Five Mums Discuss Different Childcare Options They Used After Returning To Work

Mums returning to work after maternity leave is often a controversial topic, with many unable to go back to their full-time hours.

Although all parents and carers have the right to work flexible hours, the reality of it isn't always that simple.

In July 2015, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released survey results that suggested around 54,000 new mothers were losing their jobs across Britain every year.

One in ten women admitted they had been dismissed, made redundant or treated so poorly they had to quit their job.

We spoke to five different mothers who were able to return to work after their maternity leave - all used different options.

1. Au pair

Lisa Roberts, 42, founder of online gift retailer Babyblooms, is a mum-of-two to her now grown up sons, Sam, 17, and Lewis, 14.

"When Sam was born I chose the nursery route. As he was my only child and I was returning to my previous role (albeit part-time) the cost wasn’t really a concern. However, with two boys the cost of childcare made returning to my previous job unviable."

After a stint at waitressing where childcare was not needed because Roberts worked when her husband was home, she wanted to go back to work on her own business.

"At the time I launched Babyblooms, both my children were at school but it was just not possible to be there at both ends of the school day. Initially, friends were able to help by having my boys on 'playdates', but it was difficult making arrangements of an ad-hoc, day-to-day basis and I needed a permanent solution.

"I advertised for an au pair and found a lovely German girl who was looking to stay in UK for a year. She lived with us and was available daily for two hours to collect the boys from school, feed them tea and do their reading and spellings.

"This worked really well for us while the boys were that age. Having a live-in au pair is a relatively cheap form of childcare, providing you have a spare room and don’t mind having someone else living with the family. It's a great option for young, primary school-aged children.

"In my view, the arrangement can be of benefit to all involved, not least the au pair, who has the opportunity to improve their language skills (and life skills!). However, despite the benefits, I would not have chosen to rely on an au pair while my boys were babies or very young and required care for longer periods of time."

2. Childminder

Lindsey Fish, 31, founder of Mums Enterprise Roadshow is mum to Molly Chilcott, 2.

"I found it quite a hard decision to know what to do about going back to work after maternity leave. I had no family nearby, my old job was a long commute away in London and then there is the drop in cash for doing less days as well as funding full-time childcare.

"I initially looked at sending her to nursery, but I decided to go with a childminder because I liked the idea of a home environment and I knew there would be much more flexibility. I went back to work officially eight months after having Molly and initially sent her to a childminder eight hours a week, which has slowly gone up to 15-25 hours a week.

"The price was pretty much all the same near me - £5 - £6 per hour. I looked on childcare websites, the local Sure Start Children's Centre host 'meet a childminder' evenings and I looked on the listings on my council's website. I visited about five before finding the perfect match.

"I would definitely say the flexibility is a pro of using a childminder, the days and hours do fluctuate quite regularly. I give my hours for the coming week only the Sunday before.

"I can also benefit from Molly's nap time which is two hours. So I often pick her up, and put her down for a nap soon after we get home which is two hours free childcare.

"If she went to nursery Molly would be pushed to be more sociable with so many more children to contend with, but the way I see it is there is plenty of time for all that when she goes to pre-school."

3. Nursery

Aby Hawker, 39, PR consultant at Falcon PR, is mum to Olivia, now nine, and Harry, seven. She said she always knew she was going to go back to work after maternity leave.

"After giving birth, I took a full year with both children and went back to work three days a week. I always knew with both of them I was going to send them to nursery because for me, it ticked all the boxes.

"With Olivia, I got a recommendation for a nursery. A good friend sent her children and was very complimentary about the nursery, but the overriding factor was close proximity to where I was working at the time.

"When I chose the second nursery I already knew there was a good chance that I wasn't going back to work at the same agency, so I looked for something nearer to home. I felt like I had a lot more freedom of choice because I wasn't tied to a nursery close to work.

"This time I chose something rural, surrounded by fields. There was loads of space for the kids to run around and the people were great.

"To find it, I just googled local nurseries, printed off a list of questions to ask (as you do) and went and saw the places for myself. A big pro for me is there is usually a lot of space, lots to do, lots of other kids to play with, hustle and bustle to distract them from separation anxiety, and it helps to build social skills from a young age.

"Of course I did feel a bit bad leaving the kids, they sometimes (often) cried when I left and I felt like I was abandoning them to a room full of other crying snotty kids with only limited adults to console them.

"I was constantly reassured by the carers that they stopped crying the moment I left. And long after they went to school they would tell me how much they missed nursery."

4. Grandparents

Joanne Gray, 40, who works in marketing at The Progress Lab, is mum to Esmee Gray-Brennan, four. Gray agreed her return to work date before she had even left to go on maternity leave.

"I returned back to work when my daughter was six months old, it was full-time. I opted for two days a week at nursery but the majority of the week (three days) was with her grandparents.

"I had that in mind even before I had my daughter, in fact my parents actually returned from living in Spain in order to help out - they had had enough of being in Spain but me getting pregnant gave them a good excuse for moving back to the UK.

"I knew I wanted to get a balance between nursery and getting family to help for my childcare as I think nursery provides more structured early learning but in my mind being looked after by grandparents is the next best thing to having parents looking after you.

"At the time of returning to work, I commuted two and a half hours a day and travelled overseas a lot. My husband does a three-hour daily commute, so realistically the only way we could both maintain our jobs was to have the grandparents involved.

"I would drop Esmee off at 7am in her PJs at my parents and pick her up at 6.30pm, they would give her all of her meals and then I would take her home and give her a bath.

"My parents were truly amazing. They were also happy to come to the rescue if we got the phone call from nursery to say she was sick - they’d go and pick her up and look after her until either myself or my husband could get back home.

"It was amazing to see the relationship develop between my child and her grandparents and gave us greater flexibility - if we were late, we weren't fined.

"I guess the setbacks were because my parents helped so much with day care we didn’t like asking them to babysit, so for a long time we had a very limited social life!"

5. Work nursery.

Sarah Tucker, 46, works for the NHS and is mum to 11-year-old Alisha. She planned to take a year off after giving birth, but ended up going back one month early.

"I went back one month early because I needed to break up the time with some adult interaction and feel important about doing my normal job again! I was full time before maternity leave but went back part-time – about 30 hours.

"For me, full-time nursery care would have been too expensive so my husband and I decided that Alisha would do three full days at my work nursery. Fortunately, she was also able to do two mornings with me while I was working at home and two afternoons with my mum, too.

"Work nursery was considerably cheaper than private nurseries and it was also on the same site where I worked which made life much easier when it came to dropping her off and picking her up.

"If she was taken ill I didn’t have to go very far to pick her up and take her home. Alisha loved it. She was there from nine months old and was the first intake of ‘babies’ to that nursery as before they only took from 18 months.

"She stayed there until just after her 4th birthday. She took part in all the nativity plays and enjoyed playing and learning.

"For me, the mix of childcare options was a pro. During a working week she had time with me, time with her grandparents and three days mixing with other children.

"As an only child it was important to teach her how to share and interact with other children. She has always been quite an independent child and has never really been shy or nervous around other people and I think that may be due to her getting a mix of childcare arrangements.

"The only con was probably the cost, although it wasn’t as expensive as private childcare it was still around £400 - 500 a month."

Childcare boost for working parents

Childcare boost for working parents