Call Nanny 911 - I Can't Afford To Go Back To Work

"We just can't afford for me to go back to work." I dramatically sobbed.
Partly due the reality that childcare would Pacman gobble up all of my salary (and then some) but also due to the overemotional breastfeeding hormones seeping through my veins and out of my nipples. On first glance I would actually be in deficit from going back to work and having two pre-schoolers in childcare.

Just pretend it's a picture of a doctor

I had gone through the options:

The first being Firstborn's old childminder. She was flexible and Firstborn loved her but the thought of having to get two children out the door ready for 6.30am (getting them out of bed at 5am) bordered on cruelty to them and to myself. I would be doing at least 14 hour days door to door on a 'normal day' and the thought of picking up two exhausted children on the return from work bordered on cruelty to them and me.

The second, was the hive of infection nursery option. This was a clear cut no. No flexibility and the threat of a pound a minute charges if I was late to pick them up. 'Ching ching ching' was the sound of the extra childcare bill when a patient does something inconvenient like dying at handover and the consequent occupational hazard of having to stay late. And of course nursery is the human agar of infectious breeding grounds.
The third option (which I would love to be the first) was family: the free childcare option. Like a lot of people we had migrated away from our family within the UK so that only an option for emergency childcare.
There is of course an au pair but the rising house prices down south cut out our spare room option and we don't like to share the remote.

So this left my final option: A Nanny.
Previously, I'd tested the water by viewing some nanny Gumtree adverts.
From this limited research, the typical nanny employers were: A family of four, perfectly clad in hunter wellies and gilets who just happened to take their professional photographer out on the day out in some muddy laned countryside. They listed diva like demands in the job specification but balanced this out by the promise of accompanying them to St Bart's thrice yearly.
Ha-ha, how I scoffed at these ads. In fact it almost became a pastime reading these, like an online version of toff stand up.
And then came the eat your words moment when I realised I would have to place a similar ad and I didn't even possess a pair of Hunters.

Before setting up my Hampsted mansion photoshoot for the ad, I did some quick research into the cost of hiring a nanny. Using the standard research methods of 'Googling' and 'Facebook status inquiry', I drew a blank.
There appeared to be a national cover up on the recent pay rates of nannies. I could however find that I would have to factor in being an 'employer' and the joy of paying employers tax and NI contributions. More tears ensued.
Next, I sheepishly posted a Facebook status asking for nanny tips and the cost (sheepish because I didn't want anyone to think I was a posh sort for hiring a nanny).
But the Facebook floodgates opened and I got an absolute wealth of advice showing that not only did I have good Facebook mates (or maybe just the sort that like to give advice) but that nannies aren't just for the rich and famous.
One particularly clued up nanny friend advised "You MUST negotiate in gross pay." Historically it seems, nannies like to be paid net pay, which as I read on Google is 'like giving someone an open chequebook.' So negotiate in gross pay, but I still don't know how much to pay one.
Then came a flurry of private messages. It appears that no-one wanted to publically reveal the pay rates of their nannies - presumably due to public judgement that they were either paying too much or too little for their childcare...or they were posh. So I will publically reveal it for them:

In East Anglia "a few years back I was paid £6-7/hr gross" said the girl in the year above me at school.
My sister (Ipswich 7 years ago), never one blessed with a good memory chipped in with "I got £900/month I think net or gross when I did it, I can't remember."
My gross pay advice friend in St Albans whatsapp'd me with "£8/hr gross then £9/hr after a year'" and "Call an agency to get your local rate", closely followed by "ALWAYS NEGOTIATE IN GROSS PAY." Yep, I get the message.
The local agency down south quoted "£10-12/hr gross for the flexibility you want, I have to make the job look attractive and then there's our fee..."

I dusted off the my highshcool Casio that' 36 hours a week minimum...oh that equals my salary...after tax. Balls.
Maybe I was living in ignorance about the cost of two in childcare. I was aware it would be roughly double but I wasn't aware it was double and the some. Of course there would also be the paid holiday, their mileage, any daytrips.
Eyes streaming at the figures and  my own stupidity for not thinking this through before the second child and maternity leave - I could not afford to go back to work.
I had seen the articles of people saying that they couldn't afford to go back to work. Pish, I thought, that's just true for the poor sods on minimum wage. But oh, yes it is true.
I suppose I feel a shame in some way that I should be able to afford to go back to work, as a doctor, as a working woman, as the working mum. Everyone else seems to be able to or are they all struggling too?
I know what you're thinking - don't doctors earn loads? To put it simply no. But from the published skewed view point of the Daily mail, yes. We have a pretty average salary, but hey, it's not a career you do for the money. You do it for the enjoyment of long hours and giving back to the community by paying for someone else to look after your kids.

And then there's futility at paying what seemed like three lots of tax:
Firstly my own tax on my own pay, then employers tax on the nannies pay, then the PAYE included in the nannies pay (though technically this would be her to tax to pay, unless I negotiated in net figures as I was so vehemently warned not to).

So to work or not to work?

Well after my pity party post up there, I have decided to write it off, suck it up and be a zero earner for the next few years. I'm going back to work and I'm going to have to ask my husband for my own 'pocket' money. My wages will be the nanny's wages.
If I didn't have a husband in full time work, I wouldn't be able to afford to go back to work but we are no better off with me going to work. We are worse off.
*Continues to hide head in sand and Casio calculator, then pimps husband out for more locum shifts to pay the council tax bill.*
I have so much admiration for every working man and woman who do this. So much.

I know it will be over in a few years, but it's hard to see the benefit right now.  Especially when I look at my boys and weigh up the missing bedtimes, the being there for them when they call mummy and listening to them giggle at each other. My resolve waivers to go back. I don't want to miss out for what gain?
The question of 'can I afford to go back to work?' It's not just monetary. Look at those guys. It's all about them. Can I afford to leave them?

I'm going to miss the bath time 'fun' (shit hits the fan moments)

Coming next week (probably something cheerier)...

"The reluctant employer: The search for a nanny and all the moaning shenanigans that entails."

Now you're either anxiously clicking subscribe now or unfollow, unfollow, cripes this doctor bird writes long whiney posts.
If you have had the old go back/can't go back to work dilemma please feel free to post below and we can whinge together or share with someone else in an equal or more shitty position than ourselvess, remember sharing is...bringing someone else down with you. It's no fun if you're on your own at the pity party.

Pity party for one?


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  1. Fab! Thanks for speaking so openly about this struggle, I'm looking forward to following the journey. I've gone for nursery part time and yes 'hive of infection' is correct. He only has to look at the building to have a face full of snot!

    1. Cheers m'lovely! You have a front row seat to the childcare/back to work pity party *hands you cheap wine in mug to hide it from the kids*
      Ah, nursery great for socialisation of kids...and bugs!
      Are you back at work already or going to start soon?

  2. Ah'm baaack! One day a week currently. He does two days at nursery so my conscience might make me bump it up to two, although so far enjoying G&T Friday.

    1. Oh yeah, bring on the G&T Friday (no children allowed)...Nanny's and all childcare options are allowed.

  3. Ach it's a rubbish situation and I don't envy you having to make those choices. It would seem a waste to throw your training away but going back to essentially earn nothing is hardly satisfactory. I'm very fortunate to have the free family childcare option, and I'm enormously grateful for it. I am however facing my own dilemma as I'm being sent somewhere non-commutable for my next rotation. Staying away (even part time) wasn't really what I signed up for now as a Mum.... On the plus side I suppose there might be uninterrupted sleep!

    1. Please lend me your family for free childcare!! Though seen as I'm technically not family maybe it won't be free and they may not be willing...
      Oh god, honestly your dilemma is worse. My job share partner is about 2 hours commute away and I cannot believe she has been given a job so far away as normally paeds are quite good at taking into consideration your family circumstances (she has 3 kids, FFS, so unfair *stamps feet like toddler*).
      I've encouraged her to try to swap - do you have the chance to try to swap or appeal? Although like you say, a nights sleep may be on the cards...every cloud...!

    2. I think maybe the trek to Newcastle for child care might outweigh any of the benefits for you... Although I'm sure my family would be delighted to take on extra chaos (Oops I mean little darlings)! To be fair my TPD is doing everything possible to make the situation bearable but unfortunately my speciality is tiny so there's just not another option. Just read your nanny post too... Will try and squeeze in time for another proper comment. It sounds immense but exhsusting!

  4. It's the first time I've read your blog and I love it! As for your post, it brilliantly written with a good dose of humour, verging on hysteria perhaps?! We've been extremely lucky to find affordable childcare over the past 5 years and childminders who our little bear absolutely adores. Not to mention the lovely friends she's made (quite possibly life-long frends, who knows!). I've often wondered what on earth we did by me returning to work after mat leave - financial sacrifices have been made for sure but when your little one thrives and you get adult company, I reckon it's worth every single penny! #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Awww thanks!
      You got me down to a T, I am a bit hysterical on a good day - it's melodrama mixed with a glass half empty personality...and the result - this blog!
      I love chuldminders - not so many bugs, they find friend and are reasonable...until I had two, then the cost just gets crazy (and the time spent getting them ready!). Totally in it for the solo toilet time and hot beverage adult chats though (not that I'll get many of those I the NICU where I'm going next...there I am glass half empty again).

    2. I can imagine the cost with 2 would be pretty unmanageable. Well, I can't imagine because I've got 1 but you get the giste...

  5. It must be such a tough decision when financially it doesn't make sense but that it is a job that for years and years you have trained, worked your ass off for and is a job that is difficult to dip in and out of because it changes all the time. What a decision. Only you will know if you've made the right one and at least if it's not then you can just give up and be no worse off! I am lucky that mum has Zach three days a week so our costs are minimal - he's in the infested nursery for the other two days and even then we are counting down until the free childcare comes into place! We would love another child but we cannot have two in childcare and so have to wait until Zach is approaching school age. It's horrible having to plan meticulously! Great post and Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. See, I should have had the forethought to think to wait until the first was in Primary school (though as the first is an August birthday, I've just worked out it's only next year when he goes to school - SCORE!).
      You're right in all you say. I'm slowly getting more relaxed about the decision, if it works or if it doesn't. Thanks for hosting #Twinklytueday!

  6. I knew that I needed to go back to work for the balance it would bring to my life. I couldn't see caring for infant twins with a husband overseas and no friends (at the time) where I lived being a healthy option. So yes, for the first several months, I was paying to daycare more than I earned for the privilege of working. And then I got a promotion. And as the children got older, childcare prices fell. And then they were out of nappies. And then my husband left me and I was SO GLAD I'd built my career and that the children wouldn't have to deal with the trauma of mommy going back to work at the same time as the divorce. Plus, by then, I didn't need his income at all! Hang in there. #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Such a positive story out of a very stressful (shitfest) time for you. I'm in awe of you!
      I suppose for me, I'm not that driven to work towards promotion (consultant level) as I can see the difficulties that entails in the NHS and the further pressures on consultants these days. It may be easier to be a staff grade and work the shifts I like in the hospital I like (rather than being posted around far away hospitals with horrific shift patterns) and get the work balance...or consider another career (which is quite rare for doctors to do, but ultimately could give work life balance and a creative outlet so stifled by medicine).
      Anyway getting all philosophical as have had a couple of glasses of wine. What really is going to happen, is that I'll just go with the flow as usual!

  7. Aaah bless you lovely — it's a real toughie. I'm blessed enough that I can work from home but when your job doesn't allow it, I know it's a real struggle to know what to do. My friend is a doctor for cancer research and with two littles under the age of 4, she is now working full time again and ALL her wages go on childcare. But she figures that it's not for long and she can't afford to be out of her industry for 3 or 4 years as the technology moves on so quickly, she'd be really behind the curve, if she stayed at home with the kids.

    Personally I wouldn't want to miss the early years with my children, but it's easy for me to say as I can work from home. You'll make the right decision whatever you choose x Thanks for linking up to #TwinklyTuesday

    Caro |

    1. Your friend is right, its really hard to take even a year out as your brain turns to mush and its like starting again. Indeed things do move along very quickly and when your on maternity leave the last thing you are thinking about when you've had 4 hours sleep and caring for two littles all day is trawling through research articles.
      I wish I could work from home and I do have an avenue I could pursue to work from home (I'm trained in medical acupuncture), but I'm scared to take a leap of faith with a regular income. You make so much sense...and you make me want to stay at home with kids again!