As Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off, we look at how stressed working mums are about childcare. In a word: Very!!!

Written by Tracey Blake

When I was working in a high-pressure daily newspaper environment a few years ago and my nanny Laura called to tell me she would be leaving in three weeks, I cried. And I never cry at work!

With two children aged three and five, a full-time job and a three-hour daily commute, I was already feeling constantly overwhelmed and in chaos and this felt like that final straw that tipped me over the edge from just about coping to not coping. The thought of trying limited options (a website and word of mouth amongst local friends) to find someone who was the right fit for our family in just a few weeks made my heart race and panic set in.

At the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week – which this year focuses on stress – I’m telling you this because I wanted to highlight just how much stress working women are under when it comes to sourcing childcare (because, let’s face it, finding and organising the childcare often falls to the woman in most cases).

The hard truth is that we’re in the midst of a childcare crisis – there simply isn’t enough good quality, flexible childcare available.

The Family & Childcare Trust’s recently released Childcare Survey 2018 reveals that half of local authorities have enough childcare in all areas for under twos, falling to a quarter for afterschool care for primary age children and one in eight for 12 to 14 year olds.

Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics (which carries out a labour force survey on this each year) found that some 12.5 million working days were lost to work related stress, anxiety and depression in 2016/17 – up from 11.7 million the previous year.

‘What is particularly interesting from these statistics is how much more likely women are to be affected than men,’ muses Chris Phillips in a recently published article on https://www.thehrdirector.com/. ‘While it is speculation, could this be the burden of childcare falling more heavily on female workers who, like their male counterparts, still have to cope with the stresses of the “day job”?’

Full disclosure, I hope that this platform Student Nannies can go some way to helping to solve the childcare crisis and reducing stress levels in working women –  we can connect mums with a support network of local university students who can help them to cope with the challenging after-school pick-ups, school holidays, inset days, nightmare commutes and late meetings requiring ad hoc babysitting.

If I can help just a few career women manage the juggle of career and parenthood with less of a struggle then I will be thrilled (please contact me if you are interested in finding out more about corporate memberships).

We also need to keep pressure up on companies big and small to embrace the benefits of flexible working – for men and women, parents and non parents. And it would be great if more schools offered breakfast clubs and after-school clubs – we need more funding!

As Baroness Karren Brady said back in 2013, ‘Childcare is biggest barrier to women in workplace’ and sadly we still have a long way to go til we smash it and the stress that goes along with it.