As first time parents, my husband and I were over the moon when we first held our daughter. A gush of endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and all the feel good hormones I can possibly feel in one go. It was euphoric. I have enjoyed the time I spent with my first-born on my maternity leave though I also had to endure the challenges of having a baby at home. The sleepless nights, the dirty dishes piling up, the never ending nappy changes and surrendering myself to a fully dependent human being. Ten months later, just when we thought that it’s getting easier, I went back to work and faced another test of parenthood, CHILDCARE!
My husband and I are both nurses, which means we have to work on different shift patterns. Whilst some couples can work opposite shifts to accommodate childcare, it wasn’t a lucrative option for us. Since he works as a bank nurse on a zero-hours contract, he gets a higher rate than what I earn as a permanent employee. Hence, we decided that he should have a flexible pattern and always be ready to take shifts on any day of the week. I asked my manager if it’s possible to give me fixed shift pattern so I can take my child to nursery whilst I was at work. We agreed on certain days and for some of it, I have to work night shifts and weekends which have saved us some money as I don’t have to bring my daughter to the nursery on those out-of-hours shifts.
I know that we all have different circumstances on how we manage childcare here in the UK. Some will have opposite shifts, others will get their parents or a close relative from the Philippines to look after their children, a few probably may have decided to stay at home until their child goes to school. I understand the fact that we’re all in the same boat with different currents and waves to sail through.
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My daughter goes to an on-site nursery at the hospital where I’m working. I'm truly grateful that we have this option as they open 07.30 and shuts 18.30 which is perfect for my 8am to 6pm day shift during weekdays. I can say she enjoyed her stay there and learned a lot in the process, especially honing her social skills. Taking her to the nursery gave me the opportunity to continue to work but it can be really expensive. I have to pay £56 per day (inclusive of food and nappies) or £672 for 3 day shifts in a week. A few months later working full time, I decided to drop my hours and worked part time so I could lessen the days I had to bring her to the nursery. I genuinely wanted her to go there more often but it just doesn’t make sense if we do the math.
Working in the UK has given us so many opportunities with our nursing career and a chance to make our lives better. I don’t know about you, but the biggest downside of working abroad is being away from our family. At times I wonder how easier it would be to raise a child with her Lolos and Lolas, Titos and Titas around always ready to help when we’re stuck at work, when we need to do important errands or just simply rest for an hour because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before a busy day shift when my baby was feeling unwell. They would’ve possibly made parenthood lighter and less tiring if they were here.
The physical, mental and emotional toll that we receive as nurses on our daily work can be exhausting at times. Top it up with parenthood and it can be unimaginable. I remember the days when I came home from a busy night shift but my husband needed to work the next day which meant I had to look after a toddler with my eyes wide open until he arrives home from work. I have always thought that being a nurse is a hard job, until I became a mom. The arduous process of pregnancy, to the growing belly, to sleepless nights, to the never-ending mom-guilt and worry whilst the need to be present at work and be able to execute my job safely…saying motherhood is hard work is an understatement.
Now that my daughter is 3, she still goes to the nursery. The 30-hour childcare and the Tax Free childcare help from the government has "almost" halved the amount that I used to pay. Even though we have had to do penny-pinching in the past years up until today, I can assure you that there are ways to manage childcare that will work for you. It’s definitely not easy but it is doable.
I’m proud of what my husband and I have achieved being parents here in the UK. We somehow managed childcare, the daily chores at home, dealing with stress but also finding a route to celebrate the positive aspects in our lives and fulfilment we achieve as nurses. The government initiatives to help with childcare fees, support from our close friends in the UK, and flexible working schemes also made it possible for me to continue to work and earn a living. Childcare in the UK may be difficult as overseas nurses with no immediate family around but I’m certain how proud you will be to pull off such a daunting but at the same time a wonderful and phenomenal experience of raising a child.