Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Working 9 til 5

My colleague received a phone call this morning. Whilst eavesdropping I deduced that it was her child's nursery informing her that said child had had an accident and she was to come and collect him. The word "hospital" might have been mentioned, although I couldn't lean over any further to hear what was going on without the risk of tipping back on my wheelie chair. As she hung up she made a funny gasping noise, and then (horror of horrors) burst in tears. Now, I'd like to think that I'm a fairly compassionate person, but I'm afraid when something like that happens all I want to do is laugh and feel mortally embarrassed. Well, I'm proud to say that I didn't laugh, I held it together and offered a sympathetic arm-rub in a hopefully-comforting fashion.

I'm not sure what the upshot of all this was (I'm going to assume that the wee terror had their head examined by some sort of brain expert and was declared fighting fit), but it does highlight one of the many challenges of going back to work after you've had children. Here's a list of random points, advice and stuff I wish I'd have known about The Return from Maternity Leave:

  • There are basically 3 options for childcare: nursery, childminder, family
  • When you are looking for childcare, start with friends and family and find out what they do. Are they happy with their choice? What do they wish they'd done differently?
  • Speak to your employer as soon as possible about your hours when you return, but don't worry too much about this. Most importantly secure your child/children a place wherever you want them to go. Exact hours can be sorted out afterwards
  • There is quite often a "chief childminder" in your area who can give you the names and contact details of those childminders who have spaces available
  • Visit every nursery or childminder you are considering and ask LOADS of questions
  • Be selective. If you are not happy about something, or you don't get a good feeling, go and look somewhere else
  • Don't feel pressured into making a choice
  • Bear in mind that you will pay for childcare even if you are on holiday!
  • If you are only need childcare during term time you may still have to pay a reduced amount over the school holidays as a retainer
  • Ask for discounts! Negotiate! Ask that they include meals in the price
  • Have a back up plan in case your childminder is sick, otherwise you're going to have to take the day off
  • Think about whether you want your childcare to be close to work, or close to home
  • If you're going to have several people collecting your children you need to have car seats in all their cars
  • Register for childcare vouchers - basically part of your salary (up to £243 per month) goes straight to your childminder/nursery before tax. Both parents can register and pay in this way
  • If you have twins you will basically be paying double for childcare (possibly with a slight discount if you negotiate). Everyone who has 2 children has to pay this for childcare - the only difference is that you pay for it all upfront!
  • If you are deciding whether or not to go back to work you need to weigh up the soft options (a route back to sanity) as well as the hard options (cold, hard cash)
  • Ask your childminder to keep nappies/wipes/spare clothes/drinks bottles at their house so that you don't have to take a bag every day
  • Beware of nurseries that charge you if you are late to collect your children. If you have a job where you could frequently be delayed you might need a more flexible option
  • If you have a random day off, and you've already paid for childcare, for goodness sake drop them off and go and have a nice day to yourself!
Overall, my advice is don't feel guilty if you enjoy going back to work. It's lovely to feel like a real person again, to have proper conversations with adults, walk around without shoving a pushchair, and don't get me started on the utter heaven that is drinking a hot cup of tea from start to finish. At first you will probably feel like you've had one of your arms cut off, which is perfectly normal after having a baby (or two) attached to you for up to a year, and of course you will miss them, but I firmly believe that I'm better at my full-time job of mummying by having a part-time job as well.