After Luba’s baby was born she realised childcare costs were extortionate (Picture: Supplied)
Luba Dimov, 26, from Liverpool, was a busy police constable when she gave birth to her daughter, Arella, soon to be one.
But as her maternity leave neared its end, she and husband Rumen, 32, got quotes for local childcare options – and they were in for a shock.
The average quote, Luba says, was £1,000 per month for 40 hours a week, which would eat up more than half of her salary. Her inconsistent hours, which changed month-to-month, also posed a problem.
‘Shift work comes with the territory of working in the police,’ Luba explains. ‘I knew I’d have to find something that would cater to my irregular hours, so most of my research centred on childminders […] which can be more expensive.’
Short on options, she decided the best solution was to quit – and open her own nursery offering parents vital childcare for less than half the price of local competitors.
Luba had to take early maternity leave after experiencing a difficult pregnancy(Picture: Supplied)
The average cost of sending a child under two to a nursery for 25 hours per week part-time in the UK rose to £7,729 per year in 2023, with a full-time place costing approximately £14,836 per year.
Yet for just £200, Luba signed up to a childminder training course ran by the company tiney and was qualified and officially registered in just under six months.
‘I think that’s a few months longer than it usually takes, but having just had Arella, things were pretty busy! So I took the training at a more leisurely pace, making time around our new family’s schedule and finding moments when I felt awake enough,’ she says.
‘I also didn’t have any previous early years experience or qualifications, which wasn’t a problem at all, but it meant I had to have a few more hours of training to get up to speed.’
She’s recently set up her own home-based childcare business, charging parents around around £50 a day, or roughly £8 an hour, for her services.
Luba didn’t want to leave her daughter so she retrained in a whole new career(Picture: Supplied)
‘I’ve got a room all set up dedicated to activities with the children complete with paints, toys and even a small keyboard for music lessons – and then we have a separate space for naps during the day and a good-sized garden for outdoor activities,’ she explains.
‘I’m also a really keen baker so the children will be very welcome in the kitchen for some educational cooking lessons. That still leaves us with our own space to relax in the evenings and, as parents of a one-year-old, it’s not like the house was toy-free before!’
How has she kept her fees so low, when other local businesses charged around £25 per hour? The ‘literal home-from-from’ setting is the secret, she says.
‘As a childminder, I’m not paying to rent out or heat an additional space for the business and I don’t have any staff to pay, so I don’t need to worry as much about overhead costs like, say, a traditional nursery would which means I can keep my prices affordable,’ she explains.
‘We’ll be spending a lot of time out of the house, like in nearby green spaces or on little day trips, but I love that I can offer care to local parents in such a family-centred environment.
‘We had lots of children’s things already for my daughter, so I haven’t had to spend too much getting the place ready for other kids. All of the bits and bobs I buy for the older ones also feel like a good investment knowing that my daughter will be able to use them too when she gets bigger.’
Luba did not know how she was going to manage shift work with childcare (Picture: Supplied)
And with her daughter growing up around other children, Luba feels this will also be positive for her future development.
‘Arella’s such a sociable baby. Her eyes light up when she sees other children so I just know she’ll be over the moon to have so many little playmates, both now and as she gets older,’ she says.
‘While she’s making connections with other little ones, I love that I’ll be right there with her.’
Luba describes her husband as ‘an incredible dad and a very supportive partner,’ but financially, it made more sense for her to switch careers than for him to quit his job as a web developer.
Luba felt her skills within the police force and local community were transferable(Picture: Supplied)
She’d also started reassessing her work-life balance during what was a difficult pregnancy.
‘I had a lot of sickness and actually went down a dress size when I’d assumed I’d go up,’ she says.
‘This ill feeling stayed with me throughout the pregnancy and, especially towards the end, it limited what I could do at work. Eventually, I decided to start my maternity leave slightly early to prioritise my health.’
Thankfully, her recovery after an arduous three-day labour was ‘much smoother’.
Luba firmly believes ‘there should be more support for those who need it,’ because although her family have found a solution, not all working parents can do the same.
Despite enjoying her new career path, Luba admits it was ‘bittersweet’ leaving behind a job she’d loved, especially as the cost of childcare was a major contributor. Still, becoming her own boss feels like the right decision, for more reasons than one.
For Luba, affording childcare and spending time with her daughter was equally as important(Picture: Supplied)
‘The most challenging part of life in the police force was thinking about how this job that I loved would eventually fit around family life,’ she says.
‘When I had my daughter, it became harder to imagine my life as a new mum and my day job fitting together.
‘Before and after finishing a night shift, I’d be sleeping in the day and would’ve missed her. It sounds obvious, but our sleep schedules being out of sync would really have impacted how much time I could spend with her.
‘I loved my job and do miss it sometimes but there hasn’t been a moment when I’ve really thought ‘I wish I was at work right now.’
Childcare would have eaten up more than half of my constable salary.