Sunday November 12, 2017

When the person looking after your children can't afford to have her own

Some critics say the new 18-month parental leave plan stretches out already lean benefits, and is therefore not affordable for many people.

Some critics say the new 18-month parental leave plan stretches out already lean benefits, and is therefore not affordable for many people. (Loic Venance/Getty Images)

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When it comes to the new 18-month parental leave plan, Erin Knipstrom, an early childhood education (ECE) worker in Maple Ridge, B.C., called into Cross Country Checkup on Sunday to say she isn't happy with the idea of spreading what she feels are meagre benefits even more thinly in order to get more time raising her child.

Knipstrom tells Checkup host Duncan McCue that having a child is something she's wanted her "entire life," but she's worried that dream might be out of her reach.

She points out that the new plan only works for those parents who have enough money to spare. She says it's frustrating to be the one caring for other people's children when she can barely afford to have one of her own.

Erin Knipstrom: I'm an ECE worker, full time, and I'm looking at trying to get pregnant.

I make $16 an hour which means I'm going to be living on approximately $8 an hour.

So everybody's talking about increasing childcare funding but I couldn't even afford to take a year off. I could probably maybe afford three months. And I'm the one who's looking after all these children once the women go back to work.

Duncan McCue: So you're looking at going back after three months, primarily because of the finances — you just can't make ends meet.

EK: Yeah, on $8 an hour, there's no way I could live — that's $320 a month. Right now I'm only bringing home $2,000 a month and I'm looking after 22 children with two other teachers. So there's some sort of imbalance here between the women who can stay off for that long and afford it, and then talk about how they can't afford childcare, when I'm working in that system and I can't even afford to stay off for three months.

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DM: There are some that say this will take some pressure off of daycare, that it will free up spaces.

EK: Every week at my daycare we are getting more and more kids. So parents who are now at their 18 months, their kids are coming in, but there's always another parent who in a month or two is coming in.

I do agree that we need more daycare spaces and to make it easier to create those daycare spaces, but for myself wanting children and working in the system, I would prefer more money be put in rather than more time. Because the only way maternity leave helps people is if they're upper middle class or upper class.

DM: And they can afford to stretch those benefits.

EK: Exactly. My husband doesn't make that much more money than I do, and having children is important for society, as well as giving them a proper upbringing which means quality daycare. But you can't have quality daycare without quality trained ECE workers. But we don't want to get in the field because there is no money in it, and if we want children — and we all do working in this field — we can't afford it.

DM: You said you're considering getting pregnant but you said the finances are very tight — so what are you going to do?

EK: I don't know. It's one thing that I've always wanted my entire life. It's a hard decision. Right now I have to decide between, can I have a child, and afford that child and love that child and be able to give that child what it needs? Or not have a child because for the first few years of its life I can't afford it.

All comments have been edited and condensed for clarity. To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link above. This online segment was prepared by Ieva Lucs on Nov. 13, 2017.