It’s something that has absolutely baffled me for a while.
And it transpires I’m not the only one.
More than 140,000 people – me included – have signed a petition demanding that the Government’s 15 hours of free childcare starts when a child is nine months – rather than when they are three years old.
Click here to sign the petition
I have tried and tried to understand why this isn’t already the case – but it defies logic.
Think about it.
Statutory maternity pay ends typically when your child is nine months.
Then, if you return to work, obviously SOMEONE is going to have to look after your baby.
And yet there is no financial help with this – until your child is three.
That’s more than two years, where you’re looking at paying hundreds of pounds in childcare (FYI typical childcare costs are about £1,000 a month) so you can leave your child with someone else while you work.
Is it any wonder that many parents are actually forced into giving up work – simply because the cost of childcare outstrips their salary?
Sonny Jim: My number 1 priority
A few weeks back I got headhunted for a new job (aside from being Sonny Jim’s mummy I’m also editor of Essex Living magazine.)
It was a great offer and I was incredibly flattered (stuff like that never happens to me!) but it strangely reinforced just how much life seems to change when you become a mother.
Pre-Sonny Jim my priorities on the work front were (perhaps, obviously) the money, the perks, how much fun I could have with the job, how it would progress my career, and if it was a good chance to challenge myself.
When chatting to this new potential employer, I found myself asking all kinds of different questions.
Obviously the money was still important (they might be small, but my GOD children are not cheap to keep!) but I was now questioning working from home policies rather than champagne allowances (yes, I did once have a job where buying fizz on a Tuesday was a legitimate expense!) I was worrying about my office hours fitting around preschool opening hours. About flexible working. About security.
Godmothers: Sonny Jim with my girls
Sonny-Jim has two godmothers. They are two of my closest of friends.
One is an incredible single mum to an almost 17-year-old lad.
The other is mother to three boys – but her middle son, Alfie, was stillborn.
Ashingdon’s Emma Cox was pregnant with Alfie at the same time I was expecting Sonny Jim. But as I cuddled my three-month-old tot, she gave birth to a sweet baby boy, who never cried and never opened his eyes.
This was almost three years ago. And I have been in awe of her ever since.
Losing a child must be the worst thing a mother can experience. It literally breaks hearts.
And for someone to be able to take that tragedy and try and do some good, takes utterly incredible strength.
Since Alfie’s birth, Emma, and her husband Danny, have raised thousands of pounds for Southend Hospital – the place where she gave birth to all three of her boys.
And, to mark what should be Alfie’s third birthday, she has organised – for the second year now – a fabulous charity ball.
My not-so-little-boy: Soon to be a threenager
Next week my baby is going to be three.
As he keeps telling me, “I not a baby, I a big boy mummy.”
In theory I should be happy to say goodbye to the “terrible” twos, but I’m not. They really haven’t been that terrible at all.
Yes, the potty training has been trying. Yes, the end-of-the-world tears at the most random of things is tiring. Yes, the fact I can recite almost word-for-word entire episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine and Fireman Sam is probably not exactly ideal. But before we enter the threenager stage (I’m so not ready!) here are some
reasons I love the “terrible twos”.
All the feels: Only last week for the very first time Sonny Jim said to me utterly unprompted and out of nowhere, “my love you SO much mummy.” (Heart melting much?) He also tells me that “my happy now,” shows genuine concern for the feelings of others (including the trains on Thomas, “Gordon saaad mummy, he needs a rub now”) and hugs you, just because he wants to.
Worth all the crap – literally!
Last week was half-term.
Sonny Jim had no pre-school and I decided now was the time for my almost-three-year-old to finally figure out the whole toilet training thing.
Having spoken about this a fair bit (honestly, as soon as you become a parent I swear suddenly 50 per cent of all conversation starts to revolve around poo) I’d not been rushing the issue.
The general consensus among my mummy friends was that you’re best to wait until your child is ready – rather than when you think they should be – else it will become a battle. And you won’t win.
Until very recently, Sonny Jim had shown absolutely no sign he was in any way ready to give up his pull-ups. But in the past month or so, me, his daddy and his preschool “aunties” had a feeling potty training might be soon on the agenda. He would tell us when he’d done a poo. He was no longer unbothered by a wet nappy. He was talking more.
So, last Monday, we went for it. Daytime nappies were no more. And chocolate buttons were the bribe of choice. He spent two days naked from the waist down and the soundtrack to our days was me asking “wee coming yet?” accompanied by the theme tune to endless episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine and Fireman Sam. Continue reading
Poorly pickle: My Sonny Jim
This week I got my first phone call from Sonny Jim’s preschool.
I was working, as ever trying to squeeze eight hours work into four, and as I hung up the phone it rang almost immediately.
I answered without even looking, to hear the voice of Sonny Jim’s key worker telling me that he was “fine, well not fine, but okay.”
It transpired that my little lad was rather out of sorts. When we’d got up that morning he had seemed slightly off colour, but I assumed it was the very last of his teeth cutting (honestly, it sometimes seems like he’ll be riding a bike before those very back ones come through!) I gave him a bit of Calpol, jollied him along and he went off to preschool in his usual fashion, “bye mummy, be back soon!”
But he’d gone rather downhill since I’d left.
And in that moment as they told me he was really not himself, that he was sad and saying “my tummy hurt, my bum hurt, my mouth hurt” that he wasn’t eating his snack and he was very hot, I got all the pangs of mummy guilt.
Family: Me with my sister-in-laws and sister
LAST Saturday my sister-in-law had her baby shower.
Her little boy is due in a couple of weeks, so her family and friends all gathered at Canvey’s Estuary Heights for a spot of afternoon tea, games and (in my case anyway!) prosecco.
It was lovely. Though these showers are an American tradition, that we’ve only recently really adopted this side of the pond, it’s a very sweet way to spend an afternoon. Three years ago, I really enjoyed mine.
But it got me thinking. We spend so much time preparing for the birth, for bringing the baby home, making sure we have all the material stuff sorted (from little vests to rocking chairs.)
But what about the bit when the baby is actually here. Postpartum. Those is-it-day-is-it-night-who-am-I-why-does-everything-hurt weeks (months. Can I say years?!)