Mums are sharing just how much they’re forking out for childcare before their children start school and honestly, some of the figures will make you want to cry.
On October 29, tens of thousands of parents are set to join Pregnant Then Screwed’s March Of The Mummies, a national protest to demand government reform on childcare, parental leave and flexible working.
Ahead of the march, the charity has urged parents to share selfies holding pieces of paper showing just how much they are spending on childcare before their kids start school – and some of the figures are eye-watering.
The lowest figure is £12,200, but this climbs to £80,900 for one mum [pictured below] who has three children.
“You know how outraged people are by the notion that energy costs could be £4,000 a year,” wrote Pregnant Then Screwed’s founder Joeli Brearley in an Instagram post.
“Just wait until you add up what you have spent, or will spend, on childcare before your child is five years old.
“The government and much of the public are completely oblivious to the amount of cash money we are forking out just so we can go to work – this is literally your work tax, on top of your actual work tax.”
To bring this to the nation’s attention, protests will be taking place in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Belfast, Cardiff, Exeter, Norwich, Bristol, Newcastle and Birmingham on Saturday.
The UK has one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with a full-time place for one child costing around £12,000 a year on average.
All parents are entitled to 570 free hours of childcare per year when their child turns three – usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year – but many still have to pay extra charges to nurseries and childminders to account for food and supplies.
Hannah Harriman said she’d love to have another child, but she simply wouldn’t be able to afford it. Her total childcare bill is £36,000, despite her child not even being full-time at nursery. “This is more than a year’s salary for me,” she wrote in the caption of an Instagram post sharing her childcare bill.
“This is an absolute disgrace, people literally cannot afford to have children anymore and our government do not care in the slightest,” she added.
“It feels like we are punished for having children.”
She said she would love to have another baby, but if she did become pregnant, it would force her into poverty.
Figures show that 43,000 women left work to look after family in the last year, according to a Guardian report. This is a 3% increase on the previous year and part of an ongoing decline.
Caitlin, who preferred not to share her surname, is a mum of twins. The 38-year-old who lives in London has a PhD in population health but decided it would not be worth re-entering the workforce because the cost of childcare would be more than she would earn.
“It’s a loss for the economy,” Caitlin wrote in a caption on Instagram, next to a photo of her holding up a sign explaining her situation. “It’s time for things to change.”
Elena Rubiu, a Sardinian ceramist based in Leeds, said she’s spent almost £38,500 on nursery fees in the past three years – and her children didn’t even attend full-time. “In Italy it would have been for free,” she added.
Replying to a comment on her post, Rubiu revealed her partner had to quit his PhD last month as the nursery bill was higher than his salary – yet the family still aren’t eligible for benefits because they are European with pre-settled status.
“I am self-employed,” she added. “All of our savings are gone.”
Samantha Sweetman, 34, from Herefordshire, worked out she’ll pay £46,000 in childcare fees for her two sons before they start school – and that’s just for term time, as she has the school holidays off.
“For me to be able to continue my career and my husband to continue in his full time job, we have to pay for the boys to be in nursery from 7.30am to 5.30pm for four days a week,” she said in the caption of her Instagram post.
Some people might suggest she works part-time or give up work completely, but that’s not an option for her.
“The truth is I need to work. I am a better mum for working,” she said. “I need something for me. I LOVE being a mum and I LOVE my children dearly but I also deserve the chance to continue in a career that I worked really hard for and I do love my job too. Why should I have to give up work? Or my husband?”
She suggested the government needs to do more to support parents. “The tax-free childcare takes the edge off, but nowhere near enough,” she said.
The free hours entitlement when children turn three “is a joke”, she added, as lots of nurseries need to charge a top-up fee to bridge the gap between money from the government and what it actually costs to provide the free hours.
“So many parents are in a situation where they have to give up work because it just isn’t viable to pay the extortionate bills,” she said. “It shouldn’t be this way.”