In My Opinion: Kathleen Nutt: On combining a career as a freelance journalist with motherhood

Kathleen Nutt

IT wasn’t a hugely difficult decision to return to work after having twins last year.

Like most journalists, finding, writing and chasing stories and interviewing interesting people is something I love doing and miss when I’m not.

Plus being part of the working adult world, I think, is important as a way of keeping sane and healthy.

There is a finite limit on how many mothers and toddlers groups I could go to without succumbing to the post-natal blues.

The big question which faced me and is faced by most other women journalists returning to work after having children – especially if they have more than one child – is whether journalism, or indeed work generally, can actually pay.

Well, you may say, that’s the consequences of having children. They’re expensive.

That’s a point, but if we all decided not to have children, there wouldn’t be many of us around.

I found out that, for my two babies to attend a local private nursery, it would cost £102 a day.

If I decided I wanted to put them in on a full-time basis, five days a week, I would have been given a discount and my weekly bill would have been £376 or a whopping £1,506 a month.

Fortunately, however, I had found this out before the babies were born, giving me time to think what I was going to do in terms of childcare. Equally fortuitously, a neighbour told me, in passing, of a nearby local authority nursery – one of the few in Scotland -which offered subsidised childcare to under-threes.

I rushed out and put the babies’ names down within weeks of their births last November and jumped for joy when a few months ago they got places.

The decision meant I was able to return to work.

But while I was lucky, how many other women journalists aren’t? Women who don’t live beside one of the few local authority nurseries which look after babies, or who don’t have grandparents on hand to help out or who aren’t earning a big salary.

While I’m delighted that, under the Children and Young People Bill, the Scottish Government is planning to increase the number of hours it provides of funded nursery education for all pre-school children aged etween three and five – from 450 a year to 600 – what I really think is needed is subsidised childcare provided at an earlier age, say from 12 months.

I believe this would allow more women to return to work and not have to take enforced extended career breaks until their children reach the age of three or go to school.

In many ways I’m lucky in that my job as a freelance journalist, particularly as a writer, is suitable to combine with having a young family.

Unlike working in a bank, a shop or a hospital I don’t actually have to be present in one place five days a week for a certain number of hours.

If, for some reason, one of my children can’t go to nursery or school I can meet deadlines by catching up with interviewing and writing in the early morning, in the evening and at weekends. I don’t have to phone a boss and awkwardly explain a child’s illness or school closure.

The downside to life as a freelance? Well clearly there is is the absence of a reliable pay packet at the end of the month, paid holidays and a pension.

Income-wise, things can certainly lurch from feast to famine. And of course working away on my own in my flat all day, there’s not a huge amount of office banter or the pleasure of going for drinks after work with colleagues.

But being able to combine an interesting job and the welfare of my children is an ideal for many which, at the moment, anyway, I’m able to say it’s a privilege to have.

Kathleen Nutt is a freelance news and features writer, based in Glasgow.

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