Childcare for mums running home-based businesses is completely different from childcare for employed mums. Most mums running a business do so because they want to spend more time with their children, so need and want less childcare. For mums like me who have two children under two, then childcare is so expensive that it would swallow up virtually all of my pay (even though I’m a graduate and was earning a half-decent salary!). So being an employee is out of the question for financial reasons anyway.
This leaves mums of pre-schoolers who are starting a business with a problem. You can’t afford childcare until your business takes off, but your business needs some child-free time if it’s ever going to take off. You can scrape together every free hour you can find – nap times, evenings, weekends – and this may be okay in the short-term. But eventually your family life, your ‘me-time’ and your relationship with your partner is going to suffer, which is going to make you miserable.
So it makes sense to buy yourself some free hours in the week if you can. Like anything else to do with childcare in the UK, there are no easy or inexpensive solutions, but here are a few ideas you could try.
1. Pre-Schools Some pre-schools take children as young as two years old. You’ll need to pay for them up until after the child’s third birthday, but they tend to be cheaper than nurseries. A couple of mornings or afternoons each week could be affordable, could give you some much-needed business time and be good for your child too. See your local council’s website for a list of pre-schools in your area.
2. Different Children, Different Childcare I used to assume that I’d need to both children to go the same childcare setting and this would be too expensive, but another mum suggested that my older child could go to a nursery, childminder or relative while my younger one stayed with me. It wouldn’t give me that perfect uninterrupted work time, but I stand more chance of getting some peace with a young baby in the house than with a baby and a toddler around. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could split them up! Being self employed may give you options to juggle childcare that simply wouldn’t be possible as an employee because you can make use of the odd hour here and there.
3. Other Mums Could a friend babysit your children for a few hours, then you babysit hers in return? She wouldn’t have to be a business mum, any mum with small children would appreciate a few hours to herself!
4. Have you explored all the funding options? Can your partner get childcare vouchers from work? Have you looked into the childcare component of tax credits? You may not get much, but as a well-known supermarket tells us, every little helps!
5. Relatives and Parents This one is only for those lucky enough to have grandparents living close by. You might not have felt comfortable asking your children’s grandparents to look after them for several days a week, every week when you were employed. But now you’re self employed, an afternoon a week could make a real difference to you. It could be a really good experience for both child and gran, as well as giving you some working time.
As I said, there are no easy solutions to this one. But I always try to remember that children grow fast and as a work-at-home-mum, I’ll get to see much more of them than I would as an employee. As my children grow, start pre-school and then school, I’ll gradually have more time to grow my business too.