99% of workplace stress down to worrying about childcare


SAYS WHO?  you might say.  Well says me.  Only three weeks ago I saw one of my work colleagues being ranted at by an ex-student because he wanted a meeting ‘NOW’ and she politely explained that she couldn’t as she had to leave and pick up her child because if she was late she would be charged £10 per MINUTE.

The other 1% by the way is irritation at how the Daily Mail, despite all the data which clearly shows that women go out to work because so few families can get by on just one income – still insist on referring to women who work as Career Women.

I don’t envy women thinking about when to have a child.  But like the tsunami of advice we face after we have a baby there is no shortage of bossy opinion beforehand.  Our optimum age is between 20 and 35 says the Voice of Doom – actually Professor Sally Davies in One of Those Conferences Where Career Women are Warned about Their Shrivelling Ovaries but the reality (reality being what most of us have to live in) is we graduate if we’re going to college, at 21 with a truckload of debt and spend the next ten years trying to get and sustain a job, in order to chip away at said debt.  At the same time, we are meant to be sniffing out a husband.  Or you can do as Kirsty Allsop suggested and skip university, stay at home to ‘save up a deposit’ (really?  What kind of job will pay a 20 something enough to save up at least £20 000?) and then ‘find a nice boyfriend and have a baby by 27.’

I suspect that young men in their twenties and early thirties are less keen to become fathers.

I’ve had two babies – one at 30 and one at 39 and this is what I know about it.  I had no trouble getting pregnant at 30 because my cycle was regular and I knew I was ovulating. At 38 I had two miscarriages.  Sitting in the Early Pregnancy Clinic, I got used to seeing a large poster, which explained with cold clinical precision how a woman’s fertility plummeted after 35.  It was also the place where my miscarriage was described as: ‘The products of conception have left your womb,’ as though they had just popped out for a pint of milk.  I don’t blame the nurses – it was just such a terrible phrase.  So there I was at 38, on the downward plummet of barrenness, and knew I didn’t have time to wait for everything to get back to normal so I was prescribed Clomid, a fertility drug which fixes an outboard motor to your ovaries and pumps out eggs like one of those tennis improvement machines, firing out balls.  I’m constantly surprised by the use of IVF because it has a very low success rate – between 17% and 20%.  But if you want a baby, you research all this stuff and make a choice.  You spend time on websites, wishing ‘baby dust’ on your fellow hopefuls and sharing tips.  It’s not thought and planning or it wasn’t for me – it was hunger and aching instinct.  But once the baby is born and you realise that you have to go back to work because in Daily Mail land you’re a ‘career woman’ and in Real Life, you have to bring some money in to pay the bills as your partner’s wage hasn’t risen in three years or he/she is on a zero-hours contract or you have what’s elegantly described as ‘a boutique career’, doing several jobs, you have the Childcare Situation.

Childcare is INSANE.  My daughter is now twelve years old and travels to and fro to school and friends’ houses by herself.  Of course I miss the daily chats and small intimacies of that time, but I also realise that all the stress I’ve endured during my working life has been mainly down to worrying about childcare – fitting work in so I could run home to collect her – begging employers to allow me to come in a little later because the Breakfast Club didn’t open till 7.45am.  And dashing back to pick her up because the After School Club closes at 6pm.

The cost of childcare has risen by 77% in the last 10 years and with inflation is rising by 6% per year.  Full time nursery places cost twice as much as they did a decade ago.  Only Switzerland has higher childcare costs than the UK.  I’m so glad I had my two babies but I’m so glad to be finally through the tunnel of childcare and I don’t envy my colleague, just getting into it.

Being held hostage by our biology is something that women know.  We don’t need to be reminded in Death Knell Tones by the Daily Mail who keep referring to us as Witches Career Women.


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