Stressed over childcare: ask the expert

I’m a first-time mum to a 15-month-old girl and am currently working part time two full days a week (9-4.30). My husband works shifts so he’s not very often home. My issue is the childcare for my daughter. It is becoming increasingly difficult and unreliable which is stressing me out every week. At the moment my husband’s aunt and nan shares childcare every Monday over my daughter, but times always vary according to my husband’s hours. Tuesdays is usually my mum, but she has a lot on her plate at the moment which means she can’t do most Tuesdays. I’ve been told by my husband’s aunt and nan that the irregularity of hours on Monday is unsettling for my daughter which is stressing me out and I don’t know how to stabilise this. I can’t afford professional childcare, my current job is stressful and often keeps me running ragged all day, I rarely leave on time. I would love to find a job working from home, but feel I don’t have the necessary skills (or I do but my confidence is at an all -time low) and I am profoundly deaf which restricts what I can do. I’m at my wits end.

You’ve a really difficult situation to manage, no wonder you’re at your wits end.  Some ideas which may help:-

Any progress you can make on the childcare front would give you a breathing space to tackle all the other complications of your working life.  Can you team up with any local Mums who want childcare so they can work on the days you don’t work?  You’d need to know these Mums (and their family, visiting friends etc) well enough to be absolutely confident your 15 month old would be safe and happy with them; they’d need to have similar trust in you and yours to leave their child with you.

You’d love to work from home – which would sort out your childcare problems and give you control over your “working” environment.  In spite of these advantages, could I ask you to think about the practical difficulties of caring for a lively 15 month old while you’re trying to work?  You may need work that’s flexible enough for you to do it while your daughter is having a nap or after her bedtime.

Some types of work would fit in with your daughter’s timetable – eg collating and working with reports presented to you only after the conclusion of the working day, maintaining communications for people working evening shifts and the like.  Starting with your current employer, make a list of all the employers who might need someone to do “after hours” admin remotely (eg care providers; logistics companies; UK companies with overseas suppliers / parent companies / subsidiaries; etc).  Contact these employers (by email if necessary), ask them precisely what “after hours” admin they may need doing; ask them how they get the admin work done now; and then ask how you put yourself forward for any vacancies.

Small employers, organisations (eg trade associations) working with small employers, public sector employers and some of the major employers with good “equal opportunity” images to burnish are the most likely to be willing to provide disabled workers with opportunities to work from home or with good support at their workplace.  A bank, for example, may have a subsidised crèche for your daughter and pay rates good enough to make working for them worthwhile.  Do internet searches for employers likely to be flexible and allow you to work from home.  Do a separate internet search for local employers with subsidised workplace creches.  Contact both sets of employers to find out the likelihood of them having future vacancies and to ask them to notify you about them.  Remember you’ll have to nag at intervals to ensure your continuing interest in working for these companies isn’t forgotten.

You mention you’re profoundly deaf.  Being deaf is both a practical problem and one that undermines self-confidence when you job-hunt (whether for a job working at home or for a new one that would enable you to afford paid childcare) …  so let’s see whether anything can be done to help you here.  Are you getting all the NHS audiology  / communication support which would help you?  Are you getting the 6 monthly maintenance checks of your hearing aids’ efficiency that can sometimes make so much difference?  Have you had a recent hearing check  and are your hearing aids the right sort, set at the right level, to make the most of your hearing?  If any of your answers to these questions are “no”, book an appointment with the appropriate NHS people ASAP.

Sometimes “tweaking” your workplace and / or getting in extra communications support makes all the difference between being able to work comfortably in the same environment as hearing colleagues – or not.  Avoid jobs in noisy environments and in large spaces with hard acoustics (eg open plan offices with very modern décor).  Ensure your ‘phone has adequate amplification – or that you have a “carry around” bit of kit to amplify whatever ‘phones you use).  Investigate the Access To Work schemes (helping employer and employee) with teams based in JobCentre Plus.  Alternatively ask for advice on any of the sites assisting those with hearing loss – eg email and visit


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