The great childcare debate

5 Mar

The prospect of returning full-time to work is just a few short months away. Much as I love being a mum I have to go – for the sake of my sanity as well as my dwindling bank account.

My day used to start with international news gathering, editorial meetings, strong coffee and newsroom gossip.

Now my morning routine goes a bit like this: feed baby his morning milk and bring him into our bed. Spend the next 30 minutes being kicked and pummelled by little fists. Get up and make baby porridge. End up wearing most of porridge. Put baby in bouncer and hope he won’t notice as I sneak away to have a shower (this has a 50/50 success rate). Read baby a story that invariably involves small talking animals being lovely to each other. Ogle Mr Bloom, the sexy gardener on Cbeebies. Worry about baby watching too much TV so attempt something educational. Open another book about small talking animals being lovely to each other.

And so on.

I must be the only person wishing my work/life balance had a bit more work in it. I’m not saying it’s easy – personally I’d much rather see public figures do 12 hours of childcare as their Sport Relief Marathon – and of course it has big rewards. Sometimes though I wonder whether the baby would mind if I read him Private Eye instead of “Dear Zoo” or “Sleepy Me” but they don’t appear to publish it on wipe-clean pages and we have a bit of an ongoing dribble issue.

But when I go back to work what will I do with him? It breaks my heart to even think about it at the moment. Today he cried when I went to hang out the washing.

Well, the three options are nursery, nanny or childminder.

Those in favour of nurseries tell me they are stimulating, routined, educational and fantastic for the early development of social skills. Those against mutter about young staff (mind you I’m at an age where everybody seems young. Especially doctors) and concerns about individual care.

The childminder brigade say it’s a smaller environment and therefore more like being at home, while others warn that childminders often have their own children there too, who inevitably get most of the attention.

Nannies are one-to-one, although they require bedrooms and National Insurance Contributions. And what if the baby (and/or the husband) starts to prefer the nanny?

I honestly don’t know what to do. Any advice?


24 Responses to “The great childcare debate”

  1. Ween Wee (@weenwee) March 5, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    We are going the nursery and evening babysitter route. There are board sanctioned rations that nurseries must follow, so kids don’t get left out, and I like that Alex can learn from lots of other kids his age. And, my next door neighbour is a childminder, and the only thing I see her doing is taking the kids to the mall to run around while she shops. No thanks. Same for nannies, actually. Why pay more when all they do is wander around Westfield? We’ll go the larger option for now, with a trusted friend rota for babysitting duties when we need an evening away. It’s all a gut instinct though – if you walk into a place and don’t feel great about it, walk out.

    • zskdorset March 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Hmm I challenge any nanny to spend very long in the shops of Swanage. Somehow I don’t think Rainbows End and Cloud 9 has quite the same appeal as House of Fraser and the champagne bar!

      I definitely need to work on trusted babysitters though. We only really go out together when we are staying with my mum 😦

  2. Rachel March 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Firstly I can’t believe you find Mr Bloom ogle worthy!

    I was thinking of you today and your wonderful presenting job as I contemplated giving the high chair a good scrub but decided it was too much of a challenge!

    On the childcare issue, nanny share gets my vote if you can find a good one. When you do the nursery thing you will find yourself doing all the housestuff (baby’s washing, changing cotsheets, sterilising, etc) in the limited spare time you have, whereas a nanny is in locus parentis so should be able to do this. I had a nanny one day a week towards the end of working and it completely changed my life.

    With daycare nursery your child gets every bug going so you will need to have alternative care arrangements anyway. Basically it works like this – you send your child to nursery. They pick up bug at nursery. The nursery calls you to take them home and keep them off until better (plus the odd 48 hours or so). You go back to work and send your child to nursery. They pick up bug. Repeat until insane or ready to quit (I was both).

    Whichever way you go, there are advantages though and you will all be very fine!

    • zskdorset March 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      How does nanny share work? It’s something I’ve heard about but don’t really get (also we don’t have a spare bedroom).

      Mr Bloom and his veggies are getting more attractive by the day. One more reason why I really must broaden my horizons pretty soon!

      • Rosemary March 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

        You might guess my answer would be ‘none of the above’ whilst enjoying your Saturdays (when I assume Pa looks after junior?). Why employ someone to do an inferior job of bringing up your son – and however you kid yourself or wrap it up in ‘developmental’ language it will be inferior – whilst working to pay them? It must be so dispiriting for a learner-talker to have a variety of carers, none of whom is really tuned in to his early language attempts. The porridge/ Dear Zoo stage will only last a short while and soon you’ll have a more competent young person. Do you really want to give the pleasure of enjoying the small daily changes away? This isn’t the answer I sense you want but it’s the only one I am happy to suggest from and from far enough away not to hear your yell in response 🙂

  3. zskdorset March 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    I appreciate your candour but that’s not an option for me. I need to work – believe me one day a week is not going to keep my competent young person in the manner to which he is accustomed! And my career is a big part of my personal identity. Being a journalist is a defining thing for me and not something I want to give up. Selfish? Perhaps – but i don’t see why being a mother is the *only* role a woman should have once she decides to become a parent. That is a rather old fashioned view IMHO.

  4. Mr Zsk (formally the hotstepper, previously a hand model for Jacobs creamcrackers) March 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Hello, Mr Zsk here. We are lucky in the sense as a freelance filmmaker, my hours are flexible (although I do try to maintain a routine of office hour 9-5ism where possible) and I’m fairly aware of my shoot dates etc in advance.

    With that can come a double edged sword in that the danger is you could begin to sacrifice your business for saving money on childcare/nursery.

    However, why the hell should I be the only one in the family getting to do what they’re good at and indeed what they enjoy. I don’t live in a castle, I’m not a Lord and zsk isn’t my servant – nor am I Ken Butch who brings home the lump of meat over his shoulder, drops a at wad of notes on the able and demands his dinner. We work it out and will continue to do so on the basis of shared responsibility and love. zsk is brilliant at her job (well, I’m biased) and its much more than a money making exercise for her, and why should she have to cut things short? I don’t expect it of her and frankly we don’t care if anyone else does.

    I don’t think there’s any clear answer here. Like anyone raising a child, you bumble along and find your way. Advice is great, but just that – advice. They ain’t rules.

    I’m happy to bumble. I’m very good at bumbling, and so is our boy. We have dad’s days where we bumble together. And he doesn’t question why mommy isn’t there making porridge or singing to him. Because daddy can do it too. Whilst bumbling of course.

  5. The Coffee Table Years March 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    This was a big worry for me too. Honestly, there is no perfect solution and you are pretty much guaranteed to feel guilty no matter what you do. This feeling does get better so long as you feel that your baby is settling into the routine and is well looked after. My decision ultimately came down to money and flexibility.

    The problem with childminders is that they will take holidays at several points in the year, as they are entitled to, and you will need to plan your leave around them, whether you like it or not. This is not the case with a nursery, but the fees are likely to be higher. Also, if you are late to pick up your child, nurseries will charge you an absolute fortune for every minute they are kept waiting. Just be aware. A well-run nursery, staffed with people who genuinely care – whether young or not – is kind of hard to find and there could be waiting lists.

    If you can afford the nanny – and she’s good – this would probably give you the most peace of mind and the most flexibility for work. It also means that if your child is sick, which happens often in the first year, you don’t have to take the time off work to look after him. But experienced nannies are expensive and not that many people can afford it full time.
    Good luck. It will work out, but you might get a few grey hairs in the process.

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      i am only just getting my head around the nanny concept. Agencies charge upwards of £50 a week on top of the nanny salary and National Insurance etc. I am a cheaper nanny than that!

  6. handmadeby March 6, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    We fretted about this for ages. My other half wouldn’t have gone back 3 days a week were it not for the fact we needed the money to live the life we do.

    It turns out, the nursery we found for junior is staffed by the most wonderful, fun and enthusiastic staff who, get this rosemary, are trained in childcare (more than most parents are). The first few weeks are undeniably hard – the tears in the morning make you question your judgement although they’re almost immediately banished by a cuddle and a slice of toast from the staff.

    Now when I drop him off in the morning I barely have time to strip his coat off of him before he’s charging in to the breakfast room with a big smile on his face.

    I would never put him with a childminder – my own youth spent with a spiteful cow of a childminder who made us eat in the kitchen while the family ate in the dining room put paid to that concept. I can’t see a nanny being affordable until we have more kids – maybe we’ll reconsider it then but given our experience with the nursery I think any more would go there.

    TL,DR: Nursery rocks for our son, but your mileage may vary.

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      i love the sociability of nursery but I just worry that H isn’t independent enough yet to really get into that side of things. In an ideal world I would hold off until he can talk i think. Sigh.

      • handmadeby March 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

        T wasn’t particularly independent, he was barely mobile to be honest. But he’s thrived there. I’d really suggest you go and talk to some of the local nurserys and see what they’re like. If you don’t get a good vibe then don’t even consider them.

  7. Catherine March 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I’d say it depends on the particular nanny/childminder/nursery. Go visit and interview a few of each, probably one or two will stand out as being amazing and some will just feel not quite right. Good luck! I was having panic attacks leaving my first, but it only took a few weeks before I was skipping off down the street after having left him 🙂

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      a few people have said you just know instinctively when you’ve found the right place. i really hope that happens for me!

  8. Mrs Pop March 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    There is no single right answer except to say this: Trust your gut and a happy mommy makes for a happy baby. There is something to be said for a licensed facility, but truthfully, learning doesn’t really happen at that age. All the “educational” accolades are great, but meaningless.

    My son started daycare when he was a year and a half old. We loved the facility and he had fun there and as he got older, he learned quite a bit, but it was very difficult to deal with the separation anxiety and “mommy guilt” of leaving him for 8 hours a day so that I could go back to work.

    I wish I had better advice, but truly, just trust your instincts. If you are anxious and uncomfortable with a situation, your baby will be, too.

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      i will be working long days – 10 hour shifts – so chances are i won’t see him at all on those days. trying not to think about that too much 😦

  9. Clare March 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Even worse news….

    Nick Clegg, the self-styled deputy prime minister, pledged the government would do more to protect women from the unbearable horror of sober parenting.,-sober-middle%11class-mothers%27-201203064974/?utm_campaign=07032012&utm_source=emailCampaign&utm_medium=email/

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      that’s it, we’re all screwed

  10. Rachel March 9, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Nice one Clare. When I lived in Nappy Valley in SW London everyone (apart from me) seemed to have at least two goldfish bowls of ros’e by kiddy teatime. I only didn’t because I was scared of dropping my children on their heads after one too many.

    On the nannyshare thing, you could look on or advertise on your local gumtree I think. And ask around at playgroups, etc.

    And on some other comments above… whilst I’m personally quite happy engaging my brain with all things baby and child, not everyone is and we need a few good role models of both working out of the home and stay at home mums.

    • zskdorset March 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      you had me at Nappy Valley. I LOVE that! Are you not going back to work Rachel?

      • Rachel March 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

        Why would I when I can spend the afternoon quaffing wine with three under fives in tow!!

        Really I’ll start thinking about it when F is a little bit older – I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing when I worked when the boys were little, so I’m enjoying things how they are at the moment.

        If I was hosting a breakfast show, things might be a little different though!!

  11. Hayley March 9, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Zoe, it’s such a tough decision but as somebody said just go and visit a few nurseries/ childminders etc. we went down the childminder route and she’s been brilliant. Hollie loves her and gets so excited about going. She does lots of activities with her, they go to the childrens centre for organised activities and mixes with lots of other children her age. But she’s getting the individualised care I wanted for her which I was worried she wouldn’t get at a nursery. I was worried about her being one of many and didn’t know at the time when she was so small if she was ready for that. Now she’s older she’d be fine at a nursery.
    I’m sure you’ll have a gut feeling about what’s right for your Harrison, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option. Well done on contacting the childminders- that’s the first hurdle out the way! Good luck with making your decision xxx

  12. avk March 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    Have you considered asking any children who have experienced the different childcare options to see what they thought of it?? I know it might be tricky but it might also put your mind at ease. I predict the kids will probably be happy and have enjoyed all of the options, so it could make what ever you decide slightly less worrying?

    Personally I don’t have strong memories from under the age of 3. My parents could have left in in the garden while they were at work for all I know. I imagine as long as I felt safe, had food and wasn’t uncomfortable, I doubt I’d have anything to stick in my mind.

    That comment, of course, is entirely relative to how normal you think I’ve turned out as a result…!


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