Before you have kids there are certain things you could never, ever, see yourself doing. Staying sober for the best part of a year and a half? That's one. Reading endless comment sections on Netmums? That's another. But how about changing your employment status on Facebook to 'stay at home mum'? Nope. No way, never going to happen.
For many mothers, this is the reality. And it's not necessarily out of choice. The cost of childcare rose by 4.3% last year, despite annual wages only increasing by around 2%
. Since 2003, costs have jumped by 78%. This means that for those who aren't in highly paid jobs, or don't have a partner or grandparents who can help look after the kids, re-entering the work place can be very hard.
Jocelyn Lloyd is 33, and has two children Otis, three, and Bella, 18 months. She worked for five years as a designer at a fashion magazine before having kids. "Since my children were born, it became apparent that it’s not worth it financially to return to a full time job," she says. "This isn’t saying that I wouldn’t want to – I really enjoy work, I’ve always had a strong work ethic and I want my children to see that – but the childcare costs are crazy."
For many, like Jocelyn, it doesn't always pay to be in work. Gemma Payne, 31, who has a two-year-old called Isabel and a six-month-old called Bobby, agrees. She worked full-time as a beauty buyer for a top department store. She went back to work after a year on maternity leave and put her daughter in a nursery nearby to her office in London. The commute to work was around an hour each way and she found it difficult travelling on busy trains with a young child. "I had to commute with her as nurseries shut at about 6.30pm so I wouldn't have made it back in time to collect her, especially if the trains were bad," she explains. "Late fees are around £20, even if you're ten minutes over, so I was worried about that."
As is common for many women returning to work, Gemma ended up leaving her job after a couple of months. "It just wasn't worth it for me. It was too expensive. I wouldn't have been able to afford to have more than one child in nursery. Four days a week was around £1200 per month approximately, and I was earning £1600 per month after tax." Parents also have to treat childcare fees like rent. You pay for holidays and when your child is off sick – even though that means one parent can't go to work either.
Jocelyn, who now does freelance design projects and set up her own business 'The Family Outing’, to encourage travel and adventure with kids based on honest recommendations from parents, agrees, adding: "We send our son to nursery twice a week, and we have a childminder for both of them for two days a week. It has taken a while to get this balance right, and it is financially draining. Bella is desperate to go to nursery – each time we drop Otis off she sneaks off to the play corners and sandpits, but it’s just not financially possible. Once childcare is paid, my freelance day rate leaves me with not much profit."