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The Toils of Childcare

My phone pinged. I looked at the text message that had come through…


“S**t!” I turned to Clare my wife. “It’s from Hannah. She says that she can’t do school pick up on the 26th.”

I looked at my diary and sighed. “I’ve got a full day of meetings that day. What a nightmare.”

And it was. Almost all of the working parents I know grapple with the daily nightmare that is childcare. Clare and I are no exception.

I am self-employed which means that I can work flexibly in and around my children’s schedules: most days I can do school drop off and school pick up. I take holidays when they are on holiday. Clare is also afforded a good deal of flexibility in her job. So, even though we are sheltered from the worst of what many parents have to face (just how do you manage 13 weeks of school holidays a year with an annual holiday allowance of 5 weeks each?), there are some times when we just can’t be where the kids need us to be.

Research and surveys show we’re not alone – more and more grandparents are effectively running childcare facilities and the cost of care is soaring making it less and less feasible for both parents to work. However, we have decided, from the beginning, that we were the ones that were going to raise our children. Many other couples call in after school clubs, grandparents and even nannies but we decided that wasn’t going to be us – they were our children and raising them was our responsibility. So, we have set a limit on the number of days that the kids are dropped off at school and put to bed by someone else (two apiece each week). So, on these occasions we call in help.

However, sometimes it doesn’t work and the nightmare ensues.

After the text from Hannah, I ended up spending a significant proportion of the next two days searching someone who the kids knew well enough, who could pick them up from school, feed them, bath them and put them to bed on the 26th. I called and texted around, my stress levels growing ever higher. Eventually, one of our babysitters said she could do it and I could relax.

The following week, my e-mail pinged this time.

“I don’t bloody believe it.” I cursed my luck. “They’ve only gone and moved the meeting forward a day. I need to find someone who can pick the kids up on the 25th”.


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