Gone are the days when one income could suport a mortgage AND a family, but are childcare costs so high that getting back into the workforce can’t be justified?

Below is a great article we came across in the Financial Review by Ayesha de Kretser, it outlines the dilema’s that Mum’s in the workforce face everyday…..

The best words of advice I ever received came from a fellow journalist.

I had told him that after six months in the role of “mum”, I was going back to work. “Ayesha,” he said, “promise me you’ll never be one of those women who writes about the miracle of motherhood.”

I had no problem making that promise as I didn’t consider myself a candidate for such sentiments.

When Olive was born I first asked if she was alive (she was purple and didn’t cry like they do in the movies) and then I recoiled when an overzealous hippy midwife tried to put the purple creature on my chest.

“Aren’t you going to wash it?” I asked in horror. Hardly the stuff of miracles and no, they didn’t wash it.

So it’s with some reservation that I break my promise and write about motherhood after becoming increasingly frustrated by the debate about childcare in this country.

My parents’ generation don’t have wise words on the subject because mortgages were sufficiently handled on one income in the majority of cases, and mums, as bored as they may have been, stayed at home labelling their kids’ skivvies and singlets. These days, women really have to want to return to work because their jobs are seen as a luxury given the expense of putting a kid into care.

Put simply, the onus is on women to justify their place in the workforce more than ever before despite all the lip service being paid to the idea of boosting Australia’s productivity by “helping” women back to work with the ineffective childcare rebate.

The government “incentivises” me to return to work by giving me “half” of my expenses back, up to a maximum of $7500 a year. It’s the only family payment that isn’t means tested – and the only one that we qualify for – and it still leaves us $23,500 out of pocket.

Olive’s childcare centre on Collins Street in Melbourne costs $120 a day. That’s $31,000 a year, full-time.

And while we could send our child to a slightly cheaper childcare centre where the rebate would still only cover roughly half of three days a week of care, I’d have to leave work at 4.30pm or 5pm to make sure I was on time to collect her. That’s a luxury few women who can afford to be at work full-time have.

Especially women who believe that to get ahead they need to do more than is asked of them to prove they’re not the kind of women who just care, heaven forbid, about having more babies.

I pay above-market rates for care to make sure I can do my job as well as anyone else, to avoid the stigma that still pervades the Australian working landscape when it comes to working mums.

But you don’t have to be earning a lot of money to attract penalties from the government this financial year. A couple with a combined income of $168,000 a year loses 10 per cent of their private healthcare rebate, adding about $500 a year to the cost of private cover. At $198,000, that impost is doubled and reduces your childcare rebate by about $1000 to $6500.

In the meantime, Tony “I Tell My Daughters Their Virginity Is a Gift” Abbott is winning votes from women for no other reason than his sensible arguments about giving families the option of making childcare a tax-deductible expense.

We ran the ruler over our finances recently and my husband was left gobsmacked. He asked, without meaning to sound like a prick, why I had bothered going back to work four days a week instead of three.

I copped a fair bit of flak from both sides for this decision, too. There were women who wondered how I could leave a three-month-old child in care, and others, mostly my sisters and my mum, who said she was better off with the experts and that I should return full-time so that I didn’t go backwards at work.

When my husband told his employer he was having a baby, he was given a pat on the back and put on an immediate path to promotion. They wanted to make sure he could provide for his family.

Studies show this is the norm rather than the exception. An equal opportunity lawyer informs me that the gender pay gap is driven by similar, well-intentioned gestures.

They’re almost always made to men. Women, meanwhile, are still viewed as a “risk” and a cost to business, because they’re probably going to go off and take paid or unpaid maternity leave again.

That little old miracle of life is some kind of luxury in today’s world.



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  • The childcare system needs reform, though there’s a real tension between the personal responsibility of having kids and the broad social good.


  • They are too high. My son and his partner are holding off having a second child because they can’t afford childcare for two kids. My young niece has returned to the workforce after a five year break to have kids. She’s having to rely on friends and family to babysit because she zany afford childcare. It’s tough out there


  • i would rather spend as much time as possible with my kids while they are little. i can’t get that time back again but i will have the rest of my life to work


  • My daughter in law spends a third of her weekly income on childcare, and that’s with a discount cos she works at the childcare centre.


  • That is really sad toe read, but unfortunately it’s so true. Women are forever justifying or explaining themselves for our decisions. It’s so wrong


  • Interesting! Really very good knowledge to know! Thanks for sharing this article!


  • Yes so true!! not worth it at all even if i want to go back working which i find it ridiculous.


  • Yes, I found it a very negative experience going back to work..


  • Yes, so true. I know of women who put their kids in childcare for the socialisation and so they can have some balance in life, even though it ends up being no financial gain to be working! There need to be big changes to create greater gender equality in the workforce and to support families.
    PS, MoM – please reformat this article so it isn’t one big block of text – so hard to read!


  • Knowing a few mums would love to work but can’t unfortunately due to the high costs of care, it’s way over the top these days.


  • Yes this is true I cant even start in the workforce as I cant earn enough to pay the fees and live normally


  • This article seems to make the point that only mothers who don’t feel maternal go back to work. What about all the mothers that are financially forced to go back to work than stay at home with their new baby?
    How about just once, somebody says “thanks” to the government for providing a childcare rebate at all?


  • It’s a difficult enough choice for a woman without making it financially difficult to work as well. I don’t know how single mothers cope either way.


  • I think it is more financially viable for some mums to just stay home


  • my daughter worked out that it was not worth her going back to work so they are on a one income strict budget


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