Life as a freelancer and spiralling childcare costs

It’s all change for me from next week onwards. Having mostly been in permanent editorial roles for the last 10 years, I’ve decided to enter the world of freelance copywriting, editing and journalism.

Along with the fact that I’m really looking forward to all the challenges of starting and finishing new projects and pitching for work, the impact of high childcare costs in this country is another reason behind my decision.

No, I will not be attempting to work with a small child attached to my leg all day in order to save on nursery bills – childcare will remain an essential part of my working life – but with my pay remaining as frozen as a bag of peas for the last two years and the foreseeable future, something had to change.

Monthly childcare costs more than a mortgage

Childcare costs in London for a three-day week is nearly twice as much as our mortgage – shocking – and we didn’t even pick one of the ‘best’ ones. Research released this week from the Daycare Trust and Mumsnet found that four out of 10 families are now spending as much or more on childcare as their mortgage every month.

It will be interesting to see what happens now that David Cameron has launched a commission on childcare to look at how to bring the cost down and increase childcare places, because something needs to change.

Back to work after maternity leave

I remember getting annoyed at colleagues when they assumed I wouldn’t want to remain in a full-time role after having a baby. “Of course I will,” I exclaimed! It really annoyed me when people would think the worst. “Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can’t work full time,” I insisted.

Well you can, if you earn lots in the first place and it’s worth your while, you don’t really like your baby (I am joking!), or you manage to bring home more than you would on benefits alone. But they were right, I just couldn’t do it… and not just because it wouldn’t make sense financially.

As well as the incentive to write for a number of publications at the same time, keeping my brain ticking along nicely, I also want to enjoy these baby years before they pass by in a flurry. This is not an attack on mums who work full-time, or who are stay-at-home mums; it is a personal choice.

Part-time writing jobs

But ultimately, I want to work; I love being creative and I want to keep doing what I trained to do all those years ago. I want it all – is that greedy? No. I just wish that employers would start to advertise more senior part-time opportunities for mums and better pay for women. (Says me, who isn’t exactly a feminist, but now I really am starting to notice the divide.)

I watched a very interesting edition of ITV’s Tonight programme ‘The Parent Trap’ at the end of May about the crippling costs of childcare. I was shocked and just a little bit jealous of how parents in Sweden receive generous parental leave and affordable state funded childcare. Families spend a mere six per cent of their income on childcare compared to 27 per cent in the UK.

There was also a thought-provoking feature in the Metro about how more workers are going part-time, but many are ashamed to admit it.

Moving pace of digital media

The digital world changes so rapidly that to be out of it for too long would be tough for any journalist and would probably entail a lot of retraining.

By the time I got back to work after 10 months off things had changed in a number of ways, but mostly there was a stronger shift towards social media, blogging and mobile apps. Who knows what will happen in the next year, but I am excited that I will still be a part of it.


Posted in Blog, Lifestyle, Pregnancy and parenting.


  1. This is a good review of the options – or lack of them, for women who want to work and have childcare issues. I wrote a blog a while ago about how much it would cost me, annually, to return to work – it was just over £1K per year, that I would be in “debt” if I returned to my old job.

    So I didn’t. I went freelance and then as it grew, took on freelancers, contractors and staff, who like me, and you, to “have it all”. Whether we are or not, is an entirely different question!!

    But for now, I’m pleased to have found you and look forward to seeing how it all works out for you, joining the “Working Mum Elite” who are juggling left, right and centre ….

    • Hi Liz,

      Thanks for your comment – that is crazy how much you worked it out to be… go back to work and be in debt, is such a shame for people like us who want to keep working. Really pleased that things have worked out for you and is great to hear positive stories of mums who have made it work. I will have to have a nose about your blog 🙂

  2. I was lucky enough to have dipped my toe into freelancing before I had my first child, so I already had a part-time senior communications officer post when I returned from maternity leave.

    Our childcare was still very expensive though, and more so when we had our second child. We had to turn to family to help us out one day a week just so that I could work three days in the office.

    But having started that freelance work I started to feel a bit like you. Like I could have a bit more time with the children, a better quality of life but still work.

    So I took the same decision as you in December and, like Liz, hope that one day I’ll be in a position to offer work to other freelancers, contractors and mums who “want it all”.

    Good luck

    • Hi Louise,

      That is a definite advantage and must have been nice for you to have that to return to. I haven’t even thought about the second child cost, think we will get a dog instead! Is great that you have family nearby to help out too – it is nice to work in the office and have that mix of working from home too. For now I will be relieved that this food poisoning I have today is at least on its way out… I forgot I won’t get sick pay now! Must cook my fish fingers properly next time…

      All the best,

  3. A really interesting read Julia!

    It’s crazy how big a devide it is between the scandinavian countries and the UK. In Finland they reward mothers for taking care of their children until the age of three with a generous maternity allowance, but they also give the flexibility to allow mums and fathers to return to work without incuring huge costs.

    Jenny is starting a new job next week and the government still gives us about 600 euros a month for childcare. We can use the money for a minder or enrol Jonah in a nursery, which is also subsidised by the government. Plus my university provide excellent childcare for four euros an hour for a maximum of three hours a day.

    An article comparing the two countries would be really interesting!

    Hope you’re all well.


    • Hey Chris!

      Gosh that is good where you are, I may come and live there instead! Must be a lovely feeling knowing that Jenny is not spending all her time working for childcare. Do you have to pay a lot more taxes over there or is it similar?

      We are good thanks 🙂

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