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?
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