Has Boris Johnson only just discovered the ruinous cost of childcare in this country? He has, allegedly, been seeking a rich donor to pay for a nanny for his one-year-old son Wilfred. What’s surprising is not that the Prime Minister has apparently told friends he needs £300,000 a year to keep on top of his outgoings (life gets expensive when you have multiple dependents and properties), but that he has only now realised the cost of finding someone to look after his son. And how even a dual-income couple will struggle. Especially in London.
I should know: I have been paying for full-time childcare for almost 14 years. For the most part, I have been in denial about the crippling cost. I had never totted up how much I have spent over the years, knowing that the grand total would be far too depressing. After all, I can’t do my job without childcare so I’ve just had to suck it up. Unlike millions of other mothers, I earn enough to avoid the miserable prospect of working purely to pay the nanny.
But after reading of the Prime Minister’s financial travails, I decided it was time for a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much it has cost me over time. The answer? More than £500,000 — and counting. Consider that this came from taxed income, and you get some sense of the amount women have to earn in order to ‘have it all’ (i.e. children and a career).
At that sum – twice the average house price — you might think I’d recruited an army of Norland nannies and, before them, a retinue of maternity nurses. Not a bit of it. I never had any overnight help when my children were really young. But over the years, I’ve tried almost everything else: nurseries, pre-schools, au pairs.