Childcare. No word conjures such stress and anxiety in the mind of a working mom as “childcare.” There are countless little things that can cause enormous problems. Your child is too sick to attend. Your child care provider is too sick to care for your child. Your child care provider is late. You are running late to pick up your child. Never mind possible personality or caregiving style conflicts.
Stress. Anxiety. Too many problems to solve while juggling too many plates. Eventually one of those plates will drop, and who picks up the pieces?
For me, just the experience of searching for a childcare provider for my oldest child was the single most stressful experience of my life. I spent hours on the phone, calling centres, trying to be put onto their waitlists in hopes of getting a childcare spot. I visited centres and caregivers, asking about programs, schedules, and meals. It was harder to plan than my wedding, and as it turned out, more expensive.
In the Greater Toronto Area parents who hope to have licensed childcare for their child are told to put their child on waitlists – when they are about 3 months PREGNANT with that child. You might have a chance at a spot by the time your twelve month maternity leave is over – that means your wait is at least 18 months.
I’ve had my son on a list for over four YEARS at one centre.
Why the long wait? Countless parents are in the same boat as you are – seeking reliable, quality childcare. There are simply not enough spots.
What does this process look like? Generals planning an invasion into a country cannot strategize more than a parent seeking childcare. I pull out road maps, calculate distances, travel times, factor in traffic and hope I can drop my child off at a centre and still make it to work on time.
At one point I had my daughter at one centre and my son at another centre about 15 minutes away. By the time I arrived for work I had been on the road for about ninety minutes, just doing childcare drops. The whole process was reversed in the evening.
Two of my children have serious special needs – finding an appropriate place for them was incredibly challenging. In the Ontario public school system, schools cannot refuse to admit any child based on special needs. If the school board feels they cannot provide appropriate services for the child, they must purchase them from another board.
This is not the same for childcare – whether private or licensed. I’ve had several prospective caregivers refuse to provide care for my daughter, Little Miss Adorable. She has Prader-Willi Syndrome. Now three years old, Little Miss Adorable is an easy-going, very sweet-natured child who cannot walk yet due to poor muscle tone. People were afraid of her. You can check out my blog for the real truth on Little Miss Adorable.
The last time I tried to put Little Miss Adorable into a childcare centre, the director told me that she had serious safety concerns about my daughter because she was not walking. The director thought the placement was not appropriate and suggested some alternates. I felt the centre was perfect for Little Miss Adorable. The director reluctantly allowed a trial visit. By the end of the visit Little Miss Adorable had made friends with most of the staff at the centre and the director was cuddling Little Miss Adorable.
In the Greater Toronto Area (and Ontario as a whole) childcare is very hard to find. It is also very expensive.
The cost of childcare for an infant at a licensed centre is more than I pay for housing and utilities for my whole family. A private caregiver charges a couple hundred dollars less. As your child gets older the cost of care is reduced because the staff-to-child ratios change. A caregiver can only look after three infants but can look after five toddlers.
Personally, I cannot imagine looking after three infants or five toddlers at any time. I do know that in Ontario childcare providers are notoriously underpaid for the work they do and the level of education they hold. This is a profession with high turnover as experienced caregivers seek other employment opportunities.
Right now my family has solved our childcare dilemma by having my husband stay at home with our three children. Previously we tried to have both of us working outside the home full time and the stress and the expense became too much. We found that by cutting back on some things we are happier and can focus on what’s really important: our family.
What is childcare like in your area? What are your childcare solutions?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Angela is a Special Education Teacher and parent of two children with Special Needs. She writes about her super-powered, special needs life at http://halfpastnormal.wordpress.com/
Photo credit to the author.