Toni Dean tells Age Immaterial her story…
When will it change? I am now 53; I had four children between 1983 and 2000.  My eldest daughter is now 30, my twin sons are just reaching 21 and my youngest son is fast approaching 13. It’s not been easy; I have tried everything to support my family; working unsociable hours for low-paid work, part-time work, child minders, and nurseries and later, where available, after-school care.  There has never been a satisfactory outcome; it has been a continual plate spinning exercise, having to choose what support option to take up dependent on the type of work I chose. In the end it was just about getting through day by day, dealing with the here and now, muddling along just to try to generate some secondary income as we were a large family. But often the costs of childcare negated the little I managed to earn. I feel I have compromised my options in terms of work and have limited my choices due to my inability to build up work experience over time.

30 years later – my daughter, who is now a teacher and a mother, is dealing with the very same issues that I had to when she was a child. Of course I am still facing these challenges as my youngest is only 12, we both struggle to balancing work and childcare and we rely heavily on family for that support.

This is the key challenge that women have to contend with once they have taken the step to have a child. There is an expectation and a pressure that women will return to work but no adequate and affordable childcare for us to access.
When are we as a country going to tackle this issue properly?
We have a fractured system with a mixture of being able to claim some state funding if entitled with some support through vouchers if you have a job. None of it is adequate, accessible or affordable.

Over the years I have continually compromised my work choices to fit in with my childcare responsibilities much like many other women in the UK.  We limit our choices, but the need for extra money to be brought into the household is the driver.

For the last 5 and a half years I have worked for a trade union and received excellent training courses and educational support which has led to me to attempt to study for a degree. It may be too late for me now to develop a career but if there had been appropriate standardised nursery care and wraparound after school care – I would have been able to go for positions that offered more responsibility and with it options to develop a career.

We need government to take action and change the outcomes here – we need a standardised child care system that can be accessed by all, with a graduated cost according to earnings.  We aren’t going to change the basic facts of life, women still generally hold the primary responsibility for childcare but I can look back over three decades and have not seen this issue dealt with either effectively or appropriately by any government to date – it is now time it was.

Toni Dean is a working mother, grandmother, Ruskin student, trade unionist and Labour Party activist.

Posted on March 10th, 2013 by Toni Dean filed under: Blog, Work

2 Responses to Women, Children and Work – When is it going to Change?

  1. Comment made by Angela Thorogood on Mar 15th 2013 at 10:48 am:

    Hi Toni,

    I will be 53 next month and completely understand where you are coming from as my experiences are very similar. For the past ten years I have been a part time student at the University of Bedfordshire and I have just started my PhD journey. I am interested in working women’s experiences of the menopause. Would you allow me to contact your directly through email possibly?

    Angela Thorogood

  2. Comment made by Toni on Mar 15th 2013 at 11:56 am:

    Hi Angela thank you for your comment – I would be happy to talk with you let’s liaise via email through tuc – best regards Toni