When my husband and I found out we were pregnant for the first time, who did we call first to share the news? Family? No. Close friends? No. The first place we called was a childcare centre to try and get on a waiting list.
I thought I was ahead of the game. Everyone I knew in my area had warned me that getting a childcare spot was as rare as hen’s teeth so I wanted to ensure I didn’t have any problems.
I made calls, I paid deposits and went on waiting lists - A LOT of waiting lists - so I felt confident. Almost two years later my deadline for returning to work was looming and I hadn’t heard a peep from any of the centres I had waitlisted for. I made more calls and the answer, universally, was that they didn’t have a spot for my one-year-old.
As I panicked about what I was going to do, a friend came to the rescue. She had found a centre three suburbs away that had a couple of spots. I called and took the place without even checking it out.
As it turned out, the centre was in an inconvenient location and it wasn’t particularly nice, but I felt that I had no choice but to take the spot which was stressful and horribly guilt-inducing. Eventually I was able to move my daughter to a great centre closer to home after about eight months of calling and begging.
Fast forward to being pregnant with my second child. This time I thought I would be ok. As a sibling she had priority at her sister’s centre and I waitlisted her at the grand age of eight weeks pregnant. In the meantime, new government regulations were brought into effect limiting the ratios of children under two to one carer per four children. Great in theory, but at my centre rather than employing more staff, they simply cut back on the numbers of under-twos they were accepting.
We missed out again. My return to work date was on the horizon and I was running out of options. “Just cry” advised one mother “that’s what I did to get a place”. I also took to scanning development applications in the area for new centres and even those had long waiting lists when I called.
This time another friend came to the rescue with the details of a nanny she knew. While this nanny was great, she was also unqualified, uninsured and cost $20 an hour – none of which was eligible for the Childcare Rebate nor a tax deduction. Despite this I felt I had no choice and said yes.
While I applaud the federal government’s attempts to improve childcare standards, without enough childcare places in the first place the new regulations simply push some young children out of the system entirely.
This year I finally have both children in a good centre for all the days I require and I feel that I can breathe easy. Well, that was until last week when I found out that the school my older daughter will be attending next year already has a long waiting list for after school care and surprise, surprise there aren’t enough spots for them all.
The cycle of stressing out about childcare begins again...
Have you been able to secure—and afford—the high quality care you want for your children? If not, how have you coped?