How to choose great childcare

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Deciding on your childcare is a huge decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. Here, Bubble’s CCO Sarah Hesz sets out the important things to remember.

Childcare is not for life 

Life changes all the time, and this is never more true than when you have young kids. Not only will their needs shift frequently, but statistically you are in the phase of your life where you are most likely to move house and change jobs.

Lean into it and don’t try too hard to plan ahead (I know that’s stressful for some people – but it’s quite liberating for others like me!). Figure out what is going to work for now and what will make your family happiest.

Also, don’t get too freaked out by those parents who will tell you that they’ve signed up for nurseries and schools before they’ve even given birth – those waiting lists are in constant flux as well as the families who decide to sign up to them.

Childcare is expensive but the costs will fluctuate (and it’s not forever)

Childcare is a huge cost. It’s one of the most shocking things about becoming a parent and it’s a national embarrassment that this fact is preventing women from working and holding our economy back. Childcare in the UK has been amongst the most expensive in the world for a very long time.

Once you have got over the initial shock, it’s worth taking a bit of time to contextualise it. This isn’t a cost you will pay forever and it’s likely it will get cheaper as your child gets older. It might feel impossible to return to work, but, if it is an option, you might want to think of it as a longer-term investment.

Financial support that’s available depends on your circumstances, household income and where you live. The government childcare calculator is a good place to start.

  • Some 2 year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours a week
  • All 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours a week (term-time only)
  • Some 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to 30 hours a week (term-time only)
  • To claim free childcare it must be with an approved provider
  • Child tax credits 
  • Tax-free childcare (via your employer – up to £2000/year with approved providers)

 

There is no getting away from the fact that many women pay for the ‘luxury’ of returning to work – and even for those of us who love our jobs, that can feel very topsy turvy. 

Remember, whatever you decide it is not a reflection of your ability as a mother or a worker.

Everyone has a different approach – there is no right or wrong

Childcare is an emotive topic and one where everyone will have a point of view.

There are also loads of variables when it comes to childcare – where you live and work, what you can afford, whether you have family nearby etc… Therefore, whatever you choose to do, however hodge-podged it might be, or whatever your NCT friends think, do not beat yourself up. As long as you are managing and you have a happy child, nothing else is relevant.

Here are the main options available. Some will be available to you and some won’t. Some will sound scary and some might sound like they belong in the 1980s (childcare hasn’t moved on a great deal).

  • Full-time nurseries 
  • Nannies
  • Childminders
  • Nanny share 
  • Morning only nurseries, 
  • Family help
  • Live-in nannies
  • Breakfast & after-school clubs (for older kids)
  • Au pairs

 

Having had 3 kids I’ve tested out every single one of these options (not all at once – that would be too much even for me and I really love childcare) I can tell you each of them bought my kids immense joy and friendships for my family that last to this day.

Childcare requires compromise

No one will look after your child as well as the ideal version of yourself. This is a given. Therefore, know where you are happy to compromise. What are the important things to you? Are you able to sacrifice Ottolenghi cooking skills for someone who loves to sit on the floor and play for hours? Would you prefer a tidy house or that your kids have someone who speaks fluent French?

Looking for the perfect Mary Poppins nanny or a nursery run by Michelle Obama is only going to lead to disappointment. There are many wonderful options, but you’ll be able to find fault in all of them too. Your child needs to be safe, happy and healthy – to be honest they don’t really want Michelle Obama, and even Mary Poppins would be irritating after a while. 

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How you know if you’ve made the right decision: the childcare test

When you’ve made your decision it wouldn’t be human not to worry about whether you’ve made the wrong call. But every time you have those moments of self-doubt there is a very simple test which will tell you all you need to know.

When you pick up your child, or arrive home from work – are they happy? The house might be a tip, their clothes might be covered in paint, but if you tickle them, will they giggle? 

Sometimes they will cry when you drop them off and there will be times when you find the guilt hard to bear,  but if you have a happy child then you do not need to beat yourself up. That’s what it all boils down to.

Finally on this point, always remember: you are in control and you can change things. Feel free to change childminders if you’re fed up with them eating pasta and cheese 5 times a week, swap nursery for a nanny if you want them to spend more time in the park. But as long as they are happy then there is no need for panic.

Control, flexibility and peace of mind

When you are choosing childcare it’s easy to lose confidence. Childcare is one of the most important and difficult jobs in the world and it’s natural to feel nervous when making a choice. It’s expensive because it’s incredibly valuable. 

We set up Bubble so we could help parents feel in control and have a bit more flexibility in their lives. The app complements all other types of childcare or can be your stand-alone solution. The main benefit Bubble gives you above all the other options is complete flexibility – you set the terms and can change them too.

Bubble has been built by parents, for parents, so we’ve thought of all the hesitations and worries that you have and made the process of booking childcare as simple and easy as possible.

We want childcare to let parents be all that they need to be and whatever childcare decisions you make we want you to feel great about them.

 

Download Bubble for free on iOS or Android and find the childcare that fits your family’s needs.

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