The big messy mess of childcare


It probably comes as no surprise that I am 100% in favour of a national affordable childcare program. Just like socialized medicine, highway systems, and education are the collective responsibility of us all – even if we never get sick, never travel by road, and don’t have children (or opt to homeschool), so is accessible and affordable childcare. I would love for such a program to include several options like extended parental leave, part-time subsidy, the capacity to pay family members to provide care, and incentives for employers to provide on-site programs for children from infancy through preschool as well as incentives to provide more flexible work environments that may reduce the overall need for care for some older children. It’s shortsighted to approach childcare from a “what’s in it for me” perspective.

I’ve been all over the map in terms of the care my children have received. I was a stay-at-home mom (still my preference, truth be told), a student mom with part then full-time childcare, a working mom with full-time care, and a working and student mom with occasional evening care.

And now?

I’m currently at home, with sick kids (yes, again). I’m on hold with the childcare subsidy office in my city. I’ve already been warned that I have almost no hope in hell that I’ll ever get off of the waiting list, which is part of the reason it’s taken me this long to call.

My children currently attend a program staffed mostly by senior high school-aged students. The programming is diverse; the kids get picked up at school every afternoon and walked to care. The cost is manageable, mostly due to the underskilled staff/volunteers.

Is it a good fit? That depends on the day. While some of the time is more focused and organized, a lot of the time feels like barely controlled chaos. Both kids have a hard time transitioning when I pick them up, making most of our evening commutes challenging (at best).

So what to do? There is a licensed daycare that has an afterschool program attached to their schools. It’s a closer walk, they provide lunch, and they have a consistent year-round program (reducing my need to track down summer camp options).

That is the reason I was on the phone with the subsidy office this morning. This program, run with qualified child and youth-trained staff, is more than double the cost of the current option. Of course it is. In theory, the amount a program costs to run should include the cost of valuing trained workers.

So. I am now one of 18000 people in my city on the waiting list for subsidized care. It’s entirely possible that at least one of my children will age out before they ever get to the top of the list. Assuming there are also spaces in the specific program when my number’s called.

I hate to whine from a position of relative privilege. I can afford the care they’re currently accessing. They’re not being given shards of glass and plastic bags and sent off without supervision. It’s a GOOD program. After all the drama of moving to a new city for a job that pays almost double what I earned before (which, for the record, still ain’t much), though, I’m no further ahead financially than I would have been had we just stayed put.

Would a national program reduce waiting lists? I hope so. Would having a variety of options available help reduce family stress and increase financial stability? Probably. A national program of any sort (aside from the completely USELESS National Child Benefit that my kids have already aged out of – and yet still require child care… hmmmm) won’t be implemented in time for me to personally benefit, and that’s totally okay, because my world will still be a better place.

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