The next chapter in the daycare saga that never ends

by DaniGirl on May 30, 2011 · 11 comments

in Working and mothering

Daycare.

Sigh.

I really hope that our struggles to find consistent, affordable, quality daycare have been the exception instead of the rule, but I fear otherwise.

As you may remember, I found out in early April that the caregiver taking care of Lucas is getting out of the business so she’ll have more time to care for her aging parents. Perfectly understandable, but that leaves us searching for daycare. Again. For the eighth time in just over eight years.

I could wail and gnash my teeth – I came very close – but *shrug* that won’t help find new daycare. So I sent the word out on every network I could think of, and while I’ve come up with a few options, nothing is yet settled. This is Lucas’s last week with the current caregiver, but since Beloved will soon be home for the summer, we won’t need care until mid-August. The week before our caregiver announced her pending retirement from the business, I had registered Lucas in 3-days-a-week nursery school, so we’ve been hoping to find someone who can shuttle him to and from nursery school two days a week and care for him the rest of the time. Not likely, I know, but we got lucky on this count once before with Simon.

A friend recommended her former caregiver, but I nearly choked when I heard the rates: $57 a day. (!) The most I’ve ever paid per-child is $40, so that was a bit of a shock. We met, though, and after talking to her I was very nearly sold and ready to sign on. I had some concerns, but liked her style and philosophy well enough to swallow them. She runs an intensive educational-type program with scheduled activities, circle time, crafts, things like “letter of the week” and show and tell — it sounded much more like preschool and nothing like most of the home care we’ve had. At $969 a month for part-time, it was a big pill to swallow, but truly, what cost is too high to know your child is safe and happy? Oh that nefarious parental guilt.

She wanted to be paid for statutory holidays, which I understand (even though I don’t get paid for them as I work part time), and a couple of weeks of paid holidays each year. Again, okay, but the costs were starting to mount up. When I mentioned in passing that Beloved’s school year is done in May, she told us her school year runs until July 1st and we’d have to pay to that date to keep a spot for the following fall, and then in the days before we signed the contract, a few more issues presented themselves. It wouldn’t work out.

The next thing I looked into was the Manotick Montessori. I know a few people who have had wonderful things to say about the Montessori program, so I looked it up. Yikes! They charge $1400 per month, more than I was paying to have a full-time live-out nanny to care for all three boys. Scratch that option.

I got our names back on the centralized waiting list for Ottawa, and am waiting to hear if we can get a spot at the Rideau Valley child care centre. I’d still have to pay full-time rates, but I’d have the flexibility of a spot available any day of the week should we need it, and their hours of operation are more accommodating to the potential early mornings Beloved may face. They’re $881 per month for full time, which I don’t mind paying, even if I’m paying for the Wednesdays I keep Lucas home with me. I have some concerns about a day care centre as we’ve never gone that route before, but since Lucas is so ready for school (oh how I wish I could enroll him in JK this fall!) I’m sure he’ll take to it. The chances seem fairly good that we’ll get a spot, but once again we’ll have to quit the centre for the end of May and hope there is a spot for us again next August if we want the summer off — or suck it up and pay for three full months of care we won’t use.

And, I’m still running down options for in-home care in the neighbourhood, but after a month of beating the bushes, nothing has come to fruition on that front. Anyone know a daycare in Manotick with spots for a precocious but adorable preschooler?

Sigh.

The fact that I know I’m not the only one jumping through these insane hoops on an annual basis doesn’t make me feel any better. Daycare should not be this complicated, irregular patchwork of solutions. It’s easiest for me to complain about the money, but really, I wouldn’t have a problem paying $1000 a month for 100% reliable, quality care. I can’t imagine how hard it must be on families that have extra complications like shift work, or only one parent, or less money to throw at the problem.

We’ll get through this, and I can see the light at the end of the daycare tunnel for us. The boys’ school has before- and after-school care on site, so really, I just have to get through the next three years, tops, and we’re done. But after eight years of fighting an uphill battle, of posting ads and reading flyers and conducting interviews and trying to glean from first impressions whether someone is worthy of entrusting to them my most precious treasure — I’m tired, really, really tired of this.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 thordora May 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I can’t help but think how lucky I’ve been-my ex and I managed to avoid any type of child care for the most part for the first 5 years, then had my father watching them. Now, we got in at the Boys and Girls club, and they absolutely LOVE it, and even if I wasn’t getting a subsidy, the prices are reasonable for all the stuff they do. However, it wouldn’t have been an option before mine were school aged.

You are right tho-it shouldn’t be this bloody difficult.

2 Rae May 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

We qualified for subsidized center spaces when the girls were wee, and hired a nanny last May for Gryph and haven’t looked back. Last summer we paid extra for the girls to be home, but for the same cost this year they go to summer camp. We have been waiting for a daycare space since April of 2010 after I gave up the one I had to stay home a bit longer.

I agree that it shouldn’t be this hard to find consistent and quality care, but alas it seems to be. Sad and frustrating.

3 Annika May 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Well said. Daycare has been my toughest hurdle as a parent thus far.

4 Sara in Montréal May 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Considering how the first years are crucial in the whole development of a kid and especially in how he’ll succeed in school and beyond, how investing in education is investing in the futur etc.etc., we’ve all heard that billions of times, then why is it so hard to find proper daycare for our little ones?? Why aren’t daycare organised more or less the same way schools are, with quality daycare and properly formed workers in every neighborhood with enough room for all the kids, give or take the ones that will stay with their mom becauses those women take a concious decision to stay at home with them (and can afford it)?

I’m searching for daycare again, third time for my 14-months-old bébédou. Can you tell?

5 Finola May 30, 2011 at 9:30 pm

We have struggled over the years with daycare too, but now we have both girls in school full days, and have before and after school daycare right in the school. It is incredible how good it feels to have this security now and not have to worry, and everyone should have this “luxury”.

6 Mary V. May 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm

You’ve hit the nail on the head. When we moved from Toronto back to Ottawa, we had to leave our amazing caregiver. I thought if I went through one of the not-for-profit daycare agencies which matched providers with families, it would make things easier. Unfortunately, despite the interviews, our match was no match. We started to realize the kids were watching TV – literally all day. And despite a park across the street (a main selling point) they never went outside. And then of course we started second guessing ourselves – did we miss some cues during the interviews? In our need to find a daycare quickly when we moved, were we too quick? And despite monthly visits, why didn’t the not-for-profit pick up on the problems. Sigh.

In the end, we switched providers and found someone AMAZING. She is like a part of the family who has helped us through many ups and downs in our kids’ behaviour and development. Our children are truly blessed to have her in their lives.

P.S. I once made the mistake of tallying up how much I’ve spent on childcare. Five years of childcare for my two 6-year-olds ($1,500 x 12 months x 5 years)= $90,000. Yes, that’s more than I’ve spent on my mortgage.

Yikes!

7 Marianne May 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm

We had two not so great experiences with childcare for our daughter over the 2 years she was in daycare. In the first she was safe enough and clean and well fed but I don’t think she was loved and nurtured enough and I know she didn’t have enough play and stimulation. In the second (where she was for only a few months before I started my mat leave) she was dearly loved by her caregiver but the other children were much younger so she didn’t have friends or the challenging play we would have liked for her.

It’s a relief to be home on maternity leave this year and to be planning for me to take a continued leave of absence for the next few years. I’m very grateful that we’ve been able to manage our finances so that I can take this time to be home with our children and that my job as a teacher lets me take an extended absence (I won’t be able to go back to the same teaching position I was in, but the school board will place me somewhere else when the time comes). I cringe when I think of what we’ll face when it’s time for me to go back to work. Child care choices are so difficult to make, especially for the younger ones who aren’t able to tell us clearly what is going on.

I hope you find a solution that works well for your family.

8 Hilary June 1, 2011 at 5:54 am

Is Rideau Valley a non profit centre? They are generally really good and have some significant advantages. First, you never face this crappy, stressful situation with a centre – you’ve likely got stable, continuous care for however long you want it (providing you don’t give up the spot every May, mind you.) Second, what they lack in family atmosphere they tend to make up for in play, stimulation and activity.

9 Mary @ Parenthood June 1, 2011 at 8:51 am

I feel lucky that we’ve been able to arrange schedules so that either my husband, myself or a family member can look after my daughter. Thank goodness for extended family nearby!

Like “retirement homes” the more I see of daycare, the less I like the fact that outsourcing childcare to strangers is our gold standard of how early childhood education should go.

Not that this is helpful or anything. Too bad you can’t take a leave of absence from your job.

10 Coffee with Julie June 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I still don’t “get” the whole daycare saga/struggle thing. I’ve never had any trouble finding reliable, high-quality care. In the 8 years since we’ve been using a daycare service for our children, we’ve worked with three providers and we still have excellent relationships with them all. In fact, my son was over at the provider I recommended to you just last Friday … she was helping us out since I was on business travel and his regular centre was closed for the day. I guess it’s a subjective experience and every family has different needs. I hope it all works out well for you, Dani.

11 Amber June 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm

It really is ridiculous how hard it is to find reliable, quality childcare. There simply has to be another way than the current patchwork, hodge-podge system we’ve got going on right now.

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