Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Childcare. It's expensive.

August is, at our nursery, another five week month. I don't really understand how they decide on these things - I do know that I can't just pay the same every month. 

We have a Nanny three days a week. Her hours are flexible, but we pay her the same every week because it works out around the same - but some weeks she wants to go early, and some weeks we need her to work longer, so over a month it all balances out. 

We send the boys to nursery two days a week. For august that is going to cost us over £800. The Nanny will, as always, cost us £500. 

So August is going to cost me £1,300 in childcare. 

I know my job is a good job, and I am well paid for what I do - but seriously - I am not THAT well paid. Once I have paid that I am going to need to borrow money for petrol before the money runs out. I'll borrow it from my husband's bank account, but since he pays all our other bills there isn't going to be a lot there to raid. 

So August is going to be pretty tight.

The amount we earn means that we aren't entitled to any benefits or tax credits. We are, on paper, comfortable financially. We don't borrow or have any credit cards. We are paying some debts off from when we did have credit cards, but aren't borrowing more - so that's good. 

It means that everything we have, we pay cash for. 

That includes the childcare which, for two children, is comfortably over £1,000 every month. A cheap month is just £1,000. This month is not going to be a cheap month. 

I think this is a SERIOUS flaw in a system that claims to be in support of families, and helping people get back into work after having children.

I am on a good salary. Considerably more than minimum wage. I have two children, which is average. I should be able to go to work and, even on minimum wage, afford to do so. It should give us a better life. If I didn't work, and was on benefits, I would have more money each month than I do now, working full time, on a good salary. 

For the future we're working towards I chose another path - one which barely covers its own costs. I pay my entire salary out in childcare and fuel. Most months my husband tops my petrol up because I've run out of money early from trying to do something CRAZY like eat lunch, or buy shoes for the boys. 

I knew when I took my job that it would be this way - I chose to do it anyway because it would be a fabulous job opportunity, it could lead to more work (and very much has) it would boost my CV and it would stop me going INSANE. It has given us all of those benefits. 

I also knew that it would be the least I would earn if I stuck with it, and that childcare would get cheaper once the children hit school age. 

In september Jellybean will get 15 hours a week free pre-school. That will be, quite literally, lifechanging for us - it will save me a lot of money.

In september I will also be dropping to just two days a week working. 

Losing three days a week work should mean I'll have less money - but because Jellybean will be free in childcare for those days it actually makes no difference. I will have the same amount left over each month as I do working full time. 

That's broken. That isn't how it should be.

Someone who earns minimum wage should be able to afford to live, even with childcare costs. 

Someone who earns more than minimum wage should be able to afford more. Some luxuries. The occasional trip away. Shoes. Meat in the weekly shop. More than the minimum. I can't. 

How did this system go so wrong? What can we do to challenge it, so that women in the UK aren't priced out of going back to work, to jobs they love, to careers that give them self worth and fulfilment? How can we be living in a world where you're better off NOT working? How are we being priced OUT of work? It makes NO SENSE. 

I know I'm lucky, compared to many, because I CAN go back to work and pay the childcare on two children. I have a pittance left over - but it's there. This makes me considerably richer than a huge proportion of people.

What's your situation? Can you afford to go back to work? What do you think about the cost of childcare?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

My mop is rubbish.

This might not seem like a big deal. But it is. I have two small children and a door that opens directly from a garden into the kitchen, which is the main entrance to my home.

That means that I have a muddy kitchen floor, generally garnished with weetabix, pasta sauce and banana. It gets really dirty and I spend a disproportionate amount of my time sweeping and cleaning it. It drives me crazy that it is only ever actually clean for about seventeen seconds a day, because the INSTANT I finish someone enters the room and immediately ecrusts it with filth again.

I have a mop. I loathe my mop. 

It is one of those squeegy sponge gadgets that lured me into spending more than I wanted to on a mop (I wanted one with flowers on. Apparently this was not a good criteria for picking a mop.) and it promised greatness, and cleanliness, effortlessly scrubbing my lino into shimmering wonder. 

It lied. 

Does it clean? Does it scrub up the dried on weetabix from under the high chair? Does it remove the giant footprints from the back door that my husband insists aren't his, though the children do not have size 11 feet? 


Does it make the dirty floor VERY WET and smell like bleach? Yes. 

So I hate it. 

Every time I mop I fill my bucket, I use my STUPID MOP to get the floor very wet, I get a scrubby sponge and scrub the dirt off on hands and knees, then I get the STUPID BLOODY MOP back out and wipe it down again. Then I get a towel and rub the floor dry, because it is so wet, despite squeegying the mop every TWO SECONDS into the bucket, that I worry it will damage the floor and all the pretend wood floors will curl up around the edges. 

I hate my mop.

I dream of a life where, once the room is swept (le sigh) all I need to do is fill a bucket and wave my mop around on the floor like they do on TV, and it will GLEAM and SHINE and be HEAVENLY, like it is lit from below and made of wonder and joy.

And then I can focus on more important things like drinking wine, tweeting, scratching my bum and eating crisps. And the children. Of course. 

Stupid mop.