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Balancing work and childcare costs

Balancing work and childcare costs
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Childcare is expensive. Fact. Even if both parents earn a decent living wage the majority of one of these pay-checks will be sucked instantly from the bank account at the end of each month to pay the childminderor nursery. So what’s the point? How do you go about balancing work and childcare costs? Unless both parents have a particular wish to avoid a career break the no-brainer decision is for one parent to give up work to look after the kids.

The Stay-at-Home Option

If choosing for one parent to remain at home is to be a viable option it depends on the other parent being able to assume the role of financial provider for the whole family. Not all earnings can accommodate this. In some cases this situation can also breed resentment in the parent who works outside the home. In others it is not only a practical, but also a preferred solution. Not all parents wish to be around their children all day every day.

For the Stay-at-Home parent it creates a whole different set of issues. The potential sacrifice of a cherished career path. The reliance on another for financial freedom. The giving over of oneself to the children, and a temporary loss of independence. All of these issues, and more, can be worked through and around, but need to be considered in the overall decision-making process.

The Real Costs of Childcare

Depending on the type of childcare available or selected, the costs can escalate way beyond a daily or hourly rate. Taking on a nanny may offer the comfort of care for your child on a one-to-one basis in their own home, but from a tax perspective it places parents in the position of an employer, with all the associated financial obligations. Even a local childminder or communal nursery come with hidden costs. The daily commute takes time and money from an already stretched budget, and early starts and late finishes often attract premium rates.

And then there is the personal decision about choosing to place your children in the care of a third party while you work. Many parents are fine with this. Others struggle. Each to their own I say – who is anyone of us to judge the decisions of another? – but I can understand the dilemma facing all parents in this respect.

Wider Implications

Balancing work and childcare costsIt’s not just the parents who are affected by this childcare challenge. As more parents take the stay-at-home option childcare professionals are seeing demand for their services drop. This leaves them with the dilemma of whether to increase their prices to stay afloat, or drop already competitive rates to attract clients. The average rate for childminding is around £3.85 per child per hour. A full time nursery place typically costs in the region of £180 per child per week, and can be more for children under two because of the additional hands-on care that babies and toddlers demand.

And employers are suffering too. No decent boss wants to lose a competent, trained, and experienced employee. Yet parents with little financial option are being left with no choice but to walk away from valued jobs because the costs of childcare are simply too high.

Flexible Solutions

That old phrase ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ may not always hold true, but in terms of balancing childcare costs with working life it can deliver some value. If parents, employers, and childcare providers can all be flexible then it is possible, in some cases, to find a solution.

  • Nanny-Sharing – a dedicated full-time nanny of your own may be your preferred choice, but what if you were able to split to costs with another family? Socialisation is an important part of any young child’s development, and sharing a nanny ensures you retain excellent care for your kids, with the bonus of playmates thrown in
  • Staggered Work Days – many employers are open to the idea of a late start or early finish, enabling parents to work within the time limitations of local childcare facilities. If both parents can secure the approval of their employers then one could drop the kids off, and the other could pick them up, reducing the cost of ‘exceptional’ or ‘out-of-normal-hours’ care, and removing the stress of a mad dash to make it home in time
  • Mix-it-up – using a Nanny to top-and-tail the day, with a stint at nursery in between can reduce overall costs, and give you child exposure to a variety of environments and types of childcare
  • Workplace day care – a few forward-thinking employers already offer crèche facilities, but for those who don’t it may be worth checking out what childcare facilities are available close to your workplace. This bundles the childcare/work commutes into one, and reduces the number of hours of care required, keeping costs to a minimum
  • Job share – sometimes one full-time and one part-time wage are sufficient to keep the family afloat, and finding other parents in a similar situation can offer the opportunity for a job share, where each of you works part-time and cares for the other’s kids when they are in work. This innovative solution can remove childcare costs altogether

Juggling childcare and work is never going to be easy. One way or another there is generally some kind of a cost involved. Kids or not, the bills still have to be paid. It usually happens that a young family struggles by on a reduced income for a number of years until the children are all of school age. Creating ways to make that time more manageable and financially viable will remain a hot-topic for discussion – there will never be a simple answer, but with an open mind and a flexible approach from all parties parents will continue to muddle through as best they can.

 

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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