Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

DaycareDebt: Searching for childcare keeps me awake at night

I lie awake many nights and it’s not just because I have a baby under a year old. I’m worried I won’t find childcare.
The search for daycare is stressful, says the author. (CBC)

The author is a St. John's parent

There’s a knot in my stomach that will likely lead to an ulcer. I lie awake many nights and it’s not just because I have a baby under a year old. I’m worried I won’t find childcare. Finding childcare is highly competitive and the spaces for infants are few and far between.

I’m writing this anonymously because I’m concerned childcare providers won’t accept my child because I’m speaking out about the difficulty finding care. In this environment, no one can afford to be on the mommy blacklist.

Our story begins when our baby was two months old. We started looking for childcare then and people laughed at us. They told me I should have started before our baby was born. They were right. Since our baby’s arrival, looking for childcare has been nothing short of a full-time job.

We’ve interviewed at least two dozen registered and non-registered childcare providers. There are many qualified people out there. There just isn’t enough of them. We’ve run into timing issues. Spaces aren’t available when I have to go back to work. Then there is location. I don’t mind driving for quality care but in some cases, I would have to spend two hours commuting to get the baby to and from childcare.

How do I find childcare providers? I spend an hour each morning and evening searching online. I also check local regulatory sites and post ‘wanted’ ads on my personal Facebook page.  I think my friends are starting to feel sorry for me. From the moms who’ve already found childcare, I get a ‘Oh, that’s too bad. It is tough out there.’ They really are sincere, but it makes me feel like I’m failing motherhood or something.

For every post there are several moms checking it out. It’s like being a part of a Boxing Day shopping stampede. I’m sure I’ve been trampled a few times — my mouth wide open, bewildered at what the hell just happened. When the space is gone, it really is like a smack on the cheek. The lesson: You have to move quickly and interview quickly otherwise you could miss out on a good spot. It is a race. A race for quality and sanity.

We would find suitable care providers. Interviews set up. Hubby, and I, with baby in tow, would meet the would-be babysitter. Other care providers would cancel interviews due to illness or emergency. I totally understand that. But here’s where my blood boils. They’d commit to rescheduling. We’d follow up but there would be silence. For a mom with a growing daycare ulcer, it’s deafening, hair-pulling silence. On more than one occasion, the childcare providers would continue to post their availability to care for children, but not respond to our follow up requests. Not long ago I reposted our need for childcare and the same provider who blew me off responded again. Really?

Waitlists are always fun. It’s the clock you can’t really see but you know you’re on a time-limit and at the end of it you’ll get your coveted prize. Getting a daycare spot is really like winning the lottery, or so I’m told. Ask anyone whose had ‘their number’ called. I’m sure they giggled with delight. We’re on waitlists all over the city. Toddler spaces seem to be in abundance. We’re high on the waitlists for toddler spaces. So, we’re set. A lot of good that does me now!

Our search has extended to nannies too. Nannies cost a small fortune. It’s an option we are essentially forced to consider given the lack of available spaces. Nannies write to express interest, but don’t respond to follow up.  Again, not the best approach when you’re looking for a client and the relationship is supposed to be based on trust and reliability.

It’s a sorry state of affairs. I don’t understand why more people aren’t protesting, and hammering our elected officials for the lack of effort to support families. Don’t get me started on how this also impacts women advancing in the workforce! Federal and provincial governments of all political stripes have done little to improve daycare access despite repeated promises to do so.

If there was AN ACTUAL PLAN for day care, parents, make that VOTERS, would have more confidence in the childcare system and those making the decisions. The plan doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it never will be perfect. For now, each parent looking for childcare lives with the stress and hope of finding childcare.