The Great Childcare Juggle

Today I took the kids out to catch up with a few work colleagues, the one real positive to being a nurse and having children is that with a workforce predominantly comprising of women there are always a group of you off on maternity leave at the same time. Obviously this causes some severe issues for management when we go off in droves from the same ward, especially in specialist areas where skill mix is usually an ongoing battle. Although we all feel for managers in their day to day struggles (!) we enjoy nothing better than moaning about work issues when we all get together for a coffee! Unfortunately for the majority of us the time comes when we have to return to work and the reality of juggling impossible shift patterns with childcare starts to hit home.

mrscaleh / Pixabay
Most hospitals no longer provide on site creches or nurseries – another cut back to NHS funding I presume. This leaves all the shift workers, not only nurses, in a difficult position. A few years back when the government in their infinite wisdom and thoughtfulness pushed NHS trusts into the idea that continuity of care improved the patient experience hospitals up and down the country moved to what we call in the profession long days and long nights, ie the 12 hour shift, or in non-professional terms all f’ing day or night. Many people find this model is an improvement; as for the majority this means working 3 shifts a week, but for those of us looking for childcare it is at best a nightmare and at worse friggin impossible.

As the babies crawl around and my crazy 4 year old dashes off and rounds up his peers in an almost Lord of the Flies type gang, talk turns to who is going back to work, who has cut their hours and the never ending discussion of why we can’t works set shifts. This is the other major issues with organising child care as a nurse, apart from finding someone or somewhere that will take your child from 6.30am – 9pm, your shifts change from week to week so you don’t always need the same days covered; and weekends? Well you can just go and forget about that. Every nurse I have ever known has always asked for a set rota when she returns to work but I can’t recall any manager agreeing to this – they quote the usual line of requiring flexibility within the service. Surely if everyone was asking for set days then doing the rota would be made easier as they would know exactly who was working which days?! Lets not even get started on the JOY that that is the Christmas rota… Next time someone says we need a 24/7 NHS I am going to stick a bauble in their nose for every Christmas I have worked! And childcare, now that really would be a Christmas miracle (mind you so would having the whole of Christmas off….)

Pexels / Pixabay
Therefore most nurses are left to juggle childcare between family, partners and a couple of set days at nursery or with a childminder – but what happens when like us you don’t have family just down the road? Oh and to make matters worse you are both expected to work changing shift patterns of long days, nights and weekends? Well I can tell you that it is logistical madness and most months result in me rocking in a corner and muttering to myself. Favours are called in, shifts are swapped, sleep is usually severely lacking as one of us works days and one works nights, we often pass each other like ships in the night. Our use of childcare is usually so that one of us can grab a few hours kip before a shift. Now that our eldest child attends preschool it’s even worse, yes we get those precious 15 hours free every week but the times for school are even less helpful than private child care and for the first time ever we have to contend with school holidays! I dread the end of my maternity leave this time, juggling one child was a miracle, juggling two? I can’t even begin to imagine it….

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53 thoughts on “The Great Childcare Juggle”

  1. You are amazing, Leos dad qualified when little man was 2 and we used to have 50/50 shared parenting before that…then came the 12 hour shifts and now he can only commit to seeing him 2 days a fortnight because of shift patterns and I had to quit my job and find one that would fit with Leo and school etc..I do know he is so proud daddy is a nurse and helps people! #triballove

    1. That must have been really tough for you guys – but I can totally understand how he finds it hard to commit to more than two days a fortnight. The only way we manage is because I now only work two days but fitting those two shifts around my other half is a real struggle. Our son is proud of us but he misses us when we disappear for days on end! Thanks for commenting xx

  2. I simply don’t how you do it. It must be so difficult for you to find childcare when you work such long shifts and different shifts each week. You do an amazing job and there should be more support offered to nurses like you.Bring back hospital creches. What madness to get rid of them! #bigpinklink

    1. There is no childcare for such long hours – we will continue to hand the small people between us. It would be so useful if the hospital had a crèche that I could drop the kids to at 7am and then the other half could pick them up at lunchtime after his nights… But that’s just a pipe dream. Thanks for your kind comments xx

  3. Sounds insane. How stupid not to do set shifts- surely it would benefit everyone? Not sure how having tired nurses after 12 hour shifts either. Nuts. Hope this get easier for you x


    1. Set shifts would benefit every one – as would changing the start time of the shift, if you are going to work 12 hours it hardly matters if you start at 7.30 or 9 in my oinion. And yes after 12 hours every one looks like a zombie! Thanks for commenting xx

    1. That’s the NHS for you utterly ridiculous and underfunded! Held together by a committed workforce of undervalued individuals! Thanks for commenting xx

  4. Wow. I thought teaching was hard but this sounds like madness. Why get rid of hospital creches when it is so obviously going to help so many people out? It is completely bonkers. I go back after my second maternity leave in July and am nervous enough … good luck. You are doing a wonderful job. #PuddingLove

    1. It is mad to get rid of the crèche – especially as the NHS claims to be family friendly. I don’t know who they are friendly too but its not the shift working population who works there! Good luck on your return to work and thanks for commenting xx

  5. Gosh it must be a complete nightmare! Especially with two of you both working changeable shifts. I find the childcare/school/work shuffle really difficult myself, and i’m lucky in that I work a pretty standard (and flexible-ish) week. Good luck with it all xxx

    1. Looks like we have managed to sort the first month out! Mind you I am on annual leave for two weeks so I guess that helps… I think everyone struggles with the childcare juggle, maybe providers should have a think about what they are offering?! Thanks for commenting x

  6. Oh my, this sounds very difficult. How do you even manage to stay alive???! You didn’t even mention how stressful it must be being a nurse! My friend is a nurse and it sounds very tough and she is single and in her early 20s with no schedules whatsoever. You are my hero. #puddinglove #triballove

    1. I have to say when I was single and in my 20’s it was a lot easier, but still played havoc with my social life! Awww thanks for your lovely comment – its nice to be someones hero! x

  7. such a tricky situation!! I applaud you! just finding childcare for ‘normal’ hours is hard – not as hard as yours with shifts is- but tricky, when you consider ALL the things you want from childcare etc.. good luck to you! I honestly hope you fond a resolution that works, and I hope things are eventually (sooner rather than later) made easier for you. #puddinglove

    1. It is so hard to find good childcare that doesn’t cost the earth – like you say even for normalish hours! Am sure we will work something out or maybe we will win the lottery and it won’t matter! Thanks for commenting x

  8. It’s insane, I have no idea how you manage or suggestions to improve anything. I work for the nhs too, thankfully I was already part time before I went on maternity. Cost is cray, I work to pay nursery and that it is. Bad times. But cute kids make up for it!

    1. I think the only way forward is for us to become professional bloggers and work from home – thus alleviating childcare costs and having to traipse into the hospital all the time! Thanks for commenting x

  9. I’m going back to work in a few weeks and sorting out childcare has been really stressful. I’m lucky that I work a set pattern, but my husband and I have still had to shift our schedules around/cut hours in order to only have the Popple in nursery three days a week (any more would be too expensive). There’s no easy solution for any family – I can’t imagine trying to sort out childcare with changing shift patterns! #PuddingLove

    1. You are right there is no easy solution for any of us. Its a tough balancing act trying to work enough hours but not too many that you are working just to pay childcare. Hope your return to work goes ok and thank you for commenting x

  10. I appreciate the work you do and really feel like nurses don’t get enough appreciation. The hours are long and unsociable and it’s much more tough to balance work life with family. Hopefully you find something that works out. #PuddingLove #TribalLove

    1. I think its not that we are under appreciated – but that people don’t realise how much the job impacts on family life with both the hours and the emotional toll. I think the answer is for me to stay home with the kids – but my bank manager sadly does not agree… Thanks for linking and hope to see you again x

  11. Wow, that’s quite a juggling act. One of the Mums in my eldest son’s class works in A&E and her shifts are all over the place. She’s just built an extension on her house and moved her Mum and Dad (and dog) in with her! The perfect solution but how the rest of you manage I don’t know! Hats off to you though. #puddinglove

  12. I’m very much in awe of you and what you do. We don’t have any family close by either and I’m juggling a free lance job which at times is great and sometimes is very, very hard. #PuddingLove

    1. See I always think that working freelance would make my life easier – but I know in reality it wouldn’t. It would just mean attempting to juggle work whilst having the children at the same time, which I imagine can be impossible some days! Thanks for linking up, hope to see you next week x

    1. Exactly its not just the nurses and Doctors who have ridiculous shift patterns – more needs to be done to support healthcare workers. Hospitals need to be more family friendly to their employees. Thanks for linking up – hope to see you again x

  13. Oh I really feel for you. You do such a very special job and we all really are grateful but I can only imagine how you cope with family life. I know people who work 9-5 monday to friday and find childcare a huge struggle so goodness knows how you do it! I won’t get started on my views of NHS cuts and Jeremy Hunt….it’s a lot of rude words that don’t fit with your lovely #puddinglove linky haha. Thanks for hosting!

    1. Any Jeremy bashing is always welcome here – please feel free to post your opinions on that awful man at any point1 Thanks for linking up chick xx

  14. Oh my goodness. I had never really thought about what happens when both partners work shifts. It must be a nightmare. Hats off to you for making it work (although it’s not as if you have any choice). #puddinglove

    1. Nightmare is def the best way to describe it! Like you say we make it work because we have no choice at the moment. Maybe I will be a pro blogger one day and this wont be the case anymore! (gotta have a dream right?) Thanks for linking x

  15. You make me happier to be a SAH parent 🙂 Although I do miss working and the social interaction that came with it. I have thought about returning to work in the fall but it means some changes in lifestyle for my kids. Not sure if I’m ready to do that just for extra money and social euphoria 😉 We will see. Good luck with your adventure and thanks for hosting #puddinglove

    1. I would miss work if I didn’t go – but this time I am dreading going back for the amount of effort involved in the childcare! Thanks for linking up, hopefully see you again soon xx

  16. It’s a total juggling act! You are doing amazing. My sister is a nurse and currently on maternity leave with my niece. She is hoping to make use of the on site hospital nursery for her daughter but its massively busy. A friend of mine and her hubby are both in the police force so they have a similar nightmare, like passing ships she says. Hugs and thanks for hosting #puddinglove x

    1. Thanks for your comment – your sister is lucky they have such facilities, I hope she manages to get a place I bet they are very over subscribed! I think a lot of the public services struggle with childcare because we are expected to work such unsocial hours, I totally understand how your friend feels, I can go nearly a week without seeing my other half for more than 10 mins. Thanks for linking up and hopefully see you next week x

  17. We are lucky in that I work a day shift and my OH a back shift. So Holly doesn’t need any childcare as she is at nursery now. But the new baby will need a babysitter for 2 hours a day. Luckily our old babysitter wants to take her. But it’s just horrible trying to work out child care. During the summer holidays holly is going round the family doors!!
    Great post!

  18. This sounds very tricky indeed. I cannot imagine how you and everyone else in the profession juggle it all. You will indeed need a whole community to fall back on and honestly, that’s what we should do to give back to all of you nurses who do so much for everyone else. It is funny how sometimes “budget” cuts are seen in terms of numbers and not about real people. How can we grow as a society when people working in essential services are not supported? Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

  19. Rubbish. Poor you guys having to sort this out when you are doing such a tough job anyway and doing something which really benefits society and you don’t get any support back! #PuddingLove

    1. I have to say the stress of the childcare does make you a little resentful of the job after awhile, its such a headache and there is no help out there! Thanks for linking up, hope to see you again x

    1. It is barmy – yes I can imagine the receptionists have a hard time too. All the staff in the hospital do to be honest. Thanks for co-hosting chick, great job x

  20. It sounds like an absolute logistical nightmare trying to juggle childcare with shifts – how can you book nursery or get help from friends or family, you must have to operate on a day to day basis! I think on-site nurseries should be offered, especially for people like you who are doing such an important and stressful job. Blooming heck! Talk about a juggling act! #puddinglove

    1. Booking nursery is a total no go and I am yet to find a childminder who can be that flexible! I wish they would reconsider on-site nurseries, mind you I can only imagine how over subscribed they would be! Thanks for linking and hope to see you next week xx

  21. I was going back to work then but I am having a hard time getting extra time for my son. I then gave up and just stayed at home. Its really hard and to think that my time then is fixed. I can only imagine how hard it is for profession that has an erratic scheduling like yours.


    1. It would be easier if they could set shifts or be a bit more flexible. It sounds like everyone has the same struggles so surely we need to do something about family friendly working across the board. Thanks for linking up x

  22. Although I wasn’t a nurse, I did have the same worries with how I would juggle four children and my job. For that reason I’m a SAHM, we simply couldn’t afford childcare for four children and didn’t have family to rely on for childcare either. It’s really hard isn’t it? #puddinglove

    1. I can imagine finding childcare for 4 children would mean that you were spending any money you earnt on childcare, and having 4 is definitely a full time job. Its tough, I wish we lived closer to family, or maybe my blog will take off and I can just be a pro blogger? Ah that would be grand! Thanks for linking up hope to see you again x

  23. Exactly! I am a paediatric registered nurse in Aus and have exactly the same problem. This is why I have resorted to pool nursing – only making myself available on the days my husband is free to look after the kids.

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