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CHILDCARE OPTIONS AND FLEXIBLE WORKING

Needle in a haystack

Childcare Options And Flexible Working

Finding the right childcare options when working full time or flexibly can be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you do find that needle it is often a diamond! Parents spend up to 45% of their disposable income on childcare. When it comes to a return to work, families (and in particular, mothers) often have to make a decision as to whether it is even worth working after paying for childcare. Many parents therefore try, to combine flexible working with childcare. An attempt to try and achieve a “happy” medium.

“43% of working women in the UK now work part time or flexibly. The majority of these choosing part time / flexible working to balance childcare.”

Flexible working requests are reassuringly becoming a norm. Not only for those parents returning to work after maternity or paternity leave but also throughout the lifecycle of parenting. A parent’s working arrangements can change several times as their children grow up. As many parents quickly realise, the days of a worrying about how to leave the office at 5pm in order to collect from a nursery at 6pm, are soon replaced by school pick-ups.

Getting Creative

Unfortunately, whilst your working arrangements may be flexible your childcare is inherently inflexible. Therefore, parents are forced to look at creative solutions and combinations in order to meet their needs. Nurseries have set hours; childminders will only pick up from certain schools, school holidays are fixed and so as their childcare is often inflexible. So parents have to seek greater and further working flexibility at certain times of year or at certain times in their child’s life.


So Back To Basics, What Are Your Childcare Options?

Nannies

Nannies provide the most flexible option for childcare when your children are young. Being based from your home if you need to work late, they can also ensure the children are then put to bed and your house is tidy. Nannies are widely regarded as the most expensive option. The reality is that if you have 2 or 3 children to care for, they can be cheaper than nursery fees. Nanny shares (whereby two employers share one nanny) can also provide further financial advantages and is a popular solution for many working flexibly.

Nurseries

Nurseries provide the least flexible childcare but are open all year round, except when your child is ill and they are unable to go. They have set hours and set sessions that you must pay for regardless of whether your child goes and there can be high penalties if you are late.

Childminders

Childminders provide a home from home setting with relatively fixed hours. They do provide more flexibility particularly for families who need less standard hours, shorter days or part-time care. Most will also offer nursery or school drop off and pick up options (although they will only usually pick up from certain establishments).

Family

Family has a benefit of being free, home based and flexible. However it’s important for the family member to be fully committed (such as not taking lots of holidays when you need cover!). Building a network of school families is essential. This network is beneficial not only for those emergency situations when you are running late home but also to arrange swapping playdates or holiday cover. A bit of sharing the load for childcare is a great way of cutting down on summer camp costs.

Au-Pairs

Au-Pairs are a popular choice when children go to school. Like a nanny they will work just for you and can offer 25-30 hours a week providing cover before and after school. Financially they are the cheapest option, providing you have a spare room available for them. However au pairs often have no (or very limited) childcare experience. They often travel to the UK for a cultural experience of only between 6-12 months.


Breakfast Clubs and After School Clubs

Breakfast Clubs and After School Clubs are available not just at your school but also some local nurseries offer a local school collection service and then they care for the children in premises near to the school.

 

So how do you go about finding the right childcare options for your family?

The biggest piece of advice for any parent thinking of childcare is to plan ahead but also to constantly reassess. Childcare needs unfortunately change. Such as when there is a change is circumstances like going to school or changing schools, new additions to the family. Ensure an open and frank relationship with your employer. The key to achieving the “happy” medium is trying to achieve flexibility on all sides.

Ultimately the right childcare option is the one that leaves your children happy, stimulated and safe. One that leaves you with peace of mind. Also one that creates the less stress possible for busy working parents, whether working full-time or flexibly.

Parental Choice the essential “one-stop shop” to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs. Parental Choice offer childcare searches including nurseries, childminders, nannies and au pairs plus support employers of nannies with all their payroll and employer responsibilities. For more information on your childcare options and how Parental Choice can help visit www.parentalchoice.co.uk and quote MJPC5.

Need help on deciding which career path to follow? Why not check out The Mum’s Enterprise events!

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Summer, Summer, Summertime!

Schools are out, fine weather is here (for the moment) and the mood in the workplace is suddenly much brighter – until all but one fan breaks in your un-air-conditioned office.

If you’re looking for a new role however, this isn’t the best season for you. With many taking longer breaks throughout the Summer holidays, roles can be few and far between – and the ones that do come up often have a longer recruitment process to allow for absences.

But don’t despair, here are five tips for you how you can spend the Summer wisely and be ready for the September recruitment rush.

1. Update
Summer is a great time to update your look, your wardrobe and your attitude to life in general. Although we think you’re lovely as you are, use this time to try out new looks and take inspiration – it’s time that grey pants suit retired!

While you’re updating your look, it might also be time to update your CV, especially if you’ve not had to use it for a while. There are great tools out there such as CV Knowhow to help you build a concise, eye-catching CV that will be sure to win over any future employer.

2. Training
Are you looking to change career? Or want to develop skills you think would be beneficial in your new role?

The Summer months give you the opportunity to look into the courses available, the range of options and perhaps help you find topics you may not otherwise have considered.

If you’re looking for a way to strengthen the skills displayed on your CV, why not have a look at our range of eight CPD accredited business courses to add value to yourself and your new employer?

3. On the move?
If you’re considering relocating, or simply looking at a role in a different part of town, use the longer days over Summer to get to know your potential new stomping ground.

Arrange family days out to get to know new routes, try out the best places for lunch or scout out great meeting spots.

The husband and children will think you’re just being generous with the days out, no need to tell them about your ulterior motive!

4. Get to know recruiters
Although there will be a lot of ‘out of office’ messages popup, no-one takes the whole Summer off or closes down for the season. So use this time to get to know recruiters, introduce yourself and build a rapport.

This will give you a much stronger standing when roles start to come in and you’ll automatically pop into consultants’ minds.

Plus, they’ll likely be glad of someone to talk to!

5. Get to know your colleagues
This may seem like nonsense if you’re looking to leave them, but take a moment or two to think about why you want to leave.

If this is because you think you’ve gone as far as you can professionally, by all means off you go. But if you’re simply unhappy with who you work with, it may be because you’ve not had the chance to get to know them properly.

Try arranging a drink after work, or take your lunches outside from an impromptu picnic. Once you get away from the stressful office environment, you may find a best friend you’d never want to leave.

One thing to always remember during the Summer is to always ensure you make the most of the weather and fresh air. Although you may be short-staffed at times and find yourself covering more work than usual, that’s no excuse for missing out on the great outdoors and sunshine we see so rarely!

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Surviving the un-survivable – travelling with children

Travelling with children

It’s finally Summer, the season we’ve all been waiting for! You’ve been working hard all year and now is the time to pack those new bikinis, that over-sized hat you’ll likely never wear and of course, more shoes than the number of days you’re away.

But before you get carried away with the packing there’s one thing to remember – getting there. With the children.

Going on a Summer holiday isn’t quite as relaxing as it was in your child-free days but it doesn’t mean it’s any less fun! So, to help you through, here are some top tips for stress-free travelling with your little darlings.

1. Mentally prepare
You know that they’re likely to get restless at passport control. Of course they’re going to go hyper after you’ve used them as bribes to combat aforementioned boredom. Yes, they’re going to start play fighting at 3am when you’re trying to find your hire car, and yes, one of them is going to get hurt.

Best thing to do? Don’t think too far ahead. Get through the problem in front of you at the time, the rest you can deal with when you get to it.

2. I Spy or iPad?
For long car journeys, I Spy – plus other car games – is a sure-fire winner. It encourages the children to look around them, see the world go past and can spark discussions where they may learn a thing or two.

I Spy however is not recommended on a plane, for obvious reasons. In this instance, the iPad (DS, Hudl, phone…) is the clear winner.

After all, no one wants to spend hours in a metal container next to an overweight gent who has just been identified as ‘F for Fat’ by your child.

3. Travel according to your routine
While this isn’t always possible, it’s wise to coincide your flight or long car journey with your child’s nap or bedtime.

By getting them into their PJ’s, brushing their teeth and reading them a story, they know these signals all lead to going to sleep. Although undoubtedly this will take much longer than usual due to the change of surroundings and activity going on around you, having them fall asleep as soon as possible means no cranky kids and a peaceful journey for you.

4. Pretend they’re not yours
Extreme but effective. Loudly exclaim your displeasure (getting fellow passengers on your side), put the pillow over your head and ignore them.

That, or wine.

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Fathers Day treats for those special Daddies

It’s that time of year again, where us Mums put on our thinking caps to come up with a Father’s Day gift (meant to be a job for the children, always ends up being ours) to make Daddy feel appreciated.

Now, this doesn’t need to cost a fortune. If the children do give their input, it’s normally to suggest something bizarre like a new car or a set of golf clubs. Daddy is as likely to get those as he is a trip to space.

To help you out, we’ve come up with 5, easy and affordable ways to make Daddy feel appreciated, while getting the children involved in the present – because let’s face it, it is from them.

Breakfast in bed
Simple, affordable, the children can get involved and Daddy will be chuffed. Breakfast could be anything from a Full English to a bowl of cornflakes, depending on how energetic you’re feeling in the morning. The children will enjoy setting it up on a tray with a Father’s Day card and will probably argue over who gets to carry it in. It’s the gesture that counts and Daddy will agree.

Hand print wall art
The children will definitely enjoy getting involved in this. All you need is some child-friendly paint, a canvas or piece of card, and a picture frame (and nerves of steel if you don’t do it outside, think of the carpets). The children will love giving Daddy something that they’ve literally left their mark on!

Design a card
Generic but quick, cheap and effective. No child in their right mind wouldn’t love getting stuck in with PVA glue, feathers and glitter. It will be worth it just to see Dads face when he opens the envelope (if the feathers will fit).

Decorate a mug (or a beer glass if Daddy is that way inclined)
Ceramic or glass paint is easy enough to pick up in craft shops, online or even in a supermarket. Then all you need is a plain glass or mug and eager children. Dad will love taking his ‘World’s greatest’ mug to work to show off, even if it means bits of paint floating in his coffee.

Bake a cake
Who doesn’t like cake? This could possibly be the messiest idea of the five, but you get to eat cake at the end which makes it worthwhile. Pick up some coloured icing at the supermarket and let your children loose. Dad will love the gesture, and the fact he gets to eat cake.

Whatever you decide to do, have a great Father’s Day with Daddy and the children. He’s sure to appreciate whatever the children get or make him. He has to, it’s the law of Fatherhood.

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Bank Holiday and Half Term heroes

Bank holiday and half term heroes

We all know the feeling; leaving work on Friday knowing you are heading into a Bank Holiday weekend and the sheer elation you feel.

The possibilities are endless! A spa day with the girls, a cheeky night away with your other half, or even a wild night out and the now all too familiar two-day hangover.

Then you remember. Children. Suddenly, the appeal of an extra day off disappears.

But don’t despair! This Bank Holiday (which, by the way, leads into Half Term in case you’d forgotten and need to arrange emergency childcare. There’s great prosecco in M&S for buttering up grandparents), enjoy some fantastic days out in your local area and around the UK.

National Trust
True to form, the team at the National Trust has come up trumps with activities for children young and old at properties around the country. With the (hopefully) good weather, there is a distinct nature theme running through these activities.

Become a gardening champion at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, plant pumpkin seeds at Winchester City Mill, Hampshire, or even go on a bat walk at Morden Hall Park in London.
Best take a change of clothes for the children – we’ve found anything with a ‘nature’ theme tends to need it.

Alton Towers and CBeebies Land
Although the idea of a park filled with the characters of your early morning wake up calls (generally those with the aforementioned two-day hangover), CBeebies Land is a great location for young children to play, explore and let off some steam.

With the added bonus of the adult’s playground that is Alton Towers, a water park, adventure golf and a tree top quest, make sure you invite the extended family so you can dump your children with them allow them to spend quality time with your children while you enjoy the rides.
They have fantastic offers on short breaks and park tickets, be sure to book in advance – and soon!

English Heritage
A trip to any English Heritage site is a step back into history and this Half Term, they will not disappoint. If you’re looking for a fun day out for the whole family to enjoy, yet learning something about our past, this is definitely where you need to be heading.

Visit Dartmouth Castle where young smugglers and sea dogs can take part in musket drills and other dastardly deeds. Or experience the skill and speed of knights on horseback at Beeston Castle. If the Victorian era is more your style, visit Witley Court for high-jinx including equestrian entertainment and falconry displays.

On your doorstep
No, this isn’t a new activity craze!

Be sure to check out activities and events in your local area for some great half term fun. Leisure centres, theatres, local charities and even shopping centres are known to host some of the best entertainment so be sure not to miss out.

Keep an eye on council websites and social media for details of the smaller events.

Whatever you get up to, have a great Bank Holiday weekend and Half Term. And if you do go out, be sure not to mix your drinks…