I didn’t actually intend this to become a rant. I was going to talk about some of the aspects that played a part in my decision to continue working after having bubs. But the more I thought about what to say the more I began get worked up about a bugbear of mine and I thought I’d put it out there.
Actually, it’s more than just a bugbear as far as I’m concerned. It’s a complete outrage. For the sake of reference I should say that I was extemely lucky to receive a good education and a combination of hard work and good fortune means I had a decent career lined up by the time I got pregnant at 30. I am aware that not everyone is in my position. However my outrage is on behalf of everyone.
My issue is this. We live in a country where women are still paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same work. While deeply disappointing, this isn’t surprising since there is no country in the world where that isn’t the case.
However, that problem is compounded exponentially when looking for childcare. When I was considering our options for childcare I was genuinely and deeply shocked at how much it costs. I remember looking at the rates for a particular nursery in my area and seeing that it cost £70. Now perhaps I was terribly naive but genuinely my first thought was, “£70 a week? Ok, that’s not too bad.” Of course it wasn’t £70 for the week, was it? No, it was £70 a day. And not even a full day at that. 9am – 5.30pm. I honestly nearly died of shock. What the actual f*ck?!? Firstly, I work 9am – 6pm and quite far from home at that. I leave my house at 7am. I’m sure that’s not that unusual. What the hell am I supposed to do with bubba at that point? And who is going to pick her up?? 9am-5.30pm opening times is as much use to me as a bloody chocolate teapot. Oh I’m sure there are additional options available for me to consider to accommodate those extra hours but they’re going to cost me a lot more on top of the (frankly stunning) amount of £70 a day I’m already paying, aren’t they? I’m probably at looking nearer to £100 a day by then.
Now, yes. This was the first place I looked at and yes, with further research there were nurseries that opened longer (7am-7pm being the best) and others that were cheaper. You do need to look around. While I still don’t actually get home until 7.30pm at the earliest, M would be able to collect her on time. So there was a viable solution. But – and I can’t stress this enough – these options were ONLY available to us because we both happen to have quite good jobs and could afford to consider them.
Take a fairly typical scenario: woman gets pregnant. She has always worked but she earns less than her male partner. She then has her baby. He is only allowed 2 weeks off paid and she has to take a minimum of two months. They have the option to split the parental leave between them but can’t afford to – if he stops work to look after the baby, he will only be paid the statutory amount of £140 a week and she doesn’t earn enough to support both of them (or, rather, all three of them by now). So she then takes the full 9 months or year off work to look after their baby. She may or may not want to do this but financially there is no alternative.
Then she looks at returning to work. But turns out that with childcare being so astronomically expensive, most, all or even more, of her earnings would be spent on childcare. She would literally be leaving her kid with a stranger to go and work for nothing. Now, if she wants to start or continue a career that is going to pay off years down the line, then actually this would be the sensible thing to do. But bloody hell that’s a hard choice to make! Who can blame her when she decides not to go and graft all day to simply hand it over to a childminder who has had the benefit of seeing her kid grow up instead of her. Instead she decides to stay home with her child until such time as they start school. Then she may consider starting over and trying to return to the workplace.
Of course by this time she is now miles behind her male counterpart who has not taken time off to look after his kid and, in fact, was likely to be paid more than her in the first place for doing the same thing, even if she hadn’t taken a break.
And then we wonder why the top of the career ladder is so heavily male dominated!! The system is inherently designed to f*ck over women. It makes me absolutely raging. Most people (sweeping generalisation here, I know) will probably want kids. Not just women. Men too. But biology dictates that only women can perform the vital function of keeping the human race going. It’s not our choice. Believe me, ask any 9 month pregnant woman whether she would like to share that burden with her partner – chances are she’ll say yes! But despite men also wanting to have kids, you don’t hear them worrying about the affect it will have on their career. It’s not something they have to worry about. For women, it is a fight from the moment they get pregnant to stop it de-railing everything they may have worked for.
I decided not to let it de-rail me. I fought. That was my personal choice and I know it’s not right for everyone. But to make sure that the decision my partner and I made to have children doesn’t undermine the career I have spent years working to build, I have had a massive uphill challenge and had to make sacrifices. And I have needed and been given the complete support and help from not only my partner but also additional family members. For the record, we did book a nursery slot but my mum then offered to look after her instead. I am extremely grateful.
If I was in a different position or if any one of the puzzle pieces wasn’t in place, I wouldn’t be able to afford to go back. The system f*cks women. And I hate that my daughter is going to grow up in a world where her choices might be limited purely because biology dictates that she must carry any future child she may have. It makes me very very cross. Not to get too political but the government need to look at sorting the situation out. I don’t know what the solution is (I haven’t had time to think about it – give me 5 minutes though and I’m sure I’d come up with something!) but I hope to god that someone is thinking about it. It’s completely bloody wrong.
Rant over. For now.