Once upon a time there was a young woman. This young woman never wanted children, nor to get married until one day she met her Prince. Then somewhere around her 30th birthday her ovaries went ping and lo, she longed for babies. And so it came to be that the young woman had two babies and the Prince and the woman decided it would be nice if one of them stayed at home to care for the babies. After looking at their finances it became clear that the obvious choice would be for the lower income to be lost, the young woman’s, but it would be worth it. And so for seven long years the young woman stayed at home and cared for the children, occasionally pushed the hoover about and did a lot of blogging.
Then oldest child started school and the youngest child started going to nursery. Money was a bit tight but the young woman (who wasn’t so young any more), had a bit more time for blogging, and put the hoover about a bit more often.
And finally the day came when the youngest child also started school and so the Not-so-young Woman had a lot more time on her hands and decided it was time to return to work. She didn’t really want to return to office work and fancied being around people a bit more and so she started to search for lovely little shop jobs. Applying for jobs was much harder work this time round as there was now a massive gap on her CV and she had no current references.
However, a little job cropped up that just looked perfect so she applied for it. Much to her joy and her Princes’ pride she got an interview which she prepared well for and joy upon joys she got the job! One evening she went to her new work place for her induction and it was then that she was told her wage. It wasn’t a lot but it was okay. In the days that followed her induction she realised that some of her hours would mean that the children would need some kind of childcare. When she booked and arranged that childcare with a combination of child minders and after school clubs, it soon became clear that half of her earnings would be spent paying for this child care. The Not-so-young Woman was still optimistic. After all, half the money was more than she had earned in the last years of not working and there were other benefits too, like being someone other than “mummy” and making new friends and having a life outside the home.
And so it came to be that the Not-so-young Woman went for her training in her spanking new uniform and she felt ever so smart. She wasn’t allowed to wear much make up so she enjoyed perfecting the no-make-up make up look and slicking her hair back into a classic pony tail and she enjoyed putting on her crisp ironed shirt and black trousers. And she spent four hours meeting lovely new people and thinking to herself that this working life was going to be quite alright.
In the days that followed, the Not-young-at-all woman realised that the half term holiday was fast approaching and that perhaps she should be organised and book the holiday club for the children for the three days that she worked. It was then that she realised that for the holidays the childcare would cost more than she was earning. Optimistic still, she spent hours and hours looking for cheaper alternatives to no avail, until it was decided that for one week the family would manage, but that the situation would have to be re-thought before the Summer holidays. She wasn’t keen on working for six or seven weeks for nothing. At this point, the Not-young-at-all woman’s optimism started to disappear and so she decided that a positive exercise would be to work out her entire earnings for the next year and the total child care costs for the next year. And to her great shock, the annual childcare bill was MORE than her entire year’s wage. And so the Not-young-at-all woman took to social media networks and other online groups to ask what other Mum’s did. Those that didn’t want to work full time because they wanted to be there for their children some of the time after school. And many people replied. The Not-young-at-all woman was shocked to learn that amongst her peers many worked at a loss in the holidays, many had run up debt by just working, and many had tried to look for work but had the same problems and so had given up and were struggling still with one salary because it just wasn’t worth the Mum working.
And so, with a heavy heart, and a great degree of mortification, the Not-young-at-all woman had to give up her shiny new job before she had even started and embark on a hunt for a job that either had such perfect hours that no childcare was needed at all, or that paid so well that the costs of childcare were not so important, but with this new job search, her heart was heavy, she felt defeated and pessimistic. After all, with so many Mums in the same position all searching for these rare jobs with great wages and perfect hours, the opportunities were not looking quite as bright as when it felt like the world was waiting arms outstretched shouting “welcome back!”
And so this is a fairy tale that doesn’t have a happy ending but who knows? Maybe there will be happier chapter two in the future!
*This situation cannot go on, by making the prices of childcare so astronomical, families have to make the decision for either both parents to work full time to cover childcare and bring in some extra income and therefore see much less of their children, or to not work, a choice which is quite frankly almost criminal to my mind and the fact that isn’t just my experience, but is altogether more common is an absolute disgrace*