Back to the City
God it feels shitty
To be sitting on this train
For signal failure,
Whichever comes first.
As I sit on this train
I’m not sure what’s worse?
Organ of course
Because I have my boys
Sitting with another lady
Playing with their toys
The world’s a bit mad
And I’m part of that too
I tell myself over:
I do it for you.
Returning to work
I wrote this poem in the summer, when Arthur was still a tiny baby and the thought of returning to work made me shudder. Fast forward to the new year and my little baby Artie turns one next month and I will be going back to work and actually, I’m feeling ok about it. I’m almost – gasp! – feeling positive.
In part it’s because I’ve done this before. I know the first couple of days have quite the novelty factor (“Hot coffee!”, “Non-baby related adult conversation!”, “A single occupancy loo cubicle!”, “A LUNCH BREAK!!”, that sort of thing).
I know this quickly wears off and the first month is brutal as every part of you aches to be with your child, especially when they’re sick (and they will definitely get sick as soon as you go back to work and you’ll have to juggle managing that with your work return).
And then I know that each month slowly gets better as you all adjust and as with everything in life, there are good days and there are bad days. There can be moments when you feel like you’re conquering the world mumboss-style and moments where you feel like the most wretched human on the planet because you can’t be with your gunky snot-ridden child (often these occur concurrently).
I don’t have any strongly held views on the stay-at-home versus working-mum debate. I think it is for each family to decide what works best for them. I do believe however, that this is almost always informed by childcare considerations and the staggeringly overwhelmingly expensive and logistically challenging issues it throws up. So what I do have, when it comes to childcare, is a lot of questions.
If anyone knows the answers to any of these, please do let me know!
- Why is childcare so expensive? I’m not looking for over-arching principles here. I would like to know a literal breakdown of how the cost adds up in the average nursery’s business plan. I assume they all run on a similar model. I’m not witch-hunting nurseries here. I had a quick look into how you would go about setting one up and all the feedback I found online implied that it’s pretty hard to make decent money running one. So where does the money go and could there any areas where the Government could help reduce the cost across the board? Nursery fees are extortionate but nursery workers (who in my experience deserve a medal for the sheer grit they need to battle that number of urchins at any one time) seem to be paid very little proportionately. Is it the cost of insurance? Training? The premises complying with health & safety requirements? I would LOVE to know the answer to this one.
- Why does free childcare in the UK start the September term after a child turns 3? My April born son will be almost 3.5 years when he becomes eligible. Which bright spark thought that this was a good idea? In many industries if you’re out of the job market for 3 years it is very difficult (basically impossible) to get back in. I’ve heard of highly qualified professional women having to take on unpaid voluntary work to get their foot back in the door after an extended period of maternity leave. Just what you need when your 3 year old has just started pre-school and you have to pay for wrap-around care.
- Which leads me to: “wrap-around care”. Has anyone in the Government, preferably someone who is one of two working parents themselves, ever sat down and thought through the logistics of what time average people start work, how they might get to work and then thought, let’s make this system actually work to encourage more women back to work after maternity leave?
- Is it true that other countries seem to manage it so much better? I often read articles about how much better the childcare system is in France and those shiny beacons for ruddy-cheeked happy childhoods, the Scandinavian countries. Fact or Fantasy?
- I’m pretty sure this one is 100% accurate but will put it out there for some validation: is it true that working parents (particularly a parent which has spent a period of time with at least one child at home and has thus experienced high levels of juggling, prioritising and responding to emergency situations) are super efficient, multi-tasking superhumans? I’m pretty sure I can get more done now in half an hour than I could in 4 hours before I had two children!
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences of being a working mum and making childcare work for you and I would especially like to know if you can answer any of my questions above!
Oops, almost forgot – photo credit to my lovely husband. His office is a couple of (big) buildings down from mine. Ain’t that romantic!