Your maternity leave is up and it’s time to go back to work. Yet, however much you’re looking forward to being more than just ‘Mummy’, you’ll only enjoy it if you’re confident your baby is happy and well looked after. Add to this worry the latest stack of reports debating about whether going back to work is doing your child any favours and it all adds up to one big guilt trip.
So who better to tell it how it really is than you, our great readers? Hundreds of you answered our childcare survey in Prima
Baby magazine telling us how it works for you and your family.
Almost half of you who completed the survey – a whopping 43% – said you use a nursery, while 26% have family looking after your baby and 10% use a childminder.
YOUR CHILDCARE CHOICES: what you said: We asked which childcare you used most
- Nursery 43%
- Family member 26%
- Childminder 10%
We asked how much you pay for childcare
- Up to £49 per week 49%
- £50-£99 per week 21%
- 100-£149 per week 13%
- 150-£199 per week 4%
- 200 or more per week 4%
- Average per week £67.49
ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S AGE: what you said: We asked how old your child was when you first used childcare
- Under 6 months 22%
- 6-11 months 38%
- 12 months plus 20%
- Not stated 20%
We asked whether you thought this was the right age for your child
- Too young 18%
- Too old 0%
- About right 54%
- Not sure 27%
Keeping it in the family is the perfect arrangement for Sally Thorne, 30, from Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Sally, a writer, started working again part-time when her son Sammy was 3 months.
‘I couldn’t bear the thought of him going to a nursery at such a young age,’ she says. ‘My husband Rick and I decided we wanted to look after Sammy between us. And when my mum offered to look after him at least one day a week, it was a weight off my mind.
‘Rick’s just got a new job working three days a week, so he looks after Sammy for two days. And once a week I take my laptop to Mum’s to work while she looks after Sammy. At first, he was a bit clingy, but now he has a quick feed and he’s happy to play with Mum. If I’ve got a really busy week, she often offers to take Sammy for an extra day.
‘I’m so lucky to have Rick and Mum looking after Sammy. It’s easier for me, both emotionally and financially, and it’s lovely that they both have special one-to-one time with him.’
The good news is 53% of you think that childcare has boosted your child’s confidence, while 50% say your child has better social skills. And 77% of parents who used childminders said it increased their child’s confidence, with 78% whose toddlers are at nursery saying the same.
Zoe Cleasby, 32, mum to Elliott, 23 months, agrees. ‘We wanted Elliott to go to nursery as I wanted an interactive, structured set-up for him,’ says Zoe, a marketing manager.
‘He started at 6 months and goes four days a week. My husband Aidan looks after him for one day. ‘Elliott loves socialising with the other children and it’s definitely made him more confident. The nursery is open between 8am-6pm and if we want to drop him off earlier or pick him up later, we have to pay extra. The only drawback, apart from the crippling cost, is that Elliott copies all the tantrums he sees at nursery! But we’ve found it’s a solution that works for us.’
Most mums who answered the survey – a considerable 38% – first used childcare when their baby was between 6-11 months, and sent their baby for an average of 2.65 days a week. It costs, on average, £67.49 a week, and when asked about the downsides of childcare, there were no surprises when 29% said the biggest headache was cost.
As guilt is most mothers’ middle name, we asked if you beat yourself up about using childcare. A sizeable 27% said you do ‘occasionally’, while 6% said you feel guilty every day. Interestingly, 16% said never! But at Prima Baby, we don’t just tell you what to do, we’re living it, too.
Features Editor Carol Dyce, 43, recently returned to the office after having her daughter, Molly, now 1. For the first time she’s using a childminder to look after Molly and her two sons Finn, 5, and Mark, 6.
‘My mum used to look after the boys but it’s too much to ask her to look after three,’ says Carol, from London. ‘So my childminder Julie looks after Molly, and Finn and Mark after school until I pick them up. Julie’s brilliant, but sometimes I feel guilty another woman is looking after my children. It’s that one-to-one contact that I find hard to handle emotionally. And you can always rely on your kids to push the guilt buttons. After my first day back at work, I picked my lot up and on the way home, Finn said, “So is Julie our new Mummy?”
‘But without the stimulation of work, I’d be grumpy and frustrated and not the sort of mum I want to be. So working part-time gives me the best of both worlds – on a good day anyway!’ And 42% of mums in our survey agreed that a happier mum equals a happier child.
THE EFFECT ON YOUR CHILD: what you said: We asked if your childcare choice
had been beneficial
- Increased child’s confidence 53%
- Child has more highly developed social skills 50%
- Happier mum, so happier child 42%
- A higher living standard for whole family 25%
- Not stated 18%
We asked how much you pay for childcare
- Financial burden 29%
- Stress of sticking to provider’s timetable 16%
- Copycat behaviour from your child 11%
- Added pressure on family time 9%
- Clingy/withdrawn behaviour 9%
- Increased aggression from your child 5%
- None of these 44%
THE EFFECT ON YOU : what you said: We asked if you ever feel guilty about using childcare
- Every day 6%
- Frequently 15%
- Occasionally 27%
- Not very often 18%
- Never 16%
- Not stated 17%
We asked if you are a full-time mum, whether you had been made to feel guilty about not working
- Yes 24%
- No 25%
- Not a full-time mum 51%