Who will take care of your children when you return to work?

By Jenn Taft
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When you return to work after having a child you will need to decide on your childcare options. But which is best?

There are a few different possibilities to consider when looking for the best care for your children. Making the right choice for you can take some planning, especially when it comes to cost. Have a look at some of the choices available to see what will work best for you.

Stay at home parent

Being a stay at home parent takes a fair amount of financial planning. Can you survive on one wage? Do you make a childcare saving by doing the childcare yourself?

I'm a stay at home parent for half of my working week and it took a fair amount of spreadsheeting to work out exactly how many days we could afford for me to be at home. If you still need at least some of your second parent income in your family then part time may work for you like it does for me.

The loss of income on the days you aren’t working is obviously the price you will pay for this childcare option. You could always look to boost your income from home so that it doesn’t suffer so greatly.

Advantages

Childcare in your own home

Greater time spent with your children

Does not come at an added cost

Disadvantages

Will lose income for the days you are not at work

Send them to nursery

Nursery costs vary regionally. I pay £42 per day where I am in the West Midlands, while a short drive to Birmingham brings a charge of £55 per day. Take a trip down to London and that cost is well over £60. So if you want to use a nursery then you need to make sure you can cover the cost.

Childcare vouchers through your employer may be available, which will save you a tax cost on the money used to pay the nursery. That is, however, only for a specific amount and you will have to cover the rest yourself. Just on two days of nursery care per week I have to make up the difference of a few hundred pounds each month, so be prepared that full time care will cost a fair bit!

Advantages

Great socially for development of child

Usually open from 8am-6pm to accommodate most working hours

Set cost per day, no extras to cater for

Subsidies are available

Disadvantages

You will probably pay for your child’s place, even if they are not there eg. illness, holidays

Nannies are a rare breed

Nannies seem to be like gold dust, as only around 1 percent of families in the UK are using one. This might be because nannies usually live in with the family and most cannot accommodate this, or because many do not require round the clock childcare. A nanny expects a salary of between £18-20,000 per year for a live in position, with board and living costs included on top.

Advantages

Well trained in childcare

Live in so unsociable hours are catered for

Disadvantages

Cost is high as you will have to pay the nanny’s wage

What about an Au Pair?

The difference between a nanny and au pair is that a nanny is a fully trained professional, and an au pair is likely to have little training in childcare. Au pairs are of course vetted and thoroughly interviewed but the main reason to hire them is the low cost.

Au pairs tend to live with a family and are given  ‘pocket money’ each week, which is around £80. Their living costs and board are paid for in return for them looking after the children. If you want to keep costs down this is a great route to go, especially if you wish to have full time childcare for a longer period of the day than the standard 9-5. The costs involved with an au pair in comparison to using a nursery are tiny, and families who cannot afford the wage of a nanny might find having an au pair appealing.

Advantages

Cheaper than having a nanny

Good for unsociable working hours as they live in

Disadvantages

May not be trained to quite as high a standard as a nanny

Mind that child!

Having a childminder works out cheaper than putting your child in nursery, by between £10-£40 per week for full time care. That's a lot of money when you total it over a year! With smaller groups in more of a family setting, a childminder is a popular choice for childcare. Be aware though that childminder rates can be hourly, or per half day, and this can boost the price. You might find you also have to provide lunch and snacks for your child so the money may actually still equate to that of a nursery in some regions of the UK. All childminders are legally charged with being Ofsted inspected, just like nurseries, and so the standard of care available is high.

Advantages

Generally cheaper than nursery

Smaller groups of children being cared for

Ofsted inspected

Disadvantages

Extra costs on top of fee such as for lunch and snacks

Rate could be hourly and could work out more expensive.

Make it a family affair

There is always the option to ask your family to help with childcare. My family kindly help out with childcare for one day a week, and that care is (gratefully!) free. This setup is lovely because it allows me to claw back one day a week of pay, and my children get to spend time with their family, making for a truly fantastic relationship. I’m a huge believer in taking all the help you are offered, and at a nursery saving of roughly £170 a month it would be silly not to!

Advantages

Family know your child well

Usually free!

Can vary the hours they cater for

Disadvantages

There are none really!

Mix it up

There is always the option to mix together some of these options. I use a nursery, family and I am a stay at home parent, and the mixture of these childcare options together really works for our family. You could always share a nanny or au pair with a friend to reduce costs, or offer to help each other out one day a week if you are stay at home parents.

The cost of childcare does not need to be crippling, but it does require some careful planning. By looking carefully at costs against your income you will be able to see clearly what you can afford and what options you would prefer. It is likely that not every option is suitable for you, but you will find at least one that will work well.

Where to look for help

Childcare.co.uk is definitely one of the best websites to use to check for childcare in your area. You can check for nurseries, nannies and childminders all in one place.

Gov.uk has a dedicated childcare and parenting section, to help you with your childcare decisions.

Top Takeaway

What can you afford? Making a plan of what you can, and want to, spend on childcare will go a long way to help you decide what will work best.

What help is available? Check to see if you can reduce your childcare costs by using a mixture of options, or by getting some help from family.

Does your employer offer any help? Ask if there is a childcare voucher scheme running through your work. Any saving that can be made, should be made!

By Jenn taft

Jenn is a freelance writer and physics teacher from the West Midlands. She has a love of writing about personal finances, especially how they change when you become a parent, and enjoys the honesty that such writing brings. When not writing, teaching or being a mum, Jenn loves nothing more than indulging her love of hospital and police based documentaries, and cake. ?

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