Should mums with young children go back to work?

21 May 2012

Is their time better spent at home with the kids or at the office? We asked two mums - one stay-at-home and one working - for their thoughts.


I'm 29, and live in Ilchester, Somerset, with my husband Gareth, also 29, who is a pilot in the Royal Navy. I am a stay-at-home mum to Imogen, 3, Harrison, 2, and Edward, five months.

I consider looking after the kids a full-time job in itself. I gave up my career as an air traffic controller in the RAF in 2008, when I had my first child.

I wanted to be home to raise my family; I might have considered returning to work part-time if I'd had a different job, but in my old career I could have been deployed abroad and there was no way I would have wanted to leave my children.

Having three young children now, it also means that as a family we are financially better off with me not working and not having to pay for childcare. The cheapest childcare is about £35 a day in our area, meaning it would cost me roughly £440 a week to go to work full-time - or £1,760 for a four-week month.

I would struggle to find a job where I could earn more take-home pay than that, to make it worthwhile. I think the cost of childcare is too high; most of my friends who do return to work with children have to rely on help from grandparents to make it financially viable, but we wouldn't be able to as our parents live too far away.

Not working and looking after the children is great - I get to see them grow up. However, there are definitely days when it would be nice to go to work, for a break from the children and a bit more adult conversation. I do see other adults at playgroups but rarely get to have a conversation without needing to change a nappy.

We are fortunate that my husband's salary is enough for us to live on and for me to stay at home, but we have to stick to a strict budget to get by each month. We no longer qualify for child tax credit since the reduction in qualifying salary last year, so the only support we claim is child benefit, although that will no longer be available to us from next year.

One of the downsides of not working is worrying about what I will do when I have to go back; I don't want to return to what I was doing, but feel I should.

Otherwise, I'd be starting out all over again. I'd love to train to be a teacher, but a PGCE qualification would involve a year at university not earning and paying for childcare, and I don't know how we could afford that.

My oldest child qualifies for 15 funded hours of preschool, and I would like to return to work once my youngest has started pre-school. But again the cost of childcare is a constraint.

I don't want to end up paying to have my children in after-school clubs, particularly as I don't believe that is the best place for them after a busy and tiring day at school. Then there would be the cost of childcare in the school holidays too.


I'm 38 and live in Alderley Edge with my husband Maher, 34, and our two sons, Adam, 5, and Zach, 3. I'm a midwife, now working full-time in a quality assurance role in the NHS, and Maher is a GP.

For me, my job is more than work. Yes, it's really hard to juggle the work-life balance but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm emotionally and psychologically better off being a working mum.

I was brought up by two very hardworking parents and I think that work ethic rubbed off on me. I get an enormous sense of satisfaction from doing a job and doing it well. I like independence too.

I found a job that I adored, and then had my children and thought that being at home with them would be fantastic, because being a mum is more than a full-time job - but I discovered a huge void in my life that was only filled by my work, which I love.

Without my children I wouldn't be complete, but I'm not complete without my work either. However, I think that unless you really enjoy your job, you can't find that balance. You have to love what you do away from home to make the sacrifice worthwhile.

I went back to work because I wanted to. When I returned after having had both my children, my childcare cost £200 a month more than my salary. Luckily, I got a new job in May 2009, which was better paid and more flexible, so at that point I was better off working.

Financial sacrifice is eased somewhat when your children turn three. All three and four-yearold children qualify for 15 hours' childcare a week, funded by the government. It doesn't matter how much you earn.

Both our children were in nursery full-time, which is 10 sessions a week (morning and afternoon sessions) so the grant covered three sessions a week. Childcare costs depend on where you live: Alderley Edge is very expensive at £52 per day each. Again, it's cheaper once they turn three because they don't require quite so much individual care.

We do get money through the childcare voucher system, thanks to the latest Budget. The only other thing we qualify for, other than the childcare grant, is £243 of salary sacrifice childcare, which means £243 is taken from my gross salary and given straight to the childcare provider each month.

It wasn't sensible going back to work when I did, because it wasn't fi nancially viable, but I found not working depressing. I missed doing my job and being a midwife. I felt guilty for going back to work, but I know I'm a better mum for doing it because I'm a happier person.

My working does affect the family because I'm not at home as much – but the boys don't know any different and I think they, like me, thrive on it.

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