ill
  • Your childminder has two other children with the Norovirus
  • Your child is ill and cannot go to nursery

Get your back-up plan in place. Then get a back-up back-up plan in place.

You’ll hardly have to use the back-up back-up but it’s worth thinking about it. It may even be your neighbour who can step in until your first back-up plan can come and take over. It may be a neighbour because they are close and can be at your house fast. It could be a close friend. Whatever you think works for you. This is the moment to have it sorted in your head.

 

Childcare is a MASSIVE help and also puts limitation on career. It is the single most thing that can inhibit or empower women back to the workplace. It needs to be flexible and cost effective. I had to change the structure of my business and what I do when my second daughter came along because money and flexibility had to be re-worked.
— WoMo Dee, London

 

Let’s look at each type of childcare in turn, consider the pros and cons and consider the pitfalls...

Nanny

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Childcare

Getting a nanny is the easiest option for most working mothers but often the most expensive.

Pros:

  • The great thing a nanny gives you as a working mother is ease.
  • The nanny will arrive or live in your house, you can get up and go to work and your child is cared for in your home.
  • There's no packing nappies, changes of clothes and bottles to deliver your baby somewhere else. You just walk out of the door.
  • If you are 10 minutes late, there are no extravagant fees and the pressure is slightly off.
  • Depending on the job that you do, you may need to travel and a nanny will give you optionality. You have additional resource available outside the standard working day.

womo worry:

Some women feel ill at ease with a nanny when they have one child as they are concerned about the one-on-one relationship the nanny will have with their child. If this is a concern for you:

  • Ensure you ask potential nannies at the interview stage how they intend to socialise with your child.
  • There are many mother-baby groups and your nanny can attend on your behalf. It is highly unlikely your nanny will be the only non-parent at the group and it will give the nanny the chance to build her own social network for your child and organise play dates.

Travelling and overnight help

If you have the type of job where you need to travel and may be away overnight this is when a nanny really comes into their own. If close family members or your partner are unable to assist when you travel, your nanny will be that primary carer in your absence. Agreeing at interview stage what is expected and then nailing down the details of their job description when they start is critical. But more of that later.

Finding a nanny

This can be an exhausting process. Before you even get to the point where you start to interview nannies, you need to find the candidates. This is dependent on where you live but there will be options such as:

  • Nanny agencies
  • Mumsnet or Netmums forums
  • Local community websites
  • Local playcentres
  • Word of mouth

Whichever way you find your candidates the recruitment of them is essential. We will talk about selecting the right person to care for your child in the next section.

Nanny share

A nanny share is a good way to reduce costs if you still think a nanny is the right childcare for you. Depending on where you live this can be a brilliant option for some families. Those people living in cities will find this option far easier. Often there are local community websites or forums where mothers can advertise a nanny share. Some nannies do this themselves.

A nanny share can work in a number of ways: 

  • Some nannies look after a very young child and therefore having two young children will give your child a playmate.
  • Other nannies may have a school age child and the family may be keen to share the nanny during the day to look after a younger child when the other is at school. Remember though in the school holidays the children will be together all day.

The driving motivation for a nanny share is often the reduced cost of a nanny and location. If you can share a nanny with another mother in the next street or a few doors down your road this type of childcare will offer you increased convenience.

There are a few things to discuss with the other family when planning a nanny share:

  • Interview the nanny first. You have to like the nanny too or regardless of logistics and convenience, it’ll never work.
  • Discuss whether the nanny will work in your house or their house or a bit of both.
  • How will the nanny be paid? Will you pay her directly half each or does one family pay and you make your contribution?
  • Who will drop off/pick up if the nanny works in the other home?
  • How will you feel if the other child is sick? What will the plan be?
  • What happens if one of you is late or stuck at work? How will this impact the plans?
  • Consider the kind of flexibility you need with your job. If you need overnight help occasionally how will this work?
  • If one of you works part time, will you need flexibility to change your days?

When you have nailed down your plan, put together a nanny agreement. This is not a legally binding document by any stretch of the imagination but it will really help when you come up against a challenge. It is best to get all possible options discussed and written down from day one.

Childminder

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Childcare

A childminder is someone who is trained to care for children in their own home. They have limits on the number of children they are allowed and how many babies. With a childminder you will be packing a bag for your child each morning and delivering your child to the childminder. 

PROS:

  • They must be trained and are Ofsted registered.  
  • The joy of a childminder is your child will be cared for in an environment where they will socialise with other children which for some women is important. It is a good step towards a nursery if you feel a nursery is too busy and there are too many children for a young baby. There is no right or wrong, it is what feels right to you.
  • Often able to be more flexible than nurseries

TIMING AND FLEXIBILITY

You will probably find a good childminder will be flexible with you if on the odd occasion you need to be in for an early meeting and have to drop your child a bit earlier for example. Equally if you are stuck in a meeting at work or know that you always finish half an hour later on a Wednesday, a flexible childminder will be able to work around this with you.

ILLNESS

In a nursery you may find the rules and constraints are tight and you cannot drop your child if they are ill. Depending on how unwell your child is a childminder will probably be able take your child and care for them if it is something such as a cold or cough.

A colleague had a child with chickenpox and was worried about how she would manage work. On speaking to the childminder the other two children who were being cared for had already had it and things carried on as normal. This would not happen in a nursery which demonstrates you will get more flexibility with a childminder.

As a childminder operates from their own home, the home from home set up appeals to some mothers too. In addition if your child has special requirements such as a particular medication that needs to be administered or an allergy, a childminder may suit your child better than a nursery purely to put your mind at rest that your child is in a more intimate environment.

I knew that I did not want a nursery and finding the child-minder I did made things better. Plus it also helped that a family we’d met through NCT was also going to be putting their child with the same child-minder so that was great.
— WoMo Elsbeth, London

Nursery

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Childcare Nursery

A nursery will typically be a more low cost option. Nurseries are too few in many parts of the UK so places are frequently oversubscribed and in demand. Similarly to a childminder, planning ahead and looking at nurseries early is really important.

Many mothers state that the ‘feel’ of the nursery is what helped them make their final decision. It is highly likely that you will sense whether it is the right nursery for you from the moment you walk in the door. You have to ask yourself and the nursery questions which will establish whether the nursery will meet the needs of your child.

The basics:

  • A nursery will have a particular number of carers per child and some nurseries are bigger than others.
  • There will be different rooms relating to the age of the child and for babies a sleep room with cots where they can sleep.
  • Nurseries run a tight ship with very little flexibility. The earliest drop off time and the latest pick up time are cast in stone. A large number of nurseries charge a hefty sum for being late for picking up your baby and this may put restrictions on your day and add a pressure you could well do without.

Many mothers are keen on a nursery for the simple fact their child will be with other children. It is a social environment with lots of interaction from the moment they arrive. This can mean multiple bugs in the early days and some mothers have described the constant runny nose as being part of the nursery norm.

I didn’t feel comfortable with one sole person being responsible for my child and wanted her to be in a setting where staff were transparent to other staff and reporting into a senior member of staff. Feedback from other mums was important. I also wanted my baby to socialise with others rather than just be with a nanny.
— WoMo Georgie, London

Friends and family support

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Childcare Family

Family

You will know whether this is an option for you immediately. You may have your mother or your partner’s mother up the road or within a relatively short distance. Or they may even be further away but are committed to coming to stay a couple of nights a week. It doesn’t really matter but if the help is offered and you think you want it then this is an ideal option for some people.

Before you launch into accepting wonderful offers from mothers, fathers, aunties or in-laws consider the practicalities. It sounds obvious but consider:

  • Is this right for me? Your mother or mother-in-law may be thrilled with the idea of looking after their grandchild and as family it seems like a sensible plan. Think about whether their parenting style suits you. You may be a Gina Ford style mother who has your baby in a strict routine. The last thing you want to hear is ‘Oh no darling, you must NEVER wake a sleeping baby’. If the way your mother believes your baby should be cared for is a million miles from yours this will only add stress. Think about what you want for your child and put boundaries in place to stick by what you believe is right.

  • Family habits and relationships. Family life is full of historical habits and ways of behaviour. These small nuances are things we all put up with in small doses. It may be your sister constantly needs rescuing from somewhere or something despite the fact she is 35. Your mother may hate early mornings and tires easily resulting in a grumpy mother. Can you cope with this? Will it really help when you need to focus on your job and want to feel relaxed about your childcare?

  • What happens if my family member cancels/cannot make it? If said sister above calls on your mother at 6am because she is having ‘one of her days’ and your mother then cannot care for your child due to sister-rescue-gate what will you do? If you mother is ill or decides to join her local bridge club that only plays at 10am on a Wednesday, the only day the nursery can’t do, what is your plan?

Those points are just highlighting potential negatives and there are many people whom family is the perfect option. If it works then it’s a fantastic plan.

Friends

You may have local friends with children in the the same nursery or school.  Whether they are a WoMo or not, they may be able to help.  They may have a different working pattern as a WoMo or they may be keen to help as it helps them too.  A pal for their child to play with until you get home for example!  Friends are often keen to help with drop offs, pick ups, or the odd day or afternoon.  You can always return the favour at the weekend and have their child to play if that works.  Be bold and ask.  Your friends may surprise you! 

This Huffington Post article gives some helpful pros and cons when choosing the right childcare. It suggests Au pairs, but until your baby is a bit older, think hard about having an au pair. Typically they have no formal childcare experience and would be a more junior option.

Actions

  1. Think about the right childcare for you. Select one or two options and write down all the positives and negatives of your options.
  2. List the concerns of negatives and consider how you will address them. Write down the plan you have to do this. Ignoring them will not make them go away.
  3. Regardless of your choice of childcare, list your crisis plan now. Write down the names, numbers and any other information that will be useful to you and anyone else in the event that your planned childcare arrangements break down.

3 Reminders

  1. Start planning with plenty of time to set up your childcare arrangements
  2. Have a crisis plan in place
  3. Listen to your gut instinct