I’m sure you’ve heard the news today about the changes to childcare regulations, in short, childcare providers will now be able to have one adult to four one year olds or six two year olds. The idea is this will lower childcare fees so more women can work and pay the bills. The somewhat less publicised news is that tomorrow is my last day in paid employment. I can not currently afford to work. And I still think these changes are an appalling idea.
Here’s the story of Kate, the story behind the news story. Tomorrow is my last day at work. I am 33, degree educated and work in management in local government. I, along with every other part time worker in my office, am being made redundant. (Quickly checks liable laws, nope, that one’s a fact.) I have looked for other jobs, I honestly have, but the only part time work I can find simply does not pay enough to cover my childcare, petrol, and the occasional pair of trousers smart enough to wear in an office. I do not want to work full time, that’s my decision as a parent but its very important to both me and my husband.
Having done the maths we have worked out that basically we will be better off if I get a Saturday job in a supermarket. I’m not super keen on this idea, not just due to my pride but as my husband works for a church he quite often has to work on Sundays which means we would have no time together as a family. That’s not healthy either so chances are I will stay at home. This isn’t financially great for us. The husband runs a homeless centre, that hardly means we’re living the city-boy lifestyle.
And yet as the mother of a two year old I still totally disagree with the 1:6 ratio. Totally. For a start, I don’t believe for a second that it will reduce childcare costs. Remember when they lowered VAT and suddenly everything was meant to get cheaper? Do you remember anything actually getting cheaper? No, me neither. Secondly, here’s a quick run down of what my toddler did yesterday:
Walked around town very nicely holding my hand
Put the shopping on the converter-belt so nicely it was commented upon by strangers
Let go of my hand for two seconds, ran off, got knocked into a post by an automatic door and got his leg trapped under it (that was fun)
Did some colouring in
Sat on my lap and sucked his thumb
Held a toy truck above a seven month old’s head with intent
Pushed me repeatedly into the kitchen so he could hunt down the back of the sofa where I’d hidden his Batman DVD’s
At no point did I think, “damn, if only I had five of his friends round today, things would be so much easier!” My son loves his childminder, I love his childminder. But no one can deal with six two year olds all day every day. Day in, day out. Six two year olds do not fit in a buggy. Six two year olds can not all hold your hand when you cross the road. Six two year olds certainly can’t all fit in a car for a trip out of the house (unless nurseries and childminders now drive stretch limos)
Liz Truss has two children. I’d love to know what ratio she’d be happy with if they were being looked after. I expect that hers would still be in a 1:3 while the poor, the stretched middle, you know, the rest of us, are expected to be happy that their child is in 1:6 childcare
I would like to work, but if this is the option that the government is leaving open to parents like me then I guess I’m going to have to learn to make ends meet as a stay at home parent. Ultimately, my son will always be of number one importance to me, and that’s a statistic that I don’t intend on changing.