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Swapping childminder for nursery: farewell second mum

 END of an era for the kids this week, as Bonnie left our faithful Childminder Claire and moved to nursery.

The change has come after six years, on and off, of family-home childcare, and it’s a bit of a wrench.

Our older boys went to nursery when just a few months old. Things have certainly changed in a decade.

Back when I had Child 1, if you hadn’t been at the same job for two years then you only got three months maternity leave. Now you can have up to a year off (mostly unpaid).

At one point having Child 1 and Child 2 in nursery cost me over £850 a month. Which was more than I earned. I was £10 a month down. But I did it to hang on to a full-time job and (I thought), career.

Scroll forward to 2003 and time for one year old Child 3 to need childcare. Fees had gone up, while our wages stayed stagnant.

I was recommended Claire through a primary school teacher pal. It was not only cheaper to hire a childminder, but I got a good friend into the bargain.

She looked after Billy full-time until he started half-day nursery at three-and-a-half, then went had him part-time before he started school.

When I was running late she collected the boys from school for me. When I needed holiday cover she took them all in. Naturally, when Child 4 Bonnie came along, I went to Claire for childcare again, although this time I was a freelance, and my hours were much more erratic.

When her own daughter, Leah, came along after two sons, Bonnie had a playmate the same age. The pair of them have been partners in crime ever since. They giggle like, well, little girls.

Bonnie might be older by a few months, but two-year-old Leah is definitely the boss.

But Claire has decided to pack in the childminding, and spend some one-on-one time with her own offspring. So Bonnie is off to the same nursery that her eldest brothers attended.

It was funny and touching when we visited nursery with the boys, who haven’t been there for seven or more years. Lots of the same staff who looked after Jed and Doug as nippers were still there, and recognised them. There was much hugging and cheek-pinching, and bashful delight as the boys were told how tall and handsome they’ve grown.

Bonnie’s started this week, and the early signs are that she loves it. Tables with dough on? Painting areas? Brilliant!

But I suspect that despite all the new friends and excitement, she’ll miss her little mucka. I think we’ll be popping around for lots of cuppas to stay in touch. After all, Claire’s been like a second mum to Bill and Bonn. She’ll be missed.

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