The Struggle of The ‘Want-to-Work’ Mums 

So today I came to a rather depressing realisation. I can’t afford to go back to work and, at the same time, I can’t afford to not go back to work… 


Where does that leave us? Well, in good company for a start. A lot of women are faced with the tough decision of whether to return to work, for almost all of their salary to go directly on childcare. 

When my older two were babies I was in different positions. With Cameron I returned to my final year of university a week after he was born, so when it came round to graduation, I saw no shame in putting off starting my career for a little while and enjoying my baby. 

With Carly, I longed to work but couldn’t see how I could ever afford to put both children into nursery. Instead I started my own business, but it never really took off as I struggled to work around two young children, and I wasn’t earning enough from it to be able to put them into nursery to get work done… 

Eventually I couldn’t cope at home all day any longer and I took the plunge, working full time to cover the childcare fees. My next job was another full time 40 hours but I often worked nearer to 60, meaning I was barely seeing the children. 

For this reason I left and took on a part time role in another company so that I was able to do the school run and spend some quality time with the kids after work. 

I’m currently on maternity leave and have just started looking into the logistics of returning to work in my part time role. Realistically we had decided I wouldn’t be able to take the whole year maternity leave, I am only getting maternity allowance which works out at £138 a week (£558 a month) and this stops mid July. 

As my mum is a teacher she would be able to help over the summer and Carly starts school alongside Cameron in September, so it would ‘just’ be Benjamin who we would need childcare for. Naively I had thought it wouldn’t be too much for just the one child. 

However, having now contacted a couple of nurseries it turns out I was mistaken. I work 9am until 2pm, without a lunch break. I would need to drop the older kids to school by 8.30am to get into work on time, which would mean needing to drop Benjamin by 8.15 or 8.45 depending where he went to nursery. 

Nurseries work on the hours of 8am until 1pm for a morning session. The nursery I liked best said I would need to pay for the full day (£45) as I was going into the afternoon session by 1.5 hours. 

Even the other one who would happily only charge for the additional time, worked out at £435 per month for the hours we need 3 days a week (so that’s including the day off I have in the week as I work Saturdays, and a day we hope a relative might be able to help us with him). 

I earn £8.65 an hour and I work 20 hours a week. This means that once you deduct the tax, and you take off the childcare, I would be earning the equivalent of around £1.70 an hour (or 45p an hour if we went for the nursery where they charge for the full day). To spend time away from my baby and have someone else look after him. 

If we went with a child minder, priced at around £5 per hour, this would mean, after tax, I would be earning around a slightly higher, but still ridiculously low, £2.70 an hour. It’s just not worth it. 

I don’t really know what to do as, having rented out Ed’s property so that we could rent in the school catchment area, come July we will fall short on our rent by £100 a month and really need an additional income to supplement Ed’s. 

I keep hearing about the funded hours for 3 and 4 year olds increasing to 30 from September, and this is brilliant, but too late to benefit us as Carly will be at school by then, and Benjamin won’t be eligible for another 2 years! 

Where is the help for those desperately wanting to return to work following their maternity leave with babies often a year old or even younger? 

The next 4 months of my maternity leave will be spent looking into our options and seeing if their is going to be any way of working out a plan where I’m not working for the sake of working. 

If anyone has any guidance or tips in the meantime, feel free to let me know! 

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17 thoughts on “The Struggle of The ‘Want-to-Work’ Mums 

  1. I totally get you, I am in a similar situation to yours, I’m 26 with 2 children and my youngest will turn 1 in a month. I also went to uni while my first one was a newborn and like you said it is so hard to get things done with babies around! Every time I write my posts I have Phoenix (my youngest) crying and grabbing me constantly, which means it takes me about 4 hours to write what Would usually take 30 minutes! 😃 It is very frustrating not being able to go back to work because of childcare costs. Not to mention the fact that many employers don’t even want mothers with young kids!! Well for now I’m just making it work with less money and decided to stay at home with my kids and enjoy the time with them. They won’t be little forever! 🙂 if you ever feel like talking I’m here! Sending big love! Monica x

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  2. I totally get you on this and it’s a subject that really gets my goat – so much so I wrote a post about it too! It’s catch 22..You’re buggered if you do and buggered if you don’t, pardon my French. Great post, I’ll be sharing it x

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  3. I really feel your pain with this. We only have one child, and almost half of my wages goes on childcare. I only work two days a week. We can’t afford to have another child, because it wouldn’t be worth me going back to work, and I need to work to make ends meet. It’s a sorry state of affairs when you want to work but can’t afford to. 😔

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  4. It’s so difficult isn’t it? I’ve just send in my resignation, as I would be £250 a month worse off returning to work part time! I don’t know how they honestly expect mother’s to return to work, it really is ridiculous! Your nureseries seem to have alright prices though. We’re paying £300 a month for my daughter to do 9 hours a week!

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  5. I totally understand your views, it is a typical you are damned if you do, damned if you dont type of scenario. I couldnt understand it before when mothers didnt want or could not go back to work and now being a parent I realise the struggles!

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  6. I love this post. It’s one of my pet hates that there’s little to help people that WANT to work. How is that a good welfare system if we’re leaving people who work and spend time away from their children with similar income to those who don’t?! I think it’s awful that there’s not support out there, not so much that childcare is expensive (when you work out the hourly rate, I’d happily pay that to have my child well looked after) and I know they’re a business too so have bills and wages to pay, my frustration is more to do with the benefits system and government support for mums in your position. I’m fortunate that my wage covers childcare and enough to make it worthwhile but I know many other mums where it isn’t and it’s a hard decision for them to make. Good luck making yours!

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  7. We’re in a similar situation and even though it makes more sense to be at home & not just work to cover childcare, I still struggle to accept the choice that we’ve had to make. I hope you find something that works for you in the next few months

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  8. It’s an awful situation to be in: many of us are in the same boat. I’m at the stage where I’m also weighing up the cost of nursery vs my full time wage, and even with one child it just seems ridiculous: I’d be working a hell of a lot to have very little disposable income. The only tip as such I can give is to truly throw yourself at monetising your blog with the remainder of your MAT leave; your posts are great and I’m sure you’d manage a full time wage on it…

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  9. What an awful situation to be in – and such a common one! I’m afraid I can’t offer any help. I went back to work when all of my kids were six months – full-time after my eldest (now 15) and part-time after my younger two (now 13 and 10). A lot of the time, I had two kids in nursery. The only way I could afford to work was that they were in nursery two days a week and my parents were looking after them the third day. If I’d had to put them in nursery for three days, I would have been earning nothing!
    Good luck with whatever you decide!

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  10. It’s a real struggle to work and have young children. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for you – In my case I worked from home, running a business – it was a nightmare and I never got any time for myself but things did get better as the children got older and I didn’t have to pay for early years care. I hope that you find a solution that works for you soon.

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  11. It just isn’t fair. I had the same situation when we lived in London, and in the end we decided that I wouldn’t go back to work as it just wasn’t worth it. Good luck, I hope you find a resolution that works for you soon.

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  12. It is a real struggle isn’t it, but not a new one. I have been in the same position with all my children (the oldest is 23) but we did what we needed to do to get by. I worked in a bank when I had Eliza but the realisation that I could not afford to put two in childcare made me leave and I set up as a childminder to be able to work from home. Now Sebby is almost at school I am venturing back into the workplace as I need some adult company again after 5 years. Good luck x

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  13. I worked full time after my 1st as I had family to look after her, unfortunately when my second was born that wasn’t an option. I worked evenings for a while, and then discovered I was expecting a surprise. When our 3rd was born I decided to stay home as we just couldn’t afford childcare. It’s so difficult now for women who want to work with childcare being so expensive.

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