Like many parents, our childcare set-up is a precarious mishmash of nursery, grandparents, friends and Netflix. 


“I don’t know how we managed when you were growing up,” my mother will say to me, as I desperately try to plug holes in the calendar. “I can’t remember it being this difficult. Or maybe I’ve blocked it out.”


I’d go for the latter.


I remember turning up at a variety of doorsteps with my sisters, killing time until a parent finished work.


It was always good at Pamela McGowan’s as she had a talking Teddy Ruxpin – today’s equivalent of a 3D TV, robot or flying car.


We were regular 3.30pm guests at the Armstrongs, where we’d do indoor tobogganing, aka flinging yourself down the stairs gripping on to an old mattress.


Then there were the long afternoons at the Phillips’s. Oh, and the Masons. And not forgetting our neighbours, the Durkan brothers, who honed my tomboy credentials thanks to early and frequent exposure to Fungus the Bogeyman, Star Wars battleships and Boglins.


In the background, there must have been mums frantically serving up weak squash and Malted Milk biscuits, clearing up mess and making sure no one was killed, but I can’t for the life of me remember. Further proof that parents through the ages are thoroughly unappreciated.


We also had a spell at the local dinner lady’s house – a giant of a woman whose thick upper arms were perfectly suited to turning skipping ropes and stirring custard. My mum paid her a fiver a week, which probably kept her in fags. That arrangement came to an abrupt end when my dad found us playing under her ironing board, hot iron sizzling away above our small heads.


Childcare is an ever-changing, wallet-draining, guilt-ridden minefield. A study recently showed infants looked after by a relative during their formative years developed speech faster than those in nurseries. But toddlers in nurseries had better hand-eye coordination. Another study claimed that children who received more care by childminders were more likely to have peer problems. And mothers who read too much into these studies are more likely to develop long-lasting gin problems.


I guess the best thing we can do is bumble through, do what we can and hope we’ve erased it all from our memories in 30 years.

Written by:

Kay Harrison (Journalist and frazzled mum of one)