(unrelated pictures but thought this amount of text needed some pretty images)
My return to work was quite sudden, although I had been doing bits and bobs of freelance work since Wilf was about four months old. I was approached with a job offer of a 20 hour a week freelance role when Wilf was around 17 months old. It was an immediate start so for the first two weeks I balanced my work with Wilf at home still, working in his naps, evening's and weekends. I was still trying to manage Skype meetings with Dora The Explorer in the background, replying to emails whilst trying to distract Wilf and it felt awful. I wasn't giving him the attention he needed, I didn't want Netflix to be his babysitter and I felt stressed all the time.
I knew then that I needed to look into childcare. Initially I disregarded the idea of Nursery at all, thinking a childminder would be the better option. We even looked in a nanny (who was fantastic but too expensive an option with just one child). Although I think childminders are brilliant, for some reason after visiting I still felt very unsure. I booked a visit at the nursery with no expectation of liking it and in-fact wondering if I should just give up my new job instead.
It's funny how things happen, as soon as I saw Wilf's room I felt completely sure that that was the best place for him. I felt totally at ease with his key worker and although she unfortunately did leave a short while a go (one downside of Nursery) I will be eternally grateful for how she helped us settle in and for caring for Wilf so well.
We are lucky that he is in a very small class (around 6-8 children) with three key-workers. It took him only a week to settle (although I did cry every day). It was harder for me I think than him but they were so kind and very understanding when I called four times to check in on the first day! He really thrives there and it has been such a great move for us.
Whilst I originally thought I would stay home with Wilf until school I have found that as a family we are so much happier having a little time apart. I have found that I have felt more refreshed being able to work on projects that don't involving 'mummy-ing'. I have conversation to chat to Tom about that isn't just about what I did with Wilf that day (which is of course interesting but one coffee shop, park or friends house quickly becomes another ;). Wilf has his own little life away from us a few days a week and he tells me the things he did (painting leaves! Circle time! played with Alfie and trucks mummy!').
After a few months my job took a short break and I used this time to launch my online shop. If it wasn't for my initial freelance work I would never have made the jump into childcare and have had time I needed to launch my shop. Instead of returning to that line of work Tom and I spoke about how this could be the opportunity I needed to really make a go of being a shop owner and business lady, (ha!) and if I didn't try now then when would I?
We are lucky/unlucky enough to have a lot of help towards our childcare with working tax credits, so although we are not quite making two peoples incomes (far from it) we have enough to cover childcare and put a little back into the shop each month. I'm hoping that the 'slow and steady' route will mean that this time next year we will have built up the business well enough to be really succeeding.
It's been a great move for us, I feel beyond lucky with the situation we are in.
How did you find childcare? I'd love to hear your experiences!