S started a new job this week. He’s been working part time since deciding on a career change two years ago and going back to college.
It’s obviously a relief all round to have him back in full time work – it was clear that he didn’t like being part time and not being able to contribute financially as much as he might have liked. But it has meant that he’s been around much more for the first 4 1/2 months of E’s life and that’s been really great.
Obviously it’s been a massive adjustment for us to have E around and for me, not being the most patient of people, it’s been difficult at times. I do feel, however, that I’ve improved since she’s been born and one reason for this has been that I’ve had S to step in when I’ve felt really frustrated or tired and cross. He’s very patient and few things rile him so I’ve been able to learn to tone down my feelings and realise that E’s behaviour isn’t because she is being difficult. Instead she’s just been doing what babies do.
One of the most frequently asked questions recently has been “When are you going back to work?” or, even, “Are you going back to work?” These questions are always asked of me. No-one has asked S if he was going to stay part time to look after her, despite most people knowing that he makes less money than I do. This annoys me although I know people are just reflecting the status quo rather than being deliberately sexist.
I don’t see any other option to be honest. S’s salary will probably go to paying childcare costs so we will be worse off than if he was working part time and able to look after her for a few days. But what can we do? I’m fairly certain that if he stayed part time not only would he be unhappy or discontented but that it would be harder for him to get a full time job later on. Media stories of changing attitudes to flexible working practices don’t apply to everyone.
And I don’t see how me dropping hours would help either since that would mean us losing money too. It’s sheer stupidity to have me work less in order to look after E while S stays in a full time job to earn much less.
Practically all parenting guides state that “most families” are entitled to some help from the state, especially through tax credits. This may have been the case under the previous government, though I’m not sure, but certainly isn’t the case now. We make just too much to qualify for any tax credits but will, as I said above, be losing money from having both of us in full time work. We don’t live extravagantly – small mortgage, sensible shopping, no holidays for a few years, wearing the same clothes till they fall apart etc – we don’t have huge debts. I should be clear, I’d rather not have to rely on the state for help – we were both aware of the cost of babies when we decided to have E and we don’t expect handouts. I would much rather have us in jobs that give a living wage. It seems a ridiculous situation.
I don’t return to work for a few months yet which gives S time to settle into his new job and we can see if he might be able to request a certain rota which may help us out. In the meantime, being home alone with E all day for five days a week has finally driven me to investigate parent groups in the local area. I’ve found a couple of baby groups at the local libraries so we’re going to go to those and see how we get on.