A Lot On Your Plate?


Let’s talk about child care.  Children. They are everywhere. Have you seen them? Cute little babies who need lots of love and care for many years, in the arms of parents who have lots on their plate.  Naww. I love kidlets.  I have three really good ones.

Now, as much as we all love our babies, sometimes we need to go and do other things. I’m not talking about holidays in the Bahamas or mani/pedis (although those are good things too.) Nope. I’m talking about basic things like going to the doctor, attending appointments or earning a wage. Quel horreur!   ‘Earning money?!  Gazooks!  But you’ve got a BABY!’

When parents need to do these things,  mani/pedi/doctor/work, as much as they may want to take their babies or leave them with a beloved friend or relative, it’s not always possible.  Then these parents need Child Care.  If they can access it or afford it.  And all indicators are that it may be easier to spot a Womble on Wimbledon Common than it is to secure affordable child care close to home.

Let’s start with the facts.  Everybody deserves to have the choice to work. If you decide to have children, this does not mean that you forgo your opportunity to work. Whilst shared parenting is on the increase, child care usually falls on the capable, yet often exhausted and financially stretched shoulders of women.  (But not always because some fellas DO stay home to care for their kids.)  Women deserve to have options. Parents need to be able to choose to work or to stay home…. or to do both.  We each get to make our own choices about how we live. This is not a cult.   We are not sister wives.  We do not wear prairie frocks and sit about braiding each other’s hair all day.  Nope.  And even if we do, we have the right to choose to braid.

If we choose to stay at home through those early years, it’s because we love our children A LOT.  And if we choose to work, we also love our children A LOT.  Working parents do not  love their children any less. Get your head around it. It’s true. We all love our babies, stay at home or out at work.  And we all deserve the option to share our kids’ care if we need to or want to.

Let’s consider some more facts.  Child care is unaffordable.  Rents and mortgages are unaffordable too, don’t you agree?  Doesn’t it tick you off?  Yes?  Despite what some may say, having  a mortgage does not mean that you are a wanky property speculator with golden teeth and shiny pants.  It is more likely to mean you need a roof over your head and are trying to invest in a future for your family so that they may be financially independent at some point.  Having to pay a hefty rent does not mean you are living beyond your means, drinking champagne in your spa all day and feeding your baby caviar. No. It actually just means that you live in Australia and have chosen not to squat in a dumpster (perhaps the only affordable housing option in Australia currently.)

Did you know that the cost of living in Australian cities is higher than it is for London, Hong Kong or Rome.  If you live in Sydney your cost of living is 50% higher than it would be in NEW YORK.  In the world rankings, Sydney came in at 7th most expensive and Melbourne 12th. Smaller Australian cities didn’t rank much better in the affordability stakes.  It costs A LOT to make ends meet if you live down under.

Now let’s consider this.  According to research by affordable child care advocate Make Care Fair, 50% of parents would increase their hours of work if care was more affordable.  So that means half of parents are not happy with their current arrangement and may be under financial or emotional stress because of it.  That is really not cool.

Formal child care costs between $70 and $130 per day in AU, with some parents receiving Child Care Benefit (thus reducing the fees by up to 50%.)  But sadly not everyone is entitled to reduced fees, and not everyone can get into child care in the first place.  There’s simply not enough care available for the burgeoning kidlet population and, in some centres, the demand pushes the prices up up up.  In New York parents pay around $200 a week for full time childcare. I looked it up.  In Australia that might buy 2 days. Gosh.  (Move to New York with me?  We can go to delis and do break-dancing and stuff?)

Let me tell you something else, in case you are about to tell me you don’t want your non-childbearing taxes subsidising The Breeders: For every AUD$1 the Government spent on childcare, the Government get back AUD$1.86 in revenue from improved workforce participation rate

So what do we want? We want more child care facilities. We want longer maternity leave for women who are not ready to return to work or are unable to find care. We want shorter waiting lists (so more centres, as just requested!)  And we want child care to be tax deductible.  How’s that for starters?  We want mothers and fathers to be able to leave their children in quality care at an affordable (tax deductible) rate, if they should so choose.

Remember when I said parents have a lot on their plate?  Well, having a baby is not like being served a big plate of vegies as  four year old.  We do not need to tell parents they need to ‘eat what they were dished up or go without’.  We need to acknowledge that sometimes it’s nice to share what you’ve got on your plate, and it’s often much nicer than trying to deal with it all by yourself.  And we need to offer these parents dessert, even if they can’t quite manage what’s on their plate.

Have you got a lot on  your plate?  Are you finding it hard to put your kidlet into care, because it’s too painful emotionally or financially?  Are you loving being a full time parent?  Do you want to return to work post-baby? Have you lived through this fraught early years dilemma?  Would you use child care if it was tax deductible?  Are you a sister wife?!  Perhaps you are a breastfeeding mama? Would you love some help, if it was suitable and financially viable?  How is it for you, JustBees?

How do you feel about child care?
If you could ask the Australian Government for what you needed, in terms of child care or family assistance, what would you ask for?

x Pip

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  • http://www.facebook.com/billyjoebob Bill Dennis

    I would ask, as always, for infrastructure to reflect population rather than average income. Seems to me that the places struggling for affordable child care places are the places that need them the most. I’m not sure if that made sense.

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      I agree with you entirely. It makes perfect sense. Suburbs where there a a ton of working or want-to-be-working families seem to have the longest waiting lists and fewer child care facilities. Thanks Bill!

  • http://craftyrie.blogspot.com/ Marie Biswell

    Would you believe, that just yesterday I rang up the local child care thingy & enquired about putting Bubba in day care 1 day per week.  Eek.  He’s never left my sight (other than to go to bed) since he was born… but I need time to myself. 
    He’s 14mths old today (sob) and I have no-one except my hubby to look after him – no parents, no reli’s to take him for a day. So I’m tired. I need to catch up. I need to do the vacuuming.   
    One day a week will be good for him, he’ll learn to socialise & apparently… it doesn’t cost a scary amount either for the day (phew).   
    Fingers crossed that I don’t spend all day crying whilst he’s in day care!!!

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      Oh what a big day it was for you yesterday, Marie. What a big step for you guys! Wishing you the very best experience and the very loveliest carers! x

    • Sharon

      Marie, I know exactly how you feel! I was the same with my kids. They never left my sight but I was going batty and needed some me time as I have no one to help except my partner who works nights and sleeps all day.. good luck hun stay strong it is hard but socially your child will love it..

    • http://pigsandbishops.wordpress.com/ Pigs & Bishops

      Oh, Marie – I’m in the same situation! My son is ten months old and I’ve finally agreed to go and look at some centres, although I’ve always said I don’t want him to go into childcare until he’s at least two. I’ve been working freelance since he was seven months old but it’s so hard when I can only work when he’s asleep, or on weekends. There isn’t anyone we can leave him with, but I’m not ready to leave him at a centre yet. I’ll go so far as to look and maybe put him on a waiting list or two if we find somewhere nice. There’s a decent-sounding place right near us but it only takes three- to five-year-olds.

  • http://www.dandelionandolive.co.uk/ Bluebird

    I can’t say anything about the system in Australia as I am in blighty, where low income parents who work get help with childcare costs.
    In regards to going to work though I am a huge advocate. Me and my partner are lucky, we have creative jobs we enjoy so we want to work and my 2 boys have been in childcare 2 days a week since before they were 1 year old. They are good at mixing with others, they learn to share, spend time with other kids and adults and have learnt loads at nursery that I probably wouldn’t have taught them. My oldest made the transition to school really well and seems really well rounded. But the most important thing is that I got a chance to keep hold of who I was before being a parent and feel less stressed and more fulfilled. I think you have to try to do what makes you feel good and ignore the people who have other ideas about it, whether you want to go to work or stay at home. Lets face it there are no right ways to bring up kids and whatever you do someone will always disagree so just try to do what keeps you sane!

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

       I think you have to try to do what makes you feel good and ignore the people who have other ideas about it, whether you want to go to work or stay at home. ”  This is so true. Do what is right for you and your family. Ignore the nay sayers and carve your own path! x

  • http://twitter.com/kellyexeter Kelly Exeter

    Hmm, I am one of those apparently rare people who thinks that childcare is quite affordable. My child goes 5 days a week and he is at a $88/day centre. I get 50% of that back and if I was a lower income earner I would get an additional amount back.

    So while childcare is expensive for us (as in a lot of money going out on a weekly basis), it’s already pretty heavily subsidised by the government. I am not sure how much more we could ask for from the govt as they already give a fair amount!

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      Oh thank you for your view, Kelly! I think that some people can manage with the rebate, if their income is in the right bracket and their housing costs are not too high. I am so glad that it works for you!

  • Fionangan

    Oh Pip.. being a mother of only one 3 year girl who is a very easy child to look after, I struggle everyday with ‘do I have another one?’… and this is because I am a full time working mother who puts alot of effort into raising my child even while working.. my husband is a stay at home/small business owner dad and I am so thankful that he is willing to take on this role…  But it is the financial stability that my income brings which has guided us into this arrangement.. there was really no choice because we wanted at least one parent to be at home for her early years purely for her emotional security – that is just what we believed to be right for our daughter and she is extremely happy so it’s all worth it.  However living on one secure income makes it very difficult to consider having another one – purely because of a mortgage and stress.  I would like the Government to provide more financial assistance and options for Maternity Leave, and also mortgage options for single income families.. the only reason why I hesitate to have another child is because of the financial and emotional strain.. isn’t that just so wrong!

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      I think it is so regrettable that you may only have one baby, because there isn’t enough support for families such as yours.  You sound like a completely lovely bunch and just the kind of people who should be supported, as are thousands of other hard working, smart thinking Australian families.

  • http://eccentricess.blogspot.com.au/ eccentricess

    I planned to head back to my job when my buglet turned one.  After all the research was done, it turned out that going back to work would COST us $20 a week.  Guess who is a stay at home Mum? 
    I waited until she was one because of the breastfeeding, yes.  I was still breastfeeding her then, but it was down to a morning and night feed.  I loved (and still do) being at home with her.
    However, the pressure of being the only wage earner has not been good for hubby’s health.
    She is in High School this year and I am now looking for work. 

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      Yep. That sounds totally familiar. That sounds like a lot of my friends who have babies. They want to have the option to go back, but by the time they do the sums there is just no point. They will be worse off financially. It’s completely crazy that women who want to work have to pay to do it, isn’t it? Geesh.

  • Emblue

    I have been a SAHM with both my kids, but the toddler girl has been a bit of a handful. I found that my default approach of attachment parenting  was simply too exhausting, plus she had no little pals of her own age.
    After a spectacular meltdown late last year we got her into daycare 2 days per week, it has saved my sanity, and therefore my whole family, and for that alone it is worth every penny.
    Having said that, I would not complain if it was cheaper, but I would hope that the staff were being paid appropriately, as they are the most amazing folks, providing such fabulous care and positive interaction for my lil’ miss, plus they are teaching her to bloody well sit down when she eats!

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      That is a great point, Em. Child care workers MUST be paid well. They do such a freaking important job and need to be rewarded accordingly, with fair pay and lots of chocolate biscuits. Well said!

  • Sharon

    My kids go to daycare two days a week. We had them start 4 days so I could find work but we simply couldn’t afford the bill while I was looking for work so we pulled them out and now, like I said earlier they only attend two days a week. I would love to go back to work as I feel I could give my children a better quality of life (not that they miss out now) my partner works a ridiculous amount of hours per week and we all miss him! I would love for it to be tax deductible, it would make it a little easier. My children are still young (2 years and 1 year) so I’m lucky to spend these younger years with them but financially its very tough but in saying that paying for childcare and working full time wouldn’t put us in a better financial position as I would be working just to pay the childcare..

    • http://meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com meetmeatmikes

      I hear what you are saying about quality of life, Sharon. Esp when things like dental care are so necessary and expensive. It would be great if families who wanted to be in the work force could actually afford to re-enter. It’s so freaking naff that it’s not an option for so many.

  • http://www.facebook.com/louisa.gormley Louisa Gormley

    For years I dreamed about having a large family, and staying home with my babies. I had a career, I worked really hard, but all I wanted was to be home with my babies.

    Fast forward to having my daughter. The reality was I enjoyed staying home with my baby, my toddler – not so much. All I wanted was to be at work. She is an active little miss with a very enquiring mind. She needs lots of play, and stimulation. Our centre is gorgeous, the staff are beautiful. They are educators, and stimulate and grow her mind in ways we never could. Our little Miss is an only child, and she learns to share and be social outside the home, a skill some children lack. Moving away from the city meant we no longer had both sets of grandparents around us, child care was the only option for our little family. I am am so fortunate for that, if we were still in the city, and grandparents provided care, our little Miss would really be missing out.

    Our little Miss wakes daily, and the first question is “Childcare?” There is tears on the weekend, until we suggest the playground! Some parents are dead against childcare, yet I feel they are really missing out on a great opportunity. It is expensive, and in reality for our little business it is more costly for me to be working and have Ava