One of the biggest problems facing working parents is finding childcare that fits in with their lives. With minimal pay rises in recent years, the cost of childcare is a huge problem for many and with shift work or zero hour contracts becoming more popular, the restrictions on nursery and child-minder hours play their part in the stress. The long summer school holiday should be a happy one but is a nightmare for many working families.
Working parents may find that the cost of childcare is too much and very little is left-over from their pay at the end of the month. Working full time hours for part-time pay is demoralising but many are forced to. Cutting down on the costs is a necessary challenge, especially if there is more than one child to pay for.
- Look for a nursery with a sibling discount scheme for reduced costs when you send more than one child along.
- Utilise the government scheme for free early education.
- Consider a child-minder, nanny or au pair and compare costs versus a nursery.
- Make full use of childcare vouchers if your employer offers this and see if you are entitled to any help through tax credits.
Parents who work different hours each week and shifts that don’t follow the nine-to-five pattern face the nightmare of finding any childcare that can match up to what they need. Overnight child-minding is becoming more common but still lacking in many areas as are early start and late finish nurseries. Finding a solution to this can often mean relying on others to help you out.
- Work with your partner and see if either career can adapt to be more flexible such as working longer hours over less days which would free up one day at home.
- Plan your days off, if one parent has Monday and Tuesday off instead of the weekend it reduces childcare needs to just three days, but consider the impact on your family time.
- Ask friends and family to help, they may love having your child for the day or for a sleepover. It may seem too much of a burden but their response may surprise you.
- Ask colleagues with children if they are struggling too, with some planning you could take turns to mind each other’s children and both benefit from more flexibility and less cost.
School Age Children
Once your child reaches school age the childcare requirements change and are focussed on before school, after school and the school holidays. Wrap around care for before and after school can be hard to find with too many children for the limited places available.
- Look into breakfast clubs and after school clubs giving that extra hour to travel to and from work.
- Ask friends or family to assist with drop-offs and pick-ups, it’s less of a burden than minding your child all day but they will still have the satisfaction of being helpful.
- Plan time off work to alternate with your partner so you can cover more of the holidays without the cost of full time childcare.
- Summer and holiday clubs are on the increase, often teaming up with leisure centres to offer lots of activities.
- Ask your employer about taking unpaid leave and save up throughout the year to cover the loss of earnings
Finding childcare you are happy with is the most important thing so make sure that whichever you choose, it is something you are comfortable with and have done the research for. Sit down with your partner and tackle the childcare issues together, reassess regularly and enjoy the satisfaction of finding that perfect solution.