Thursday 6 October 2016

#TBT - Why is there so much focus on the 'cost' of children?

This post I wrote a couple of years ago and it comes back time and time again as a topic of discussion, as the media seems to like to emphasise the cost of having children, but I feel this focus can really have a negative impact on how we feel as parents...

It's a topic that comes up time and time and time again; how much it costs to raise a child. Always by some 'experts' and always quoting an incredible figure that most of us just can't relate to.

It makes a great headline, sure. It's easy to quote on news bulletins, on the bus, to your colleagues at work or in passing to other parents or to scare those yet to have any children of their own.

But what does it really mean? And why do we seem to take so much delight in regurgitating the fact that yes, children cost money?

Gosh, I didn't realise that a child would cost me anything. That having a son would mean our outgoings would rapidly rise and, if the headlines are to be believed, eventually bankrupt us before he leaves the nest.

I just feel there's so much focus on the 'cost' of our children.

It would be nice to talk about what's to gain. To consider the positives and just change the language we use, the media use, when it comes to parenting.

Cost of raising a child. Childcare costs. Working mums. Working dads. Entitlements. Maternity rights. Paternity rights. Shared leave. Impact on career. Gender roles. Ticking clocks. Missing out.

There's so little focus on the wonders of parenting, the reasons why we decide to have a child and sometimes, more than one - it's any wonder that anyone of the current generation even contemplates the idea of having a family any more.

Within the same week that the cost of raising a child captures the media's attention for it's annual five minutes in the spotlight, so too has the debate over childcare costs been added to the news agenda. This time, following the government's hopeful plan of increasing free childcare hours from 15 to 30 hours per week later this year - with the response from the National Day Nurseries Association being one of warning, as half of nurseries say they won't be able to afford to offer this.

I thought that with the childcare debate entering a new phase, I'd share a post I wrote in 2014 on the whole topic and why I felt, and still feel, that it's hard to really put a price on the cost of your childcare because really, what they offer, is priceless...


The Family and Childcare Trust has issued its annual report and has found that many parents pay more for childcare each year than the average British mortgage bill.

I'm sorry, but was that headline supposed to shock us?

If you have a child and you need to work, the options available, and the associated costs, aren't a mystery to you. Every penny of your monthly income is accounted for and childcare is a huge percentage of most family's outgoings.

Some mums are fortunate to have family who live close by and who can help provide childcare whilst they go to work. This is a great resource if you have it, but comes with its own considerations and complications, with many family members providing this support free of charge due to circumstance.

However, if you have to work and you don't have a support network in place, you need to rely on a childminder or a nursery and neither option is cheap when you look at the grand total.

But to be fair, you need to think about how much this annual childcare figure works out on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, and understand what's included that can be given a monetary figure (nappies, wipes, food and milk throughout the day), and that which can't be costed in financial terms (education, entertainment and care for a child you are responsible for).

The Family and Childcare Trust's report says that the average family with one child in part-time nursery and another in an after-school club incurs £7,549 in fees per year. Full-time childcare costs for a family with a two year old and a five year old come to an estimated total of £11,700 per year. These costs represent a rise of an incredible 27% in just five years, whilst the average wage has remained relatively unchanged during this time.

For us, we have Ethan in for four full days per week and our childcare bill comes to just over £800 (as of now, he's in five days a week at a cost just shy of £1,000). And yes, this is bigger than our mortgage, by quite some way. And yes, this has a big impact on our family finances.

But it's money well spent.

Unfortunately we do not have the choice when it comes to work - we both need to bring home the bacon in order to cover our bills and do what we need to do. In an ideal world. things would be different, but I do the best I can to focus on the positives.

Bubs and I, shortly after I returned to work when he was eight months old
Hubs and I both have our own careers and independence. Ethan has the best of both worlds - two days with us, enjoying quality family time, plus evenings which are precious to us, and four days at nursery learning new things and developing so fast.

When you break down the cost of childcare, it actually makes you feel a lot better. For just under £50 a day, Ethan is looked after for an average of 10 hours, has two milk feeds, three meals which are freshly made and nutritionally balanced (two of which come with dessert!), nappies, wipes and cream are included, then add in the non-stop playing, learning, cuddling and sleeping whilst being looked after by a friendly team who treat him as one of their own. That's such a lot to provide and I can see the savings in my weekly shop as four days a week, I don't need to give him more than a bottle of milk and a couple of nappy changes.

This isn't even taking into account the wages of the nursery staff who, when you do this calculation, can't be earning very much at all.

But it is what it is. When you are leaving the most precious thing in the world to you in someone else's care, no figure sounds quite right.

It's hard for me to leave him at nursery each morning but seeing how happy he is and the warm welcome he receives makes it so much easier.

I'm in the position where I need to work and that by doing so, I'm not just working to cover my childcare costs, but I know that for many people, it just doesn't pay to go back to work so I fully agree more support needs to be given to parents who are struggling to work and do the best they can for their children.

Childcare is such a big proportion of my monthly salary but it is an investment. An investment in Ethan, his development and our future.

Read more on the Family and Childcare Trust's report here.


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