At times it can feel like working mums and stay-at-home mums fall into two very different camps. But the reality is that both parties are doing their best to raise and support their children, and the decision to stay at home or go to work isn't necessarily made by them, but by circumstance.
I'm trying to straddle both roles by squashing all of my work commitments into three days every week and keeping the other days free for quality mummy time. Of course, as a freelancer things are often 'feast or famine' so there are times when work will creep into those other days. Like next week, for example, when I'm covering the weather for Channel 5.
Whether or not you plan to return to work, the chances are that you'll need to use childcare at some point. Childcare costs have been in the news again this week and no wonder given how pricey it is, especially in central London. Here are my top tips for how to choose your childcare, be it nursery, child minder or nanny.
Number one is location. You need to find a nursery or child minder close to you or your work. A ten minute walk from home might not seem like much, but it will soon add up if it's in the opposite direction to the train station. One of my friends went for the 'near to work' option, but that involved a half hour drive that regularly became nearer an hour in heavy traffic. Her son was very quickly an expert in how to use an iPad. Nannies work at your home so that can solve the location problem, if you have enough space. A child minder looks after your child at their home and sometimes do pick ups and drop offs, but remember that they may have school runs to do with other children.
Second is cost. Nannies are most expensive and don't forget that you may have to pay for holidays, sickness and so on as you will enter a contract of employment with them. Childminders usually cost less than a nanny as they also look after other children. Make sure to read up on all the legal and tax implications before hiring a nanny. It is best to discuss money up front so that you know exactly what you will be paying for. Nurseries can sometimes work out the cheapest (I'm using cheap in the loosest sense of the word, here) if you have just one child. But once you expand your brood, it can make more sense to use a nanny.
Finally, I would trust my gut feeling. Visit a few nurseries and chat to the staff. Meet with your potential child minder or nanny and chat over coffee. Write a list of questions and concerns and make time to go through them. The first time you leave your child with someone else is an emotional one. But believe me, there comes a stage where you can't wait until you've dropped off the kids and you can take a deep breath and get on with the rest of your day.
Personally, I've found nursery to be the best fit for us and both of my boys love it. Ethan likes having his little brother there now and often makes requests for toilet trips just so he can look into the baby room and see how Logan is doing. The other day he was playing peekaboo over the garden fence that separates the babies from the bigger, more boisterous older children. They both ended up giggling so much that Ethan wet himself... But let's leave the toilet training tales for another time.
What do you think? Do you employ a nanny or take your children to a nursery? What positive experiences would you share with other parents? Tell us in the comments below...
Kirsty McCabe will be writing her weekly blog here on www.juniormagazine.co.uk. Follow us on Twitter: @juniormagazine and watch out for the hashtag #somethingfortheweekend every Friday to join in with the conversation
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