Guest post; Is nursery right if you’re a SAHP?

Tracy Fletcher is author of the My Working Mummy blog, her diary of a working mum aged 44 (and counting). A relative newcomer to the blogging scene, Tracy’s blog was inspired by leaving behind a senior corporate career to be, first and foremost, a mum. In this guest post, she shares her search for a better work life balance, as well as recording this special time with her family, and is keen to reach out to others facing similar experiences and challenges. In this post she writes about the dilema of placing your child in nursery if you are a stay at home parent.

Is it right to put your child in nursery while you’re a s.a.h parent?
This is exactly the moral dilemma I’ve been wrestling with for the past month. It’s now just over three months since I left my high velocity full-time role as a senior communications manager, to prioritise being a mum.

I’d returned to work full-time when my son George was just three-and-a-half months old. Eighteen months later, and despite a valiant attempt at a mixture of office-based time and flexible home working, it just wasn’t panning out.

Most importantly of all, from my perspective, it was breaking my heart every day, having to prioritise business calls and deadlines over quality mum-and-lad bonding with my son. In the medium term, I hope to achieve a better work-life balance as a freelance writer and communications specialist.

John, who writes Dadbloguk, is well-known for becoming a stay at home dad because he and his wife didn’t want their children in nursery full-time. Many people fail to appreciate that dads, as well as mums, wrestle with the same issues.

Three months of laughs, loving and ‘lay-down cuddles’
I’ve unashamedly wallowed in delicious lost time with my son since I left full-time work. As other parents facing similar juggles and sacrifices will recognise all too well, the simplest and most precious moments had no place in our crazy-busy schedule of keeping head above water.

Yet it’s those simple moments from the last three months which will warm my heart forever. One example is the lay-down cuddles George and I share every night. In the bad old days, bedtimes became a perfunctory and rushed affair. With both Daddy and I exhausted by our working days, our goal was just to have George tucked up, on time, and enjoy an hour’s peace before it all kicked off again the next day.

We would get cross and impatient if he, as he does more often than not, faffed about going to bed. Now, I’m more than happy to spend time, after his story, just laying with him, in the dark, in his little bark of a bed, helping him drift off into the land of nod, as I describe in a recent My Working Mummy blog post.
Of course, we’ve done lots of other, more exciting, stuff too. There have been days at the beach; glorious larks in sun-drenched back gardens with best friends, and visits to zoos, aquariums, stately homes and sundry soft play centres.

However, amidst all this fun and togetherness, it’s time for a small dose of reality. I’m starting to feel a little at sea, amidst the realisation that it really is virtually impossible to get anything at all done with a toddler in tow. I need to devote some focused time to my freelancing, regain a sense of me as well as me-as-Mum and, let’s face it, clean the bathroom once in every blue moon! Added to this, George is bright, boisterous and inquisitive and needs the company of his peers as well as us. So, for both our sakes, I know it’s time to love and let him go…just a little bit.

A moral dilemma of epic proportions

That might sound very decisive, but here’s a flavour of the battle between thought and feeling I’ve gone through to get to this point…

Head: I need some focused me-time to secure freelance work.

Heart: I could get up before dawn and stay up late, and do this while George is in bed.

Head: But the rest of the world is also asleep then, so that’s not really practical.

Head: George loved nursery, he needs the continued stimulation and I don’t want him to struggle to adjust when he attends pre-school at three. Heart: We’ve had lots of fun doing all sorts of stimulating things ourselves…and no-one can look after him as we do.

Head: We could do with a little behavioural help (being at nursery might teach George it’s not his role to tell peers and adults to get in the naughty corner when we don’t do what he tells us!).

Heart: We’re getting there, with increasing glimpses of terrible twos in the rear view mirror. Not only that but we love his feisty character. Some of what he comes out with is a bloody funny part of our everyday family life and we don’t want that institutionalising out of him.

Letting go for all the right reasons

Despite all this soul searching, George and I found ourselves facing the prospect of a nursery taster session, after some determined research into local childcare options. Almost predictably, his first afternoon visit didn’t go according to plan. He got up unusually early and refused to take a nap – until 10 minutes before we were due to leave the house. Hence, the picture below shows the face from the nursery door that I had in my mind’s eye as I sat in Costa with my swimming pool-sized latte, feeling a mixture of guilt and a giddy sense of freedom.

Tracy Fletcher, MyWorkingMummy.com, childcare, nursery, stay at home mum, stay at home dad, stay at home parent

George, in my mind’s eye.

Also predictably, after five minutes of clinginess, he was fine – wading happily through the plethora of toys and oblivious when I snook out to leave him to it for three hours.

When I picked him up again, he was wide-eyed, psyched and full of fun – clearly nursery is a very palpable hit. I have to admit that I, too, felt uplifted by having just a little time to remind myself who I am, as well as being ‘George’s Mum’.

Childcare when you’re not working – an expensive luxury

So it looks like we’ll go for it, but our day a week of mutual respite will come at a price. The going rate for a day at our chosen nursery is £33. So that’ll be around £130 a month. I’m feeling physically stung by my first proper taste of the lack of early years provision and financial support for working (or in my case would-be working) parents. Because my other half is employed, as an engineer, and earns a mid-range salary, we don’t qualify for one of the younger free places that are – very slowly – coming available. Because he works for a less-than-family-friendly company, they won’t support the Childcare Voucher scheme either.

We were hopeful about the Government’s new Tax-Free Childcare initiative which will replace Childcare Vouchers, but given that’s now been postponed until 2016, due to legal wrangling with existing childcare providers, and won’t cater for families like us with one parent not currently working, it won’t help us in the short term. Therefore, as with so many things, we’re marooned when it comes to childcare help, as a mid-income working family. If we want it, we’re going to have to pay a pretty price for it, at least for the next eight months, when George will turn three and qualify for 15 free hours per week.

Are you a stay-at-home parent, and have you had a similar dilemma over childcare? What did you decide to do, what has the outcome been and what words of wisdom do you have for any other parents going through the same?

The Dad Network

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20 Comments

  1. John Adams
    Author
    August 13, 2015 / 5:52 am

    Great post Tracy and thanks for contributing to Dadbloguk. I’ll wade in and say that my children have always attended nrusery, even though I gave up work altogether. In the case of my second daughter, she goes a few mornings a week and my wife and I have no issues with it whatsoever. Personally, I beleive you need some time without the kids in the house so you can clean etc.

    I also think parents are harking back to an era that never existed if they believe the natural state is for kids to be with their parents 24/7 365. Middle and upper-class parents of the past didn’t toch their children in years gone by. Wet nurses and governesses were used. If I think about my own family, my mother was packed off to boarding school at the age of five. Look at the developing world and you see mothers (for the childcare burden more often than not falls on mothers in these societies) taking their kids to work with them.

    If you leave it too late before giving your child at least some experience of childcare, they will struggle to adjust to it. This will be amplified when they start school. I say childcare is perfectly justified for the SAHP, just don’t over do it.

  2. August 15, 2015 / 6:08 am

    We’re in a similar position to you except my husband is the stay at home parent. Our little girl would have loved to go to nursery for a couple of days a week but we just didn’t feel we could justify the expense. My husband did take her to playgroup 3 times a week so she would have a chance to interact with other kids though. Now she’s in pre-school he’s really enjoying the free time although not much cleaning of the bathroom has happened! #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:45 am

      If your husband ever starts a blog then no housework will ever get done. Well, that’s my experience anyway!

  3. August 15, 2015 / 6:36 am

    Yowza, that’s pricey. We have the option to send out tot to nursery at the school I work at for a very reasonable price, only 100 GBP a month. I think a good nursery is really valuable for routines and social skills so shall be leaping at the chance. My wife stays at home with him at the moment and lit up at the prospect, lol.

    #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:42 am

      Ha ha! Tracy lives in Northern England, down here in the south you can add another third on to that figure. You get Government help once the child reaches the age of three but until then, you’re on your own (although most employers will pay you a maximum of £243 a month in childcare vouchers).

  4. August 15, 2015 / 6:57 am

    I’d say a definitive yes. Having a break was nice for me of course, but I was also aware that my daughter needed to learn to interact with children without it being via me, that she needs to understand how to make friends, solve disagreements, etc without instantly turning to me to mediate it.

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:40 am

      Good points and well made Simon. Part of our decision to keep using nursery when I became main carer was that we only had the one daughter and we could see she was becoming socialised and learning the skills you speak of. She wasn’t getting htis at home where she was the only child.

  5. August 15, 2015 / 7:06 am

    This is a great post! I think yes too – children learn things at nursery that we simply can’t replicate being at home. If they’re not happy there, then no but if they enjoy it then I say yes absolutely. In the ‘good old days’ most families had their extended families around and children really were brought up by a village. I think nurseries offer a little bit of all the benefits that come with that…

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:39 am

      I quite agree, nurseries do fill the void left by extended families. Perhaps not what anybody would want but children by and large benefit from attending I think. Thanks for commenting.

  6. August 15, 2015 / 7:41 am

    I absolutely say yes! My youngest is thriving since starting nursery and most importantly she loves it there. We pay £400 a month, I can earn more money with my freelance work when she’s not around so I figure it’s money well spent.

    Don’t feel guilty there’s plenty more parent guilt we all put on ourselves and putting a child into this environment will nurture them x

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:35 am

      I say “absolutely” as well Amy. Our youngest goes three moenings a week and I need that time so I can earn money. We need the income and while I don’t mean to make it sound like money comes about the child….the child benefits.

  7. August 15, 2015 / 7:45 am

    Yay I managed to get my iPhone to open the comments so I’ll say the same as I did in Facebook.

    I’d say yes you can justify putting your child in nursery if you’re a SAHP. The child will develop their social skills with their peers. Going to childcare definitely made a difference with our girl. We get a new word every week now!

    Also I think it’s really important to get some me time. I’m currently on maternity with my second and I still send my toddler to childcare so she gets to play with other children and do some fun stuff which I can’t do with her at the moment use to having a newborn constantly screaming at me!

    Have you tried for Tax Credits?

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:34 am

      When you have a newborn you caqn definitely justify nursery. You need that one on one time with the youngest and it does no harm for the older one ot spend time with similar aged peers (very positive in fact). Thakns for commenting.

  8. August 15, 2015 / 8:03 am

    Hi, so I’m a SAHM and just started J at nursery one morning a week so that I can get editing done. It was a hard decision and to be honest I could do with him going a little more but I struggle to be apart from him (even though there are aspects I enjoy about that morning too). I think people can be way to judgemental if each other over childcare. Different things work for different families. I got asked a lot why he was starting nursery and felt I always had to make it clear it was so I could work but really it should also be ok if a parent wants to say “so I can have a break” too x

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:30 am

      As far as I’m concerned it’s perfectly acceptable to say “because I need a break!” Stuff happens in our lives. I can think of times where I’ve had to try dealing with the kids while dealing with some unexpected circumstances or crisis and the kids have had to be left watching TV or some such. When this happens I think the kids are better off going into paid-for childcare where someone is providing planned, thought out, constructive activities. Sometimes good parenting means letting go. Tough, but true!

  9. August 15, 2015 / 10:00 am

    It’s such a tough choice isn’t it? I’m self-employed and I’ve found a nursery that does ad hoc hours which is great. But I still felt so guilty schooling her in when I clearly didn’t have to leave her. I eventually started loving my few hours of me time even though I constantly worried about her. Luckily I don’t work that much so we can sometimes go for months before she has to go back in. Our nursery is even more expensive than that so I’m holding out for our free 15 hours before I even contemplate putting her in to have a little me time 🙂 #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:24 am

      I’m going ot make an awkward confession here. When my first child was born my wife and I simply thought we had no option for financial reasons thna for her to attend nursery full time. It wasn’t easy, but there wasn’t much guilt. The guilt came a few months later and this is how I ended up being a stay at home dad. I do sometimes wonder if we didn’t think the situation through properly in the first place but there’s no point getting hugely upset about the past. Nursery either was or is a part of life for both our kids and they’re happy.

  10. August 15, 2015 / 8:41 pm

    Really good post. When my wife was off with our second child, we continued with daycare (Canadian for nursery). When she was off with our third though we didn’t bother and I think it probably would have benefited everyone. I think kids benefit from the strucutre and interaction with other children and the parent (SAH) needs a break too. If to just get everything else done around the house. #bigfatlinky

    • John Adams
      Author
      August 16, 2015 / 5:15 am

      I quite agree Rob. Every nation’s system is different, but here in the UK most children start school at the age of four, although the first year is essentially daycare in a uniform (IE little formal learning). Those kids that have spent some time in daycare tend to get along much better because they have had the structure of the nursery environment. Of course there is an argument hat four is too young, but we’ll leave that until another day!