Feeling the work-parent squeeze?
The juggle is real.
It’s a familiar scene: Monday morning, your coffee’s already cold, your child is demanding breakfast, and you were supposed to leave for work 10 minutes ago.
We’ve all been there, caught in the glorious circus act of juggling motherhood and a career.
But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s less of a juggle and more of a struggle.
Finding the right childcare that fits your needs, your budget, and works for your child can feel like a quest for the Holy Grail.
Let us take a load off your mind, mama, with a breakdown of all the different childcare options for working parents to help you find your work-life balance you deserve.
In this article: 📝
- How do working parents juggle work and childcare?
- What help do working parents get with childcare?
- What childcare options are available?
- Childcare tips for working parents
How do working parents juggle work and childcare?
It’s no surprise that raising your child while maintaining your career can be a challenge, to say the least.
So how do you keep the balance without sacrificing one or the other?
Taking all the help you can get!
But where do you start?
For many mums, childcare can help lighten the load.
But there are some things to think about when it comes to finding help that fits your family:
- Childcare cost: Childcare can take a hefty chunk out of your pay check, but there is help available. Explore options like nurseries, childminders, and after-school clubs — budget-friendly doesn’t mean compromising quality. The Childcare Choices site also has your back, breaking down all the government support available to you.
- Flexibility: Finding childcare that fits with your work schedule can feel impossible, but you have options! Look for flexible options that suit your routine, like part-time care, before-and-after-school programs, or shared duties with your partner, family, or friends. Every little helps!
- Availability: Finding childcare spots can feel like a race against time. Start your search early, be open to different options, and don’t be afraid to put your name on waiting lists.
Remember, you’re not alone in this, mama.
Lean on your partner, family, friends, and the other working mums of Peanut for their advice about childcare — and don’t forget that Childcare Choices can help you find the right support to make it more affordable.
What help do working parents get with childcare?
Good news, eligible working parents in the UK do get support from the government with childcare costs.
There are a few different ways you can get government support, depending on your needs — which you can read all about on the Childcare Choices website:
- 15 & 30 Hours childcare: Up to 30 hours for 3-4 year olds for eligible working parents. The support is expanding, too — from April 2024, up to 15 hours for eligible parents with children aged 2 years old, and lots more to come over the next couple of years!
- Tax-Free Childcare: Even if you’re self-employed! Tax-Free Childcare is available for kids aged 11 and under (or up to 16 for disabled children). Simply deposit your childcare costs into your Tax-Free Childcare online account, and for every £8 you add, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per child per year or £4,000 for children with a disability. The best bit? You can use Tax-Free Childcare alongside 15 & 30 hours childcare!
- Universal Credit Childcare: Another childcare offer that’s just for working parents who are claiming Universal Credit — for kids under 17 years old, as long as you’re not claiming Tax-Free Childcare. With Universal Credit Childcare you could claim back up to 85% of your registered childcare costs and you can combine this with 15 & 30 hours childcare too!
What we love about these offers is that they’re super flexible — you can use them for registered nurseries, childminders, after-school clubs, even nannies — whatever works for you and your child!
To check your eligibility, visit the Childcare Choices website and try their handy eligibility checker.
What childcare options are available?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to childcare.
Here’s a breakdown of the types of childcare available, and how they could fit into your schedule as a working mum:
Ideal for kids from 3 months to 5 years, nurseries are more like early-years education, with structured learning activities to help with your toddler’s development.
You can also work with peace of mind, knowing your child is getting care from qualified staff.
Childminders are registered individuals who care for small groups of children (usually up to 6) in their own homes.
They’re great if you’re after more flexible childcare to fit around your working hours, or if your child is happier in a home-like environment.
They can be more affordable than nurseries, but qualifications and experience can vary, so it’s worth checking up on their credentials and reviews from other parents before you commit.
Wraparound is regular term time before and after school childcare for primary school children. It usually has longer hours than after-school clubs and can be a really dependable option for working parents.
In a nutshell, it’s childcare that ‘wraps around’ the conventional school day.
Wraparound can be delivered on or off school site by the school itself, in partnership with other schools, or in partnership with private, voluntary, and independent childcare providers - including childminders and day nurseries!
Perfect if your kid is already at school or if they’re a bit older — with lots of options, like breakfast clubs, homework clubs, or after-school activities for hobbies.
Handy if you work part-time or flexi-time.
If you’d rather have more personal childcare while you’re working, a nanny is one-on-one care in the comfort of your own home.
Nannies are usually pretty flexible and can work around your schedules for the best fit, but they’re the most expensive childcare option for working parents.
Friends and family
There’s no denying how much it can help having a support network of friends and family when you’re raising your children.
And they can be an option when it comes to childcare for working parents, too.
But there are some other things to consider, too.
Can they commit to regular hours that match your work needs?
You don’t want to add to your stresses right now, let’s be honest!
And while it can really help when your kid is familiar with their childcare provider, they thrive on routines and activities, which a qualified childcare option can provide.
But there are some other great ways to rely on your village when it comes to childcare:
- Swap childcare duties with other parents — playdates, anyone?
- Need a one-off emergency? Ask close friends to be on your “backup buddy” list for unexpected situations.
Childcare tips for working parents
After more guidance on how to make the most of government support available to you as a working mum?
Here are our quick-fire tips:
- Use the Childcare Choices eligibility checker for a quick and easy way to see what support you might be eligible for — it can change depending on your income, your child’s age, and whether you’re studying as well as working.
- Be aware of the changes coming to government childcare from April 2024, like the new eligibility for 15 hours of childcare to families with 2-year-olds. (And there’s more to come in the next couple of years, too!)
- There are lots of childcare options available, like nurseries, childminders, and after-school clubs — so you can find the childcare that best suits your family’s needs.
- Remember the other costs of childcare. Your 15 & 30 hours childcare doesn’t cover all the costs of childcare, so don’t forget to budget for meals, additional hours, or extra activities.
- If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you can claim back up to 85% of your registered childcare costs. This can be up to the maximum amount of £951 per month for 1 child or up to £1,630 per month for 2 or more children, so it’s worth checking if you are eligible.
- You can use Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as the 15 or 30 hours childcare offer. This means you can get even more help with childcare costs if you are eligible.
- Schedule everything: Colour-code work, family, childcare, me time (even if it’s just 10 minutes with your fave book or a 5-minute mini meditation). Plan meals, activities, and chores in advance. And if you need some time to figure the schedule out, tap into government help with the cost of childcare, to free up some spare hours. After all, a prepared mama is a less-stressed mama.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate: It’s okay to ask family and friends for help. Make household chores a family activity, have a friend cook you a few meals, and ask your workplace how they can help. Chances are, everyone wants to help, they just don’t know how.
- Acknowledge the mum guilt: Every mum has felt this at some point — like you’re not doing enough for your child. First, we’re here to tell you that of course you’re doing enough. And feeling this way is totally normal. So when those thoughts creep in, remember that you are doing enough.
- Reframe and rename: Ditch the “either/or” trap as a working mum. You’re not sacrificing one for the other; you’re building a fulfilling life for your family and yourself. If you catch yourself speaking in ways that put down what you do for yourself and your family, reframe it to something more positive.
- Celebrate “good enough”: Aim for progress, not perfection. Hey, no-one’s perfect!
Talk about it: Whether that’s through therapy or talking to other mums in the same boat, talking about it all — the struggles, the stresses, and the successes — can help remind you that you’re not alone in this.
- Make a note of what’s important to your family when finding the best childcare options for you, like their location, hours, qualifications, experience, ratio of children to staff, curriculum, extra activities, and how well they communicate with you.
- Visit and research a few childcare providers before making a decision. Ask your friends, family, neighbours, and your local Peanut mums for recommendations!
- Ask for flexible work arrangements: In the UK, all employees (who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks) have the right to ask for flexible working, including parents! Book in a chat with your boss and come prepared with potential solutions, to help you balance work and school.
- Government support can be used outside of term time. Tax-Free Childcare can be used for holiday clubs, nannies, and childminders. It’s also possible to use your 15 & 30 hours childcare outside of term time. Some providers will allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week. So have a chat with them!
- Ask your child’s school about wraparound and holiday childcare. Did you know that working parents in England have the right to request a wraparound or holiday childcare place for their child up to the age of 14? (And, you can use Tax-Free Childcare or Universal Credit Childcare towards both!).
You can find the support you need on the Childcare Choices website, so you can understand the different offers to help working parents with childcare costs.
The balance might get off-kilter at times, but remember: there’s no such thing as the perfect working mum.
You’re doing the best you can, and that’s amazing.
And if you want to talk to other working mums who know what you’re going through, our Peanut Community is always here for a chat.