Putting the Baby’s Name Down

Maternity leave arrangements in the UK are actually very generous. Legally you can take a year off of which 9 months (if you’re an employee) will be paid at varying rates, but with a statutory minimum level. You can start claiming maternity pay or benefits from around 28 weeks (I think), but obviously the advantage to working closer to the due date is that you have more time available to take off once the baby is actually here. My situation is a little bit complicated though, because I’m not an employee; I’m self employed for tax purposes. Technically I can be classed as a “worker” because I always work in the same place, (although I’m not employed there), and that gives me some of the same protection that employees have, but no right to Statutory Maternity Pay. I’m a bit like a contractor as I carry out a specified level of work for the NHS. Fortunately though, that contract has provision for me to be a paid a very reasonable amount of maternity pay, but only for six months.

In addition my situation is complicated by my less than straightforward health situation, diabetes being a part of that. Doing dentistry with a big bump must be hard enough. I currently sit on a saddle seat, which is just how it sounds: like a horse’s saddle on a pole and wheels. Whilst this is excellent for protecting my back (and for getting the baby in to an optimal anterior position!) just getting on and off the thing whilst heavily pregnant will be a challenge. Towards the end of my pregnancy, my health situation means that I’ll likely be attending the hospital at least once a week and we still have the issue of early induction to consider. So altogether, I’d like to finish work sooner rather than later.

But I do want to go back. For various reasons. Finances are a part of it, although we could survive on Ian’s salary alone, things would be tighter than we’re used to. But I’d also like to “keep my hand in”. I worry that if I step out of dentistry for a while, I’ll find it incredibly difficult to pick up again both from the point of view of finding a job but also remembering what to do and how to do it, plus keeping up with new advances. Perhaps selfishly, I think I’ll enjoy some “me time” too. Having professional stimulation for a few days will, I hope, add balance to motherhood.

I’ve got to consider that my generous maternity package only lasts six months. I want to take a chunk of time before the baby is born. Every extra week I take off over and above the six months will cost us money. So realistically, all things together, I’m looking at taking around eight months off; Two months before my due date, and six after. All of which means we’re looking at childcare from May next year.

Our baby doesn’t have a name yet. Flangelina does not count, since no matter what Ian thinks, there is no way we’d really call our child Flangelina. We don’t even know if the baby is a boy or girl, so it would be impossible anyhow for us to have fixed on a definite name. But it seems that despite this, we need to get the baby’s name down for a childcare place. Like, 2 months ago. I actually thought we were being really organised by starting to look in to childcare at 20 weeks. Apparently a lot of parents start even earlier than that though.

The options basically boil down to family childcare, childminders or nursery. I’ve always gravitated towards putting our child in a nursery. Family and friends childcare isn’t a realistic option because I don’t want to tie anyone down to always being available. My parents live close enough to do it, and probably would if we asked, but they have busy lives and enjoy their holidays and I wouldn’t want to restrict that. It’s good to know that they are available for emergencies, but I don’t think it would be healthy for any of us to depend on them for more than that. Other family realistically live too far to be able to provide regular childcare.

Whilst there are plenty of local childminders, I don’t think it’s the best option for us either. I have some practical concerns, like what happens if the childminder is ill, and how I can be sure that they are any good at what they do (with no one local able to make a recommendation). I also worry, perhaps rather irrationally, that my child being mainly with one person al the time will lead to them developing too much of an attachment to them, even though it will only be for 2 days a week.

Nursery appeals, because I think it will expose them to other children and adults and hopefully contribute towards structured development. There are none of the issues that I have with childminders and I have independent OFSTED inspections and some local recommendations to help me with my choice.

So this week I’ve been to physically look around some local nurseries. It’s an odd experience, walking around with my bump, all these small children running around and imagining my own unborn baby amongst them.  But we’ve made a choice. Ased on the fact that the environment and staff seemed lovely, all the children seemed very happy. On a practical level, the price is good, the opening hours are perfect and it’s literally around the corner from where I work which will make drop off and pick up easy.

The name is down as “Baby Parker”. And it’s probably the biggest single step we’ve made towards all the massive changes that are going to happen.

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