My husband Kevin and I have three young boys, and I have worked part-time since our eldest was one. Henry is now eight, Aldous is six and Magnus is three. I’m 37 and left my full-time job when Henry was born and so my partner became the main breadwinner.
Because he had the steady income while my hours have fluctuated depending on the ages of our children, it has made sense for me to meet the varying cost of our childcare and to balance my working hours against the expense. Many families I know do the same.
The cost of care has risen and fallen depending on my hours as well as the ages of our children but it has averaged more than £10,000 a year in fees for nursery, childminder and holiday club. I tallied up what I have paid to work for the last seven years and it came to more than £72,000. Not only that but I’ve probably lost around £370,000 from my pension.
Our middle son was in time to qualify for 15 funded hours a week but our youngest is the first to be offered 30 hours. Like many freelancers, I have only recently been able to make use of the government’s childcare tax break — tax-free childcare is open to the self-employed but childcare vouchers were not.
It’s dizzying to realise that I have spent £72,000 on childcare in just seven years. Even more bonkers is the thought of how much more I would have spent if I had worked full-time instead of typically three days a week, fitting in extra hours around naps and bedtimes.
Yes, I did choose to have kids and, no, I didn’t think they would be cheap. I do not resent spending money on them. However, in many other European countries parents do not face the same childcare bills and the same subsequent penalties for their incomes, jobs and long-term financial wellbeing. That can make a big difference to the work and financial prospects of the primary carer parent, which is most commonly the mother.
That important one being – well, who should pay?
Who should pay for raising your children? If not you that is?