Mar 21

The Perfect Family Setup

As most of you will know, when my wife went back to work after maternity leave, I went part time so that I could look after Olivia 3 days a week and work the other 2 while Olivia went to nursery. This decision was not taken lightly. We had to battle with the stigma of my wife going back full time, me being a stay at home dad, the drop in income and so many other things. For many reasons, we decided it was right to do it that way, mostly based on our jobs. We think we made the right choice because as you also know, I was made redundant 2 weeks ago. Thanks to being part time, the hit to our finances was less (albeit still painful) than it would have been had I been the main breadwinner.

We had always said we did not want our child/children in full time care, just so we could work. If you have to do that, then that’s what you have to do, I don’t judge, but if you are in the situation where you can still make ends meet, with one of you being at home, then personally I think that’s the way to go. I was brought up in a home where my mum was at home with my brother and I while my dad worked. When we went to school my mum worked from home, so that she was again always there when we left for school and when we got home. I think that did me the world of good. On the flip side, I know many people who went to pre/after school clubs and it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm either.

So here we are at a bit of a crossroads. We have another child on the way, Olivia is currently not enjoying nursery (or at least the drop off), she is catching bug after bug from nursery (despite common misconceptions, minus the big name bugs, it does not do their immune systems any good), and I am not working. For me this raises a few questions: should I stay home full time and look after both children and not do nursery at all? Would they be better off going to nursery for the social interaction, despite getting plenty with me and other toddlers? Would not going to nursery make pre-school harder? Would I be able to cope with 5 days of childcare, with 2 children? Can we cope with living on one salary?

Thinking further down the line, when one or both children are at school, do we want to have to pay someone to drop them off and pick them up, or for pre/after school care? How did we all get into situations where we had to pass our children to other people for so much of the day? What would I do during the day while they were at school? Would being out of work that long make it impossible to get something?

David Cameron talks about broken families, hard working families, broken Britain etc etc and I wonder how we can solve those issues and reach those ideals (I’m not a Tory by the way). The economy needs as many people to be working as possible, I get that, but is it better for families and society in general that more people are at home caring for their children (if they can afford to do so)?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but they are all relevant to us right now. I’m not criticising anyone for their choices either, what works for one does not work for another.

So, given the choice, what would you do? What’s your perfect family setup? How much money is enough?

Thanks for reading.

  • http://theonlyboyinthehouse.co.uk Richy

    We’re with you, in an ideal world one of us would stay at home and look after the girls. Gem already does this 3 days a week, with my parents taking them the other 2, something we’re very grateful for, and know we’re very lucky to have that as an option.

    We’re also lucky to have a significant enough disparity in our wages that even dropping down to 2 days a week was an option. If our total earnings had been spread evenly, rather than skewed towards me, it would have been a lot more difficult to lose 3 days a week. The flip-side of that, of course, is the Child Benefit cap that is based on a single income, although I’m (un)lucky enough to not be affected by that.

    The recently announced tax credits for childcare will help a lot of people, but not us. What I’d like to see is some form of transferable tax free allowance, which would benefit families who’ve made the decision for one parent to stay home with kids on a full- or part-time basis. I guess it would be difficult and costly to administer such a scheme, though, so I’m not holding my breath.

    • chuckalicious

      Thanks for the comment. We are both very lucky to be able to have the setups we have aren’t we? Even better that neither of yours go to nursery at all. Was that a financial decision or was it based on social aspects?

      • http://theonlyboyinthehouse.co.uk Richy

        Bit of both I think. Financially, it would barely be worth Gem working if it meant shelling out on a nursery, and that doesn’t make sense to either of us. So if my mum and dad weren’t able to help out we’d probably be making ends meet on just my salary.

        • chuckalicious

          Sounds about right. I think many people end up doing that, and I often wonder why.

  • http://whiskeyforaftershave.wordpress.com JallieDaddy

    I was in a similar situation to you. My wife managed to get a year’s maternity for our twins, & I was at home too as I’d been made redundant. Even with both of us it was tough going, so I’m glad we were able to give them the care they needed! After a year she went back to work & I was their main carer. She’s now working less & I’m working a bit more as they gear up for Nursery next month.

    So I think a stay-at-home parent, at least until school-age, is ideal. Obviously not everyone can do this, & we’ve been lucky that we we’ve been able to. We definitely we have a lot less money than we used to, or that we could if we focussed more on work. But that’s because our children’s welfare is more important to us than the stuff extra money could buy. I think it does sometimes come down to that choice: but where do you draw the line? How much is ‘enough’? I think that’s a question only each individual family can answer.

    Great post

    • chuckalicious

      Thank you. A great comment too.

      It’s good to know others have been in a similar situation. When you say nursery age, do you mean the pre-school nursery or a normal nursery?

      • http://whiskeyforaftershave.wordpress.com JallieDaddy

        They’ve just turned 3 so it’s now free; it’s a Nursery that’s part of a local Primary School. Is that what you mean?

        • chuckalicious

          That’s the one :-) some people call the free one pre-school and others call it nursery. Olivia goes to nursery and has done since she was 1, for 2 days a week. It’s that bit we are now questioning.

          • http://whiskeyforaftershave.wordpress.com JallieDaddy

            We’ve managed to avoid that, we’ve always thought it was really important that they spend as much time with us as possible early on. Up until 2 they were with at least 1 of us all the time. I realise not everyone can do that, so I guess we’ve been lucky. They’ve been with a childminder-led playgroup a few hours a week this last year as we wanted to prepare them for being away from us at ‘pre-school’. It;s been great, they enjoy it & have made some good friends, although they often complain going there!

          • chuckalicious

            We weren’t really in the position to do full time home care but we are now, more or less. However we do feel that Olivia gains a lot of social skills at nursery which are much harder for us to provide at home, so we think she benefits from the 2 days a week. On the flip side she catches a new bug every second week more or less!!

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