There’s a harsh answer to this

When Chloe McGuiness returned to work after the birth of her son, she had two options: pay her entire salary in childcare costs or put her career on hold.

The 25-year-old property manager asked her employer if a flexible working agreement could be reached, in return for working nights and every weekend. “It was ultimately refused and the team didn’t think it was fair for me to get flexible hours when others didn’t,” she said.

“I couldn’t afford the £1,200 a month in childcare costs for me to go back to work, which would have been the same as my take-home salary, so I left.” She now works as a restaurant manager until midnight, tag teaming with her partner to look after their son.

She belongs to a generation of women forced out of work or into debt by the sky-high costs of family care.

So, don’t work then, look after your own damn kid.

We could, sensibly, argue that we should make childcare cheaper. Cut the regulations surrounding it that make it so expensive. But asking that someone else – the taxpayer – cover those costs does not, in fact, change those costs. Which brings us back to the original and correct calculation. There are two forms of work that Cloe could be doing. Looking after her kid, which is worth £1200 a month. Or working in property management, which is worth £1200 a month.

If the kid thing is worth £1300 and the prop mang £1100 then the societal answer is obvious. Look after the kid. We are, after all, trying to maximise value added in the economy.

Another way to say the same thing. There’s no point in paying one set of women to look after the kids of another set of women if those seconds are doing low value work.

Harsh but actually true.

Another way to put this is that GDP, the economy, etc aren’t everything, shouldn’t even be our goal. A thriving society is. So, why would we bend over backwards to send women off into paid work when there’s that more valuable thing they could be doing, nurturing the next generation?

Yes, indeed, I am old, male and white. Which is why I don’t think it’s the function of the taxpayer to solve the servants problem.

27 thoughts on “There’s a harsh answer to this”

  1. She wants the kid she can do the work as with women throughout most of history. She might be able to look after Junior and do some work from home. But Junior is the focus. If she finds property management more interesting don’t have a kid.

  2. I’d agree with you Tim. But of course I’m old and white and male too.

    One does wonder how the kafala system would work in the West. No doubt it would be regarded, quite justifiably, as grossly exploitative. But without something like this, it’s impossible to provide everyone, except the imports, with servants.

  3. The notion that a woman can only be fulfilled or realise her potential or self-actualise by working outside the home is corrosive to the happiness of children and bad for wider society.

    And, forgive the dinosaurism, but what’s so marvellous about being a part-time restaurant ‘manager’ or ‘working in’ property management? I’d have thought that being at home with your child would be a pleasant relief from that sort of drudgery.

  4. She needs to asses where her current job would be in 5 years time when the child is in school and so her child care costs have fallen. Would she have gained 5 years of useful experience leading to a promotion or pay rise? If she takes a “break” from employment what level will she re-enter the world of employment? Does any of that compensate for not being with your child during its most formative years. While she maybe earning the same salary as the cost of her child care does she think her parenting is of equal quality to that provided by others? If she thinks she’s a better mother than the nursery then it’s not just a cash consideration.

  5. Take home of £1,200 per month equates roughly to £16k gross p.a. Seem rather low for a 25 year old property manager?

    Assuming no other income, working 37 hours a week and paying £280 per week childcare for the one kid the Gov Tax Credits calculator shows that she qualifies for a further £789.96 every 4 weeks in child tax credit/childcare and working tax credits. Not great but at least it covers 2/3rd of her childcare costs.Might there be other benefits available as well?

    These figures ignore any contribution fro the kid’s father.

  6. Bloke in North Korea (Germany Province)

    Is changing jobs because the old job doesn’t suit your new circumstances the same thing as being forced out of work?

    These are, obviously, both “transferrably skilled” jobs, so neither surprising she can do both, nor that what she earns from one transferrably skilled job is only enough to pay someone else to do a transferrably skilled job (indeed, after the government has taken its protection money!)

  7. There’s another answer of course, and that is to lean on the childs’ grandparents.

    If the grannies are at or close to retirement age, they will probably do the childcare bit for free, and do it willingly, especially if there are two grandmothers and they can take it in turns.

    To address Tim’s concerns about the economy of it all, it may be that the grandmothers don’t earn as much as the mother does, in which case across the family as a whole it makes sense to maximise the mother’s earnings. But at £1200 a month take home, it’s difficult to see the point of her working.

    At least she has a partner (sperm donor, I presume), and she just has to get on with it. It’s always been the lot of the poor, and the modern economy makes it the lot of people further up the salary scale too.

  8. Is there any estimate of how much regulations add to the cost of childcare? My observation is that the registration requirement deters many erstwhile childminders from entering the profession, even though they may be perfectly willing to offer a few hours of childcare (especially retirees & housewives).

  9. MrsBud considered herself blessed that she could afford to stay home and bring up our first three children and I believe it shows in the people they have grown up to be. During the period when MrsBud was a sub-Postmistress, our fourth came along and I was her primary carer as I had more flexibility as a freelance consultant. I loved it, every week we’d go off on a special day trip, and we did lots of fun and educational things together.

    MrsBud is now a very successful, in demand, mental health social worker. She is only 13 years into her career after graduating in 2008 so has no desire to end it to provide free care to our grandchildren. We help occasionally, but our daughter knows that full time care was never on offer and organised her life accordingly.

  10. TMB:’ I’d have thought that being at home with your child would be a pleasant relief from that sort of drudgery.’

    But since the Sixties, women have been indoctrinated into the belief that looking after children is something that should be done only by others, never by the modern working woman, who needs to work in order to ‘fulfil her life’.

  11. “It was ultimately refused and the team didn’t think it was fair for me to get flexible hours when others didn’t,” she said.

    Yeah; think about those of us who have to pick up the slack for you parents.

    Before Covid, the place I worked had two shifts: 6:00-2:30 and 2:30-11:15, the evening shift having 15 more minutes for dinner. The early shift was good for parents with school-aged children as the other parent working a more traditional 9-5 job could see the kids off to school and they could be home when the kids got home. There’s a reason “mothers’ hours” used to be a thing.

  12. Dear Mr Worstall

    When I were a wild colonial lad my mum didn’t have an ayah, whose services could have been had for a pittance™, to look after us on the grounds that she would teach us how to swear* in Kiswahili.

    Apparently some mothers abandoned their kids to their ayahs to such a degree that the children’s first language was Kiswahili, presumably swear words and all.

    As a sad, old, tired white male with no kids, I am of the opinion that the prime role of a mother is, as it says on the tin, to look after her offspring, especially in their formative years. Letting the state take over the responsibility for caring for them is, like education, a Very Bad Idea. The state falls into the trap of believing that it is paying for education, therefore it can dictate what shall be taught.


    * still managed one phrase.

  13. “She belongs to a generation of women forced out of work or into debt by the sky-high costs of family care.” –

    err,,, there is another option- do a first aid course, 90quid, get a crim records check, register with ofsted look after your kid and a couple of others at the same time.. and you’d be up on the deal.

  14. John, presumably her partner earns too much for her to qualify for tax credits.

    In which case this is really a demand by a middle-class couple with income over £50k for subsidies from single people on minimum wage.

    It’s hard to tell these days whether that’s going to be the Guardian or the Telegraph.

  15. “She belongs to a generation of women forced out of work”

    Previous generations having opted out to look after their children without having waited until they were ‘forced’ to realise that having children brings responsibilities.

  16. “the other parent working a more traditional 9-5 job”

    “the other parent”? What is this phrase? Haven’t you observed the world around you? Children are created through parthenogenesis.

  17. At 1200 Pounds a month she’s obviously already not working even 40 hours. This isn’t a ‘career’ she’s been ‘forced’ to leave. Its a low-end part-time job. Whereupon in a couple years when the kids are old enough to be left on their own for a while she can go find another one.

    Also – do people not *plan* for children? Do they not look at the costs involved? No, they do not. They just whine when they’re blindsided and demand the rest of us pick up the tab for their poor decisions.

  18. Of course, she could just start a childcare service of her own. Watch her kids plus a couple others and get *paid* as much as she was ‘managing property’ for doing what she was going to be doing anyway.

    BONUS POINTS: By doing this she is increasing the supply of childcare workers, thereby lowering the prices they all can charge, making it incrementally more affordable for someone else to pay for childcare and work at the same time. Its win-win all the way down here.

  19. HB says
    err,,, there is another option- do a first aid course, 90quid, get a crim records check, register with ofsted look after your kid and a couple of others at the same time.. and you’d be up on the deal.

    It’s fine to raise your own child in a minefield. But to mind others’ children on a commercial basis involves a slew of regulations, mostly petty and annoying but some necessary for peace of mind that you aren’t going to get sued for millions.

    Coming home to a house with stair gates, sponges on every door jamb, fake plugs in every socket is bearable, some of the other shit will make your house feel not a home.

  20. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    “Is there any estimate of how much regulations add to the cost of childcare?”

    Wife of friend of immigrant from non-EU but arguably developed country. Qualified childcare person back home, ran her own nursery.

    Can’t do it in Germany, mangels mandatory 3-year training, permanent residency, data protection issues with whatever agency tracks pedos Who Shalt Not become childminders back home, XYZ…

    I can only assume the UK is even worse on the bureaucratic front.

  21. Kids, especially babies, take a lot of time and effort. Can’t/won’t expend that time and effort? Don’t. Have. Kids.
    It’s not as if it’s up to random chance nowadays..

    My personal opinion is that if/when potential parents have problems with the simple principle above, they
    are effectively unqualified to have them at all to begin with.

  22. One of the rare positives of social media is that new mothers bombard it with photos of themselves and their infants. There’s no Fear Of Missing Out on work. If anything it’s the reverse: FOMO on having kids.

  23. Should make tax allowances transferable – so the working parent starts being rooked for income tax from 25k if the non-working parent has nil income.
    And abolish single adult occupancy discounts on council tax.
    Incentives matter.
    Couples more likely to stay together, or at least pretend to stay together. Kids gotta believe in the fairytales until they’re adults – that Santa is real, pets go to heaven and their own parents were perfect.

  24. @John

    The contribution of the father is irrelevant to the work vs childcare calculation. Unless the father earns less than the mother (and they are together) in which case he is the one who, all else being equal, should stay home.

    In terms of the general futility of working to pay someone else to do childcare, we shouldn’t forget what impact taxes have. The government takes a slice of all this activity, and so is perfectly content for one person to work and hand over all their net income to someone else.

  25. “the other parent”? What is this phrase?

    I didn’t say it had to be the mother working the early shift and the father working 9-5; it could easily be the other way around. One parent works the early shift, the other works 9-5.

    But you just wanted to engage in tedious virtue signaling.

  26. @Andrew C: “Previous generations having opted out to look after their children”

    Any such generations are very recent. It is not that long since women in many jobs (e.g. teacher) were not allowed to keep their job if they got married. And, of course, pregnancy outside marriage was so disreputable that it would likely result in job loss as well.

    In the case mentioned in the article, it seems foolish of her ex-employer to refuse a reasonable arrangement if she was reasonably good at her job, citing bogus fairness principles. There’s no reason why everyone has to be employed on exactly the same terms. She wanted to work nights and weekends, which other people would find to be unsocial hours. A sensible employer would be grateful that they had found an employee willing to do so.

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