Patchwork Childcare


Whoa! Where did September go?

Apologies for going quiet for a month but things have been hectic, what with school start, new job and September being conference season for child psychiatrists. The last month has been about patch working childcare and prioritising, which sadly meant no time to blog. I’m hoping that it will calm down a bit now that October is here. Phew!

Unfortunately the new and hard won London NHS Consultant job has meant that I can no longer drop off the children at school on the 3 days a week that I work. I am not quite sure who worked out the logistics that school should start at 8:50 am, and work should start at 9am, because who in London can get to work in 10 minutes….? And which childminder would want to come for just an hour of work in the morning to take children to school?

Then there was the afterschool care. I am lucky that my mother has always taken the children 2 days a week after school. I say, “lucky” – but of course, luck has little to do with it. I purposefully moved home to the other side of London from my job expressly for this purpose so I have to endure a 75 minute commute each way. I just had one afternoon to fill, so a Nanny or Au Pair was not needed, and I had fought hard to get a part-time job to stave off this need for full-time childcare. After meeting a few young ladies over the summer that might have potentially been able to take the kids after school a day a week, I settled on one and sat on my laurels thinking the problem was solved. One week before school start and I text to confirm arrangements, only she has disappeared off the face of the earth. I suddenly felt immensely sick that just as I was about to return to “a career” where I had left off, I was struck down again by the nagging problem “who will look after my kids?”

I thought about starting a breakfast club at the school with a rota of parents or paying a parent of another child in Big Sis or Lil Bro’s class to take them. I looked into which other parents might be interested. And as each cock-a-mamy plan fell through, the same sinking feeling. It was then that I had my revelation. The solution was so simple that looking back I cannot believe that I didn’t think of it immediately.

Before I tell you the solution, I want to share with you an old brain teaser:

A teenage boy who grew up having never met his father has a terrible road traffic accident. He is rushed to hospital and straight into emergency theatre, the surgeons gather around ready to operate, but just then the lead surgeon looks at the boy’s face and gasps saying “I can’t operate, this is my son”. What has happened?

Before you make some sort of long winded reply about how the surgeon recognised the boy to be his son because they looked so similar, I will tell you that the answer is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Yes, a FEMALE lead surgeon.

And so, you can see how many of us can be blinded by gender stereotypes. Hopefully, you might fathom that my solution to my childcare problems was to make Banker involved. Yes – men can do childcare! He was made to drop the children at school, at least one of the days I was at work, and also told to make arrangements for the children to go to after school club once a week. Why should I be the only one suffering an ulcer over this?

Just as I was taken aback by my realisation that fathers could actually contribute to regular weekly childcare duties, rather than just at the weekend, he too was surprised to be asked! I am amazed that he had sat through my endless rantings of “maybe we could pay so-and-so to take the children”, without once suggesting that part of this responsibility was his, and he could offer a solution. There ensued of course the typical grumblings… “important job”… “impossible” … “money” … “promotion”… “blah” … “blah” …”blah”.

However, I was lucky enough to know that one of his colleagues was able to wrangle a late start to drop his children off at school a few days a week. You see this colleague had just spent a tonne of money fighting for shared custody of his children following a divorce such that he could have the privilege of taking them to school half of the week. So I pointed out to my darling banker that I was offering him exactly this privilege without the expense of divorce and custody battle. Bargain!

Humour aside though, surely childcare arrangements are a shared responsibility, why does it so often fall to mothers? Even when fathers are doing childcare, it is because the mothers have told them to do so and given them explicit instructions of where things are and what to do. I for one would like some time off from the thinking and planning as well as the doing. And how come good divorced fathers are so great at arranging time off “important” work to be with their kids?

Contentious, but I will put it out there just for contention: Maybe if they had always done so they mightn’t be divorced?



  1. MarinaSofia

    Double like, triple like!
    I’ve been travelling so much lately for work and all of the arrangements have fallen in my lap. Juggling multiple mothers and childminders across timezones has been a nightmare. But even when I leave husband completely in charge (because he doesn’t have important meetings or shifts etc.), I have to leave a spreadsheet with where, what, who does what and still get emergency phonecalls. I would so like to break that dependency – it was never my intention to be the control freak! As you say, it would be restful to not have to do all the planning for a change.
    Good luck with the new job and hope all the childcare arrangements work well.

  2. madcitymom

    I love your blog. I work full-time in the city and have a fantastic before & after school nanny who is a PhD student. I pay a huge premium for him to look after my primary school aged son. Like any employee, he gets sick, needs study leave on unexpected days and take holidays… The husband says I worry too much and “we” will work it out meaning “I” will work it out and send a detailed schedule for the week ahead and field the phone calls from dictors, dentists, schools etc because they think all school boys are fatherless even if the father booked an appointment or his name is first in the emergency contact list.

    The triple shift of women who are the main income earners: working to pay the school fees or mortgage, organising and paying for childcare and organising the family because otherwise intelligent men think their wife is their personal assistant at home is a very real contributor to mental illness in women.

    We don’t need to lean in, lean out or lean sideways. We need husbands who pull their weight at home. Smart women usually marry smart men who can manage multinational corporations, run million pound research budgets, buy and sell companies, stocks and bonds, send men to the moon…. It’s about time men exercised the same ingenuity and initiative at home.

    • Shrinkgrowskids

      Thanks! Yes I always give the school my husbands number, but they ALWAYS ring me! I didn’t want to shame my husband, but I think it is so prevalent that we do need to call up our hubbies on this to effect change!

      • madcitymom

        It’s about time working parents encouraged schools, doctors (perhaps you could nudge the BMA to man up), dentists and service providers to call fathers first. I bet Fathers for Justice would love this.

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