Childcare: It’s a vexed issue. Do you? Don’t you? And if you manage to get beyond the initial loaded question of whether to put your kids in care then there’s a whole barrage of other issues waiting for you. With the amount of parental guilt and logistical nightmares that come your way when tackling the issue of childcare you’ll need to invest in shares in L’Oreal to cover your hair dye bill or resolve yourself to going grey gracefully.
So you’ve decided to put your child into care. Let’s hope that you actually stuck them down on every single waiting list in your area the day you peed on a stick. We put our middle child’s name down on 15 waiting lists. 15! When the time came that we actually needed care only 2 centres had places and we were told we only just scraped into them.
With childcare timing is everything. January is the month that child care places are most likely to be available. So you’ve decided you want to have 12 months off after the birth of your child? Better make sure they were born in January then. And too bad if you’re one of many who can’t get pregnant at the exact time you want to. If your baby is born in June you’ve got buckleys and none of picking up a spot when they turn 1. It’s in the middle of the year! Your 12 months leave may soon be turning into an unexpected 18.
When you’ve had a baby you’re more emotional. Hormones are racing through your body and there’s this amazing little person who has wrapped themselves around your heartstrings pretty darn quickly. So what happens when you’re one of the lucky few to actually get called up and offered a child care place quickly – before you’re even actually physically or emotionally ready to go back to work? How tough is your decision when you’re not ready to leave your little one but you’re told that if you refuse the position being offered to you they’ll actually put you right back down at the bottom of their waiting list. So you’re shoved into the modern dilemma of going back to work and securing a place for your child or playing roulette and hoping another spot becomes available later when you’re actually ready for it.
Congratulations! You’ve been offered a place and you’ve decided to take it up. I hope you’ve been saving your pennies! 4 weeks bond and 2 weeks in advance is not uncommon. Yep we’re potentially talking $1000-$3000 required before you even get to start making a dollar back at work. This hurdle alone may be responsible for making childcare effectively inaccessible to many parents every year even if they could get a spot.
So your child has finally made it to primary school age and you think all your childcare issues are behind you. Welcome to school hours. Oh 9 to 3 how we love your incompatibility with office hours! Bring on the waiting lists once more – before and after care here we come. If you can get it – if you can’t you’re begging for reduced working hours and wondering at what age you can responsibly let your child walk home on their own and how long they can be left on their own for. At least when they reach high school your free of the care dilemma right but even though high-schoolers mightn’t need minding as such now we’re being told that kids actually need more parental involvement and not less when they’re teenagers.
One of the cornerstones of feminism is the ability of women to be economically independent. But for many this cannot happen without childcare. Yet sometimes childcare can be inaccessible or a logistical nightmare trying to create an arrangement that can work for your family. It is also an emotional roller coaster trying to do what’s best for yourself and your child/ren. It’s easy to see why and how it can be put in the too hard basket and why more and more women seem to be choosing to stay at home or work part-time.
Time and time again politicians promise change. Rudd pledged to end the double drop off. More recently we were lead to believe that childcare workers would receive an increase in pay. Many hoped this would also lead to an increase in the number of positions and quality and stability of care for our children, attracting more people to the profession and allowing those who wanted to continue to work in the sector (but perhaps could not afford to do so) to stay on. Surprise, surprise the “Minister for Women” and PM Tony Abbot has let this promise fall by the way side too.
When will we ever get a government who takes the issues of making quality childcare accessible, available and affordable for all seriously? Perhaps when our government will actually acknowledge that more women can’t get a seat in cabinet it’s not a level playing field to start with – not because there aren’t any women good enough. Childcare is just one of the barriers.
Australian families agonise about care. Families in Norway don’t have to give it a second thought. In Norway there’s universal childcare for all. Australia has one woman in the federal government cabinet and five in ministerial positions – women making up 16 % of the ministry. Norway has surpassed the 50 % mark of women in ministerial positions in their government. Don’t kid yourself – childcare is an issue at the very heart of gender equality in Australia.