25 May 2011

The World of Work vs. Daycare--Can't We Have Both?

My mother worked as a full time nurse while I was growing up.  She worked 12 hour, rotating shifts, while my father ran a successful photography business and was working, working, working.  My brother and I had the fortune of having a wonderful babysitter from the time I was 3 months old, when my mother returned to work.  This babysitter was a wonderful woman, with 5 daugthers of her own.  She had "been there, done that" with 5 of her own kids and was a great person to watch over us.

Our babysitter lived 1 block away from our elementary school and we could safely walk down the street, on our own, to her home.  I started walking to her home once I started Junior Kindergarten at the age of 4.  I wore a tag that said "Sitter's today," which was red and went on my coat or shirt.  I walked the one block (about 1 kilometre), met the crossing guard who knew to expect me, crossed the road and was at my babysitter's.

At this lady's home, we learned to swim in her pool, were coached figure skating by two of her daughters who were 10+ years older, taken on day trips now and then, were invited to family events, such as Christmas festivities.  We were treated like a big part of the family.

We stayed on with this babysitter for about 12 years, pretty much my entire childhood.  She was stability in our lives and someone we could always count on to be there for us and our parents.  We could be dropped off at ridiculous times like 6:30 AM and picked up sometimes after 8:00 PM, depending on which parent was where.  "Flexible" was this woman's middle name!

Why am I going on about my old babysitter you ask?  Well, because I have begun to realize that situations like this just don't seem to exist anymore.  I have been actively looking for suitable daycare for my three children when it comes time for me to return to work in a few more months.  I have been reaching out to anyone and everyone when it comes to finding daycare for my kids.  There are services and agencies out there, that I had never even heard of until I started asking a million questions, searching the internet late at night and so on. 

I love my job and miss my job.  We live in a country where we have been pushed and told to work hard for our dreams, build a career, get married if you want to, have a family if you want to and it will all come together.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.  I have often found all kinds of advice is thrown my way, but the "how to" or the help to get there is missing.  The words, "You'll figure it out," come to mind.

When we were kids, did our parents throw us on our first bike without training wheels and expect us to ride like the wind?  No, they slapped on some training wheels, had the first-aid kit ready and guided us along with instructions and pep talks.  We didn't just figure it out, we were taught and led by those who had done it before us.  I think the same should apply in all stages of life, including this one! :)

Then there are the people, who, when you ask for help, shoot you in the foot and dash your hopes.  In recent weeks I spoke to a child care advisor/social service worker, who basically said "good luck finding two infant spots at the same time in the same daycare."  Well thanks, that was helpful! That made me feel good.  Not only do I need to find two infant spots, but one pre-schooler spot.  Fun, fun!

Thank goodness I retain way too much information in the recesses of my brain.  I remembered hearing an old co-worker at a previous job say that her child had qualified for a subsidy for daycare.  This lightbulb went on and I started the research, because quite honestly I had never seen ads or flyers in the pediatrician's office or any other child-friendly place for such a thing,  nothing to alert the general public that this exists.  It seems to be another service that is available by the government, but not talked about too much, otherwise every Tom, Dick and Harry would be applying for it.  I don't know...I can only suspect. 

While talking about the trials and tribulations of finding daycare with my mother, she looked dumbfounded when I told her the quotes I had been receiving.  My mother told me she spent about $28.00 per week for babysitting for me and my brother.  How depressing!!  Just this past month I received a quote of $2800.00+/month for 2 infants and 1 pre-schooler in a local daycare.  Pardon? What???

I had my oldest son in daycare a couple of times a week up until recently.  I was paying $35.00 per day on a part time basis.  I had received another quote of $40.00 per day from another lady.  These quotes were from women running their own daycares out of their homes, basements or converted dining rooms.  Some women have their ECE background or teaching, while others are moms who just couldn't afford to send their 2 or more kids to full time daycare, while they went back to work after mat leave.

When my husband and I discussed having our "second" child and me returning to work after my year long mat leave, we agreed that it would be expensive and hard to deal with, but it was worth it in order for me to continue with my career and not to leave the workforce only to have to start again, keep up on my education and so on to remain competitive in 4 or 5 years down the road.  We were going to suck it up and I was going to pretty much work for "free" once the daycare provider was paid each month.  This is a very depressing thought.  Little did we know we were going to have 3 kids to put in daycare, let alone two babies at the same time.

If your child is in diapers, you pay more.  If your child isn't walking yet, you pay more.  If your pre-schooler isn't quite potty trained yet, you pay more.  On and on and on.

It seems odd to me, as well, that the daycare providers/babysitters are the ones calling all the shots.  Most, who are smart, do have a contract for potential parents to look over before deciding if this spot is right for them.  The thing that irks me is that because it is so hard to find daycare spots in cities and towns across Ontario the daycare providers have the power in their hands.  They tell you when they will take vacation.  They tell you this and that.  If you don't like it, move on because there are plenty of families who need daycare badly that will fill the spot.  Are we, the parents, not the ones who are their employers?  We pay them.  I have never been in the position to be able to tell any of my employers when I will take my vacation, when I will take a few days off here and there, make my own sick days policy and so on.  It seems bizarre.

Then I read a recent article in the Toronto Star on May 9, 2011.  It all became clear to me, why it is as it is.  In this article it states, "There are roughly 1.2 million children under 12 in Ontario with mothers in the workplace, according to the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.  There are 236,988 licensed child-care spaces in Ontario."  The article also discusses how it is often grandparents or family members volunteering to help provide daycare for kids while their mothers return to work.  I wish this was an option at this time, but it's not!

I've often heard of daycare co-ops, but have never seen a real, live one.  Where are these supposed co-ops?  My university has one, which is run by true ECEs, but also by the parents who may be on staff at the university or are students.  They take turns providing care in their off times or off work hours.  Costs can be much less to run a daycare in this manner. 

I've always said it would be awesome if the companies I've worked for would have such an opportunity for their employees.  I've worked for some very large, well-known companies, but in-house daycare was not an option.  This kind of setup would promote "being green," to employees and the community as you're not having to truck your children all over the city prior to even getting into work each morning, plus it would more than likely promote more productive and happy employees.

I think one of the first things on my agenda when I return to work is to address this with someone!  Even if I can just say it to get it off my chest, I would feel much better! :)

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