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 Joanna Bagniewska, who lives in Oxford with her husband and two children.
one girl aged five, one baby of five months
Married couple, both working full time
Five-year-old was in full-time paid nursery, and has now started school. She will begin going to after-school club until 6pm. Baby will go to paid nursery in October.
Until recently our older daughter was in paid childcare five days a week, 9am to 6pm. Both my husband and I work full time, and my parents are based in Poland and my husband’s family is in Australia so they can’t help day to day. We are based in Oxford.
I’m a zoologist and science communicator, splitting my two jobs between Oxford University and Brunel University in London. That has caused some issues with childcare because while university-linked nurseries are cheaper, I would have had to bring the child to one university nursery for two days, and another university nursery for three days, which made no sense.
My husband and I arranged pick-ups and drop-offs, half and half, but on the days when I commuted further away from home, my husband would be on duty when it came to any emergencies. If our daughter had a temperature, he’d go and collect her, because he’s a software engineer and works from home. He was a little more flexible than I was, in that respect.
Just over half of my salary was spent on childcare– £1,200 a month – and then when our daughter turned three, there was a bit of Government support [All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 free hours per year], although not as much of a discount as I was hoping. The fees dropped to around £850.
I’m now on my second maternity leave, and the older one has started school, so it’s a sweet spot in which we’re not paying anything. We’re beefing up our savings for the new baby to go to nursery in October. We’re pretty lucky- and we also tried to plan it this way – that our daughters are four-and-a-half years apart, which means right now the older one is in school, so when the younger one goes to nursery at the end of my maternity leave, I won’t have to pay double nursery fees. When I go back to work, we’ll put the older one in an after-school club, which lasts until 6pm but costs £10 each time.
I have colleagues with children one or two years apart and they pay ridiculous fees. I knew that it was going to be a tough ride, because we don’t have family here. I expected to pay a lot for childcare but probably not as much as we have done. When I got pregnant with our first child, I was still working at one university and I was counting on having a discount for a university-linked nursery but because of Brexit-related circumstances, I had to split my assets and have two different jobs.
In terms of other crucial times when you need support, luckily my dad was able to come over from Poland and help us when I was giving birth to my second child, otherwise, the situation would have been pretty dire.
Our friends have babysat from time to time, but they either have unpredictable work schedules, or clinically vulnerable family members, or live outside of Oxford, or have three kids already and we’d feel bad giving them a fourth one to look after, even for a couple of days. Obviously, you can’t predict entirely when a baby will arrive, but my dad did manage to be there at the right time and to look after the older one because, especially with Covid, any sign of the virus meant kids were staying off nursery a lot.
Whether it’s our baby at nursery from October, or our daughter at school, when it comes to them being ill2, the only option will be for my husband to sacrifice whatever he’s doing. If anything happens, my husband will have to drop whatever he’s doing and pick up the children.