Laura took one year’s maternity leave from her job as an accountant for an IT company. As a single mum, she was keen to find reliable, local childcare for Amber to help smooth her transition back to work.
What was important to you in finding childcare when you went back to work?
My main priority was to find childcare that would ensure Amber would develop a strong bond with her carer. As a single mum, I was really aware that I had been her sole carer 24 hours a day for 365 days, so I was anxious what the impact of my returning to work would have on her.
After talking to someone who worked at PACEY I did a lot of research on their website about different kinds of childcare. I thought that a childminder would be best for Amber because of the smaller, home-based setting it offered. However I found it a real challenge to find someone local to me who was available for the hours I needed. I live right on the edge of five different councils, so searching through the lists that the Family Information Services provided me with was exhausting!
Then a local nursery popped up on a childcare search directory that looked of interest. I guess it was Amber who made my decision for me – the moment we stepped in I had a gut feel that it was the right place for Amber and she immediately warmed to the staff.
With just four children in her room, it was the small setting I was looking for. I also liked that Amber could mix with other ages as they get together with other children for meals and for some activities.
As a single mum, the cost of childcare makes a big dent in my take-home pay. I do claim tax-free childcare which helps contribute towards the cost – as she gets older I’ll be looking forward to funded childcare hours which will reduce costs further.
How do you think that Amber has benefited from the experience at nursery?
She absolutely loves the variety of activities she’s involved in. I’m not a great messy play fan, so when the staff were describing an activity that she really loved which involved burying toy cars in jelly I was delighted – there is no way I’d do that at home!
I can really tell that Amber is growing in confidence in so many ways – she’s enjoying the social aspect of making friends and playing with others, as well as relishing all the different skills she is developing. The staff are great at keeping me updated with the milestones she is achieving, so I don’t feel I’m missing out.
How did you find the transition back to work ?
I had made full use of my keeping in touch days at work, but despite that I found it really hard to go back to work. HR had suggested using some of the annual leave I had accrued whilst on maternity leave so I could do just four days a week to start with, which was really helpful in it not feeling such a shock to the system. But even so, I did find it tough. Amber was still not sleeping through the night, and being on my own I don’t have anyone to share the wakeful nights with – so I was exhausted!
My work have been really supportive with flexible working and I’ve been able to work two days a week at home so far, which is really helping.
How has the nursery helped her settle in?
We followed a programme of settling in with the nursery – just a few hours at a time at first before Amber stayed for a full day. For my first week back at work I did short days which helped. It was really upsetting when she cried when I left her and picked her up for the first few times, but the staff were great at reassuring me that she had been fine as soon as I left the room. What seemed to make it worse was when she could spotted me through the window – it would immediately set her off crying. So now, I hide around the corner and the staff bring her out to me which works much better!
It didn’t take long for Amber to feel very settled. Now when I drop her off, she puts her arms straight out to her carer and happily waves goodbye to me. It’s so reassuring to know that she’s being so well looked after.
Any advice to anyone anxious about going back to work?
You need to remember that those first few days of going back to work will feel the longest – but as you get back into the swing of things at work, and your child settles into childcare, you quickly find the time flying by. On those days that feel really tough, just know that you will get through it. For me, the image of my daughter laughing and cuddling with her carer was the image I needed to get me through the day – I knew she was happy, so that’s all that matters.