In our How I Manage My Childcare series we aim to find out how people across the UK handle the logistics and cost of having children.
This week we speak to Bethan Sayed, 40, a politician for Plaid Cymru from 2007 to 2021, living in Wales with her husband and toddler.
A two-and-a-half year old
Bethan was a full-time politician, but after standing down from politics, she now works three days a week in campaigns for Climate Cymru. Her husband is a full-time businessman
Child with a childminder three days a week, looked after by Bethan the other two days
I was pregnant during the first year of Covid, and it was a very difficult time. I ended up making the decision not to stand again as a member of the Senedd because I thought that it would be too difficult to juggle work and my child, especially given there’s no creche in our parliament, or opportunity for a job-share. Politics isn’t very family friendly. Childcare is only open up until six o’clock, and nothing in politics finishes at six o’clock.
My parents are 70 and they help as much as they can, but it’s not something they can do all the time. My husband’s family are all in India. So I took the decision that as my husband runs businesses – and he wasn’t wanting to stop working – that I would be the one to cut back and be with the baby, knowing that I could potentially return to politics as it was something I’d been involved in since I was 25.
Politics is something I am passionate about, and something that had been my livelihood. Lots of other women across the world are having to make similar decisions in very different professions across the world.
I was earning over £60,000 pounds a year, so I was in a position where I was earning quite a lot and when you see that totally go, even if your husband is earning a certain amount, you can feel a sense of inadequacy because you’re not earning anything in your own right. I’ve always worked. I’ve been taking on other campaign work, and starting to get a career again, which has made me feel good about myself again, as like many mothers, I struggled a lot during Covid.
I am in a privileged position that my husband can support me, but that wasn’t the same as me doing something myself like I’ve always done. I am a feminist and I don’t I don’t want to rely on someone else.
Now, while I work, my son goes to the childminder three days a week, 9 to 5, which costs £6 an hour, at £48 a day. That’s quite a lot cheaper than a nursery in Wales would be. The childminder takes the children to museums, takes them to activities, and so it is a lot more workable for me than a nursery all round. My son was in nursery for a while, and I swapped to the childminder, but I still find childminders have a massive stigma.
When I talk to other mothers on forums, they still have a snobbish attitude towards childminders, thinking that their child won’t get the same education and the same type of support, that a nursery will do better educational stuff. But to my knowledge, that’s not the case at all, and the childminder does all the same things. Ours has the same toys, he has the same setup and she also takes them to Rhyme Time. We need to turn that misconception around in our society, because it’s not a bad thing to have different forms of childcare. It’s what works for you as a family.
When I was still elected, I did lot of work on maternity rights and job share, because I want to be able to see politicians standing and being able to have a life beyond politics. We need more childcare and wraparound care, for not only the politicians, but for all staff working there. Also, we need to get much more support for families in general to be able to get their kids into childcare so they can get back into the workforce, so they’re not having these discussions about whether it makes sense for them to go back to work because they’re not going to be able to make the money back on childcare costs.
Sadly, the progress that is made depends on who is in power, and we need to see more politicians raising it time and time again. Yet, it is still most campaigners and individuals and organisations such as Pregnant Then Screwed and the Women’s Equality Network who are working on maternity rights and childcare.
As mothers we are trying to balance everything on top of campaigning for our rights. I had to also campaign for maternity cover for when I went off because actually, there was nothing for me in politics. I campaigned for a substitute, and I managed to get one although they couldn’t vote or anything on my behalf. That might have been a one-off though, it doesn’t mean if someone else in the Senedd gets pregnant, they’ll have anyone to cover them. What I’ve found is that things are only ever potentially put in place when you make a loud enough fuss about it, which we shouldn’t have to do as women all the time.