When returning to work after having had a baby finding the right childcare is crucial. The child's happiness, safety and welfare depend on it, as does the happiness, stress levels and career fulfillment of the parents.
How MWF Can Help?
As a member of MWF you will be able to ask for help and advice on childcare from other women doctors many of whom will have experienced similar challenges to you. Why not join our mentoring scheme? (see link). Please contact Central Office (see contact us) for details.
- You need to be PROACTIVE (plan well ahead)
- Contact the local trust Childcare coordinator
- Health Visitors can also be a useful source of local information regarding childcare
- Network locally to find help
- If advertising locally it is vital to take up references and check qualifications etc.
- Ask employer about Working Tax Credit
- You may have to pay out a large part of your income on childcare in the early years (particularly if you have more than one child) but this can be a long term investment in your career
- If possible work as a team with your partner & other family members
- If possible try to live near to family members e.g. grandparents, particularly if they are keen, willing and able to help out. Mothers and Mothers in law can really save the day!
Remember, you will need BACK UP
Sources of Information
- Childcare Coordinator (all local healthcare trusts should have one of these). They can be contacted through switchboard to obtain local childcare information
- "So you want to be a medical mum?" by Dr. Emma Hill Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-923758-6. This book has an excellent chapter on Childcare.
- BMA website, search for Childcare which will take you to A-Z of childcare support. The sections on – General Information / Access to childcare / Case studies are particularly helpful
- Five things to ask every babysitter article. Click here to read a copy.
At present several weeks of parental leave (unpaid) is available to parents within the NHS.
This can provide a significant help to doctors with children who may struggle with childcare. It can help you spend more time with your child and strike a better balance between your work and family commitments.
What is it?
Parental leave is designed to give parents more time with their young children. It entitles you to take 13 weeks leave per parent per child, usually unpaid up to a certain age (this age seems to vary between Trusts i.e. sometimes up to 5 years and sometimes up to as much as 14 years)
Parents of disabled children are entitled to 18 weeks' leave, to be taken before the child is 18. For parental leave, a 'disabled child' is a child on Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
It is also available for adoptive parents, in which case you can take it either within five years of the placement for adoption or before the child's 18th birthday, whichever is earlier.
For further information on your employers Parental Leave arrangements please contact you local Human Resources Dept (HR) or Childcare Coordinator
Choosing an Au Pair, By Mrs Sam Mann, Consultant Ophthalmologist
I am currently a consultant ophthalmologist at a London teaching hospital with two small children aged 6 and 3. I had my first child when I was a second year registrar and needed a solution to childcare that did not cost the earth and allowed me the flexibility of working sometimes rather unpredictable and long hours. I had grown up with au pairs and so had some idea of what they were like, but my husband was rather reticent about having someone living at home with us.
A friend of a friend initially found our first au pair as she was Polish and knew of a girl who wanted to come to the UK. She didn't speak much English at first but was very quick to learn. I was able to teach her the routine I wanted with my son who was about 8 months at the time. As an au pair she couldn't look after a child full time and so we opted to send our son to nursery during the day and she dropped him off
and picked him up in the afternoons after her English classes. She fitted in really easily within our family and helped with dropping and picking, meal-times, bath time, bedtime and babysitting and light housework. She also looked after my son in case of illness.
Although she stayed with us, we hardly ever knew she was there, after the children were in bed she used to study or watch TV in her room or go out with her friends. Since our initial au pair we've had 4 other girls and we've had a good experience with all of them (They unfortunately only usually stay a year- although 2 stayed a year and a half). We still keep in touch with a couple and the children get an awful lot out of playing with them and teaching them English! Some pointers which you may find useful when employing an au pair:
- As they are from abroad they tend to quite bright and hard-working
- There are a number of agencies with whom you can discuss your needs. Simply Au-pairs is a good one. Alternatively, I have used the "Gumtree" although it is important to check references and interview them personally if you use this source.
- Since they live with you, they are incredibly economical (usually £75-90 per week). You obviously have to pay their board and lodgings (I also subsidise their flights home and English classes). They tend to cook for themselves but they rarely eat big meals.
- They are happy to do about 20-30 hours a week (35 hrs -au pair plus) as they go to English classes a few times a week during the day. It is therefore not a substitute for a nanny, but I used a full time nursery when my children were young and then when they start school, an au pair is ideal.
- You get to know them quite well as they become part of the family. Having said this, they are often happy to keep themselves to themselves in the evenings and respect your privacy. You don't have to eat with them in the evenings although they sometimes eat with us at weekends with the children.
- All our au pairs have been invaluable in terms of helping out in the evenings and mornings- getting the children dressed and fed and bathed. They also make great babysitters as this is included in the weekly charge. The children already know them really well. Most au pairs will do light household chores and so you don't have to come home to a pile of washing up or ironing.
- My children love playing games with the au pair and get a lot out of having someone to interact with other than their parents. Additionally we have had no problems with the changeover each year- as children are so adaptable.
- It is important when choosing an au pair to see them interacting with your children before hand. That way you can assess their level of English and see how good they are with children. We have often had the au pair meet us and spend a few hours or days with us to get to know them before employing them. We have also had a week overlapping with the previous one to handover properly.
- The one downside is that you need an extra room for them. This does not need to be big.
- Although some may feel it is an invasion of your privacy having someone stay with you, they quickly become an invaluable part of the family and can help out in many situations- making life easy and stress free and enable you to get a good work-life balance.
Choosing an au pair as a childcare option is certainly not for everyone, but it can actually be a solution that is incredibly economical and a really good experience for both you and for your children. It gives you the freedom to go back to work without the hassle of needing to rush back every night to relieve the nanny or pick up the children from school. It has certainly been the optimal type of childcare for me and my family.