“Childcare costs are why I can't afford a second child”

Child with backpack on

Childcare costs are crippling. It would take £24,300 a year - a decent full-time salary - dedicated to sending two children to nursery. Which is why I can't have a second child.

'I mean, if you can’t afford a child, then don’t have one.' I’ll never forget the day a childless colleague casually dropped this into our conversation. At the time it stung, as a new mum I was offended. But now that line rings true.

No matter how I look at it, the numbers just don’t add up. I can not afford a second child. Not with how much nursery costs, nor the wrap around care they will need once they start school (you will never see all of those nursery fees again, they're just spent somewhere else for more childare)

My husband and I initially wanted two children within two years of each other, you know, get the chaos years done quickly. But, at £1010.77p a month for one child there was no way we could afford two in nursery.

‘Oh you can never afford children, no one can.’ This is what my mum always tells me. And her last child was born in 1984. Almost 40 years on and we are still pedalling this line like ‘it's just how it is’. Well, it shouldn’t be. It’s not okay.

UK childcare costs third highest in the world

As Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed tells us, “childcare is an investment not a cost.” I'm doing my bit to invest in the future generation. Though it feels a tad one sided at the mo. A bit more investment from the Government would be great.

One third of parents are paying more for childcare than their rent or mortgage, according to Pregnant Then Screwed's recent survey of over 20,000 parents, in collaboration with several leading parenting organisations.

The charity goes on to say: “... It’s not much of a leap to assume that managing the cost of childcare could be a serious consideration for many parents when planning a family.”

In addition to this, a recent study reveals that the UK has the third most expensive childcare system in the world - behind Slovakia and Sweden. A full-time nursery place in the UK costs £12,376 a year on average. This number is higher in London, where some nurseries can charge up to £90 a day.

Childcare costs cause drop in fertility rates

With these kinds of numbers it’s not surprising that recent reports from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that fertility rates have fallen to 1.5 children per woman. This is the lowest level since records began in 1938. And, fertility rates have decreased across all age groups. 

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) told the Telegraph that the data reflects ongoing trends towards later motherhood and smaller family sizes: “There are a variety of reasons why women are choosing to delay having children and have smaller families. These include the desire to progress at work, an awareness of the ‘motherhood pay penalty’ and the ever-increasing cost of raising a child.”

mum holding newborn and taking a selfie

Credit: Stephanie Lowe

Yes, the astronomical childcare costs, as shown repeatedly in studies, is definitely a top reason to factor in if you are planning a family. You need to find that extra money for a minimum of two years. It can easily financially ruin you.

One mum friend admitted to me that she could only have a second because her in-laws were moving closer. And they’d already agreed on a two-day-a-week set up to try and alleviate some of the financial burden. All mapped out before her 18-week scan, such is the pressure. While another walked away from a job she loved. It just wasn't financially viable to send two children to nursery.

We don’t live near family, so it’s just me and my husband. And we both work full time. Having a family member take our son just one day a week would save us £188 a month - but it isn’t an option. And shouldn’t have to be, in my opinion. 

My son goes to nursery 5 days a week, I affectionately call him a ‘lifer’. He is one of three children in his room of 20 who are full time. As childcare costs are just so expensive, I know that many of the parents make a variety of formulas work to help save the pennies somewhere. Whether that’s one day a week at grandparents, both parents only work four days a week. 

I know there are other types of care available, such as childminders, but I feel nursery offers a more sociable and educational day. 

Toddler stood on path

Credit: Stephanie Lowe

I’m in a well-paid job, my husband is in a well-paid job. Both salaries are well above national average. But finding a spare, £47 a day, which adds up to £1010.77p each month is proving impossible. 

Discussions of me not working were had. After all bills were paid I was lucky to take home £5 a month. For me to be able to continue in a career I love and have spent 15 years creating would cost our family £100 a day to have two children in nursery. The numbers just don’t add up.

My son is set to start primary school next year. And we know that another child in nursery would near ruin us financially. It’s the school term after your child’s third birthday that they are eligible to receive up to 30 hours of free childcare a week.

But until that point, there’s no government subsidy and parents have to either foot the whole childcare bill themselves or do the childcare themselves. We currently receive the 30 free hours as our son is eligible. So the burden has been eased slightly - though we still pay £550 a month.

With this in mind, almost two thirds of parents that return to work either work fewer hours, change jobs or stop working due to childcare costs, according to research by charity Pregnant Then Screwed. “We don’t believe that the government fully understands the situation many parents are in. 

“We need to get a grasp of the problems we are facing and start working on a solution as soon as possible which is why we are continuing to ask the Government to commit to commissioning an independent review of the cost and affordability of the childcare sector.” Hear, hear! 

Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.