I'm in a life conundrum at the moment. Having been brought up to believe that I can do anything, be anyone I want to be, I'm stuck being a mum. I quite literally cannot go back out to work. The reason isn't lack of enthusiasm, lack of passion, lack of ability or even lack of jobs I could apply for. It's childcare costs, quite simply, I'd need to earn at least £50,000 to cover childcare costs for my children at the moment. The flat rate for care of my children would be £6 per hour, by the time I've multiplied that by number of children and hours and taken off my National Insurance contributions and tax I probably wouldn't even be able to afford the travel to the job even on that salary.
In my sector what is considered a good job would command a salary of about £28,000. I saw a curators position at a local museum advertised this week at a starting salary of £17,000. This is to work some weekends and demands a lot of experience, skills and involves managing people. A barista in the coffee shop at the Houses of Parliament earns more. Laughable, if this wasn't peoples lives and to a degree their self respect we are talking about. I spend a lot of time wondering about the point of it all.
Fortunately I've found a small niche where I can make a little bit of money from my blog and doing a little bit of freelance work. I also work as a childminder. It's not much and not my dream at all, but at least I can feel like I am contributing to my family. I need to accept that my dreams were dashed the moment I fell pregnant.
It seems that for the next few *several* years I am marooned at home, chained to the endless round of baby groups, school runs, dishwasher loading and never managing a warm uninterrupted cup of tea. It crossed my mind in a moment of madness that I would have nothing to lose in having a fourth baby. Why not? I'm at home anyway and I'm really enjoying having a big family. In reality, it would probably kill me, I'm really struggling these days with the sleepless nights, endless nappies and constant demands on me. But, a younger woman could probably manage. I think this may be a personal failing. I really ache for another little girl. I must cut my losses and enjoy what I have. But for some people I can see that this would be a perfectly reasonable course of action.
The odd thing about children is that when you have just one and no experience you feel run off your feet. Its genuinely difficult to cope. Then another comes along and it seems about 30 % harder as opposed to 100%. I think maybe you're used to it. When baby number 3 comes along its pretty much a doddle, the problem is dealing with the endless monotony of nappy changes. By this stage you've become so expert at them, people with one child marvel at your abilities to do it whilst the child is running away and you're talking on the phone and writing an article all at the same time. I'm always amazed at how easy it seems when I'm left with one child.
This leads me to wonder what the optimum number of children might actually be, in terms of going to work and having a nice life I would suggest that its actually one child or dare I say it, even less than that. For the children themselves I would suggest that the more the better, my children thrive when they are together. In the past, it would have been important to have a big family, the offspring helping to bring income into the home.
I don't for one minute regret my family, but I do regret the decisions I made earlier on in life in terms of career choice because in choosing a vocation instead of a job for the money I ruled out my chances of doing that job beyond my childbearing years. Even with just one child to pay for it was quite a stretch financially to work.
So what is the optimum number of children? It's a really difficult and emotive question. I think at the moment for many families it is all about economics. Should this be the case? Should it be more about personal choice and emotions or just chance?