You have three basic choices here: nursery, childminder or a nanny.
A nanny is the most expensive, and the most sought after - your child gets one-on-one attention, they get to stay in a home environment, probably won't catch measles in five seconds, and you can control what they eat.
In London, most nannies, for one child, costs anything from £1 500-£2 500 a month, depending on experience. It's extortionate, and one would see why many wouldn't bother going back to work.
We thought we'd be clever and set up a 'nanny share,' a new thing that has come out of this economy, where families that live near to each other, with similar-aged babies share the cost. The price tag comes down, but the flexibility ratio also goes down, and suddenly you realise you're at the mercy of not only your child's schedule, but three other people's too.
To cut a long story short, it hasn't worked out.
I'm sad and disappointed for Seb, as I think it would've been nice to have him under nanny care at least until he was one (he will be nine months when I return), but on the other hand, I am slightly relieved too.
We registered him at a nursery just in case, which is usually the second best option to a nanny. When I first started this process - looking for nannies, budgeting, looking at childminders and then realising most lived in high-rise council estates so aborting the mission after three separate visits - I was adamant that a nanny was the only thing that we could do for Seb.
I was convinced he wouldn't get the 1:1 care at a nursery, he was too little, many nurseries seemed like a 'dumping ground' for people's children. These are still concerns I have. No doubt.
But I'm trying to see the positive too. He will only go four days a week, (I'll work from home one of the days), and since meeting new mums this year, my feelings towards nursery have started to change.
"Nursery is definitely the right choice for me. It'll give Eleanor all the stimulation I can't give her, and it'll socialise her too."
"They seemed so nice, and he can do things he wouldn't be able to do at home - like messy play with paints."
"Sarah cries whenever another baby looks at her, so nursery will be really good for her to teach her how to be around other babies."
"Nursery is much more flexible in terms of holidays. When we had a nanny, I was always completely stressed out. I was running around trying to please the nanny more than anything, and then paying for her holidays while she wasn't looking after him was heavy going."
That's the other thing. When you employ a nanny, you employ her like a company employs a person. You pay their tax, their holidays, their everything. When you are on holiday, you still pay the nanny. When they are on holiday, you pay them still.
It's fine if you have lots of cash floating around, but I was panicking a bit about that already. Goodbye any 'lavish' holidays to Europe or South Africa; hello holidays in Southend-On-Sea?
Still, I am nervous. I just hope we are doing the right thing. We will go for a few 'settle in' sessions, but then we head off to South Africa for four weeks and Seb won't remember
Am I dreaming? I hope not.
We registered him and checked it out over the summer, and it seemed fantastic in terms of all the stuff they have - music room, garden with big jungle gyms and sandpits, lots of toys and facilities, even a messy play room which is white and spray-downable after the babies have wreaked havoc in there. But the thing that gnaws at me, is that he is going to be one of the youngest there.
He will either be in the group of 3-9 month olds (so oldest in the group), or in the 9-16 month old group, and therein the youngest. They'll assess where he fits best. It's three kids to one adult supervisor.
Am I being paranoid? Is there anyone out there who can offer some advice or hopefully, better still, some comfort in that I am doing the right thing by him?