Childcare is expensive. No, like, really expensive.
In the UK, the average cost of sending a kid to nursery part-time is £127 per week. Sending them full-time is £242, which, maths fans will have worked out, is nearly £1,000 a month. If you're in London, that figure will probably be much higher. Could you afford to take £1,000 out of you and your partners' salaries right now? Or worse, as is the case for single mums, out of just your own?
A recent report by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed found that 17% of parents have been forced to quit their jobs over the cost of childcare and 62% say they work fewer hours. At a time when most people are trying to build their career, these obstacles are huge.
"We need provision [for childcare] from nine months because for many, that's when maternity leave finishes," Aceil Haddad of Pregnant Then Screwed tells us. "We need a proper costed plan to have it subsidised or free to make sure that women do get back into work."
The government, she says, has put some money into it but not thought about the effect of how they chose to spend that money. "At [age] 2, some people get 15 free hours childcare and at 3, some people get 30 but we also get a year's maternity leave so what happens in their middle period?" Aceil says that period of time, when there's no government help, is the clincher when it comes to widening the gender pay gap. "How can you get women back into work when childcare equates to a mortgage cost?" she asks, incredulous.
This isn't an issue that's just affecting women; it will have an impact on all of society. "It's heartbreaking when you see teachers or nurses or doctors falling out because we have a shortage, and with Brexit it's going to get worse," Aceil worries. "We need as many hands on deck and an infrastructure that supports that – otherwise we're heading for a crash."
For many women, heading back to work is also beneficial to their mental health, which has a knock-on effect – not only on mental health services but also, as Aceil explains, "the impact it has on the child if her parents are unhappy, the strain on relationships."
Those familiar with Caroline Criado Perez's book Invisible Women will already be aware of further implications of women not being present in the workplace. "I met this councillor," says Aceil. "She told me she was sitting in a planning meeting with all these men scratching their heads about why the local council car park wasn't used and she said, 'Have you ever tried to take a buggy out of the boot in that car park? It's impossible because there's not enough space' – and then she realised how important her voice was to share a woman's experience of something that sounds banal but is pivotal and means so much."
We asked the mums in the Money Diary Facebook group how childcare prices have affected them; their ability to work, live their lives and plan their futures. Sadly, the results were not encouraging.