About 6 months ago I gave birth to our beautiful son. I had an idea that the birth of our first child would make a significant change on our lives … I know now that really I did not have a clue. I knew it was going to change how we operated as a family but I really did not consider or comprehend the changes that it would have on me … on how I would change my outlook on the world and especially my position in it. Almost from the moment that he was born my ideas on my role changed immediately. Beforehand I had a clear idea that I wanted to do about 6 months maternity leave and then return to full-time work … doing the same job as before … just with a baby that would attend childcare while I was at work. After seeing him for the first time it changed and has been changing since. I just wanted to hold him and spend so much time with him. (Something I am sure that this is not a unique feeling). So my ideas then started spinning about what I wanted to do …. part-time work was a definite but how. Childcare? So I started on the adventure to look at childcare.
Looking at childcare I found to be a very interesting thing. We had moved to Sydney’s Inner West in the third trimester of my pregnancy and in the process of moving I had not looked at childcare and left if for after he was born. However, to my pleasure, when I went to my first Mother’s Group I found out that many where at the same point as me in their review of childcare options. On our 2nd or 3rd meeting we had someone from the local council come to talk to us about childcare options. They did not come with a positive message. They started the talk by saying that there was a crisis in childcare in the Inner West (great start) and no matter what your plans are that it is best to put your name down on a waiting list … so when you finally would get near the top you then have options. I then went out to start looking at childcare centres … (Before I start on my findings please note I have worked as a high school teacher and one of my parents is a teacher ..Also I wanted a centre that could offer something to my son that I could not .. .for it to be more than just somewhere he went while I worked.)
1. Childcare places are limited for children under the age of 2. The reason being is that from a NSW licensing perspective centre must have a maximum of 5 children (though most centres work at 4) per childcare worker.
The NSW staff to child ratios in the Children’s Services Regulation 2004
1:5 for children 0 – under 2 years of age
1:8 for children 2 or more years of age but under 3 years of age
1:10 for children 3 or more years of age but under 6 years of age (FAQ on NSW Childcare Licencing)
Due to the difference in ratio between the ages this makes this age group very expensive as far as running centres and therefore they either don’t support this age group or have limited places. Additionally those that have places give priority to people who have older children in the centre to have their children to attend the same centre.
2. Most centres allocate staff with University level training to the older children (3 years and over). The staff who are primarily responsible for the care of 0-2 are have completed TAFE certificate level training.
3. Childcare places charges have a wide range of charges. Especially those that have places in the under 2 years category. What unfortunately does not appear to be the case is any relationship between quality of care and cost. More often it is between cost and availability of places.
4. There are some childcare centres that have really interesting programs and appear to be an exciting place for learning. In my search 1 fit this description. Unfortunately it was the first one I looked at and really did not help when I looked at the others. It is a council run centre that has interesting children lead programs that have a focus on art and creativity. I really felt that the children enjoyed their time there. My nervousness (and guilt) were overcome when visiting this centre but as you can expect the waiting list is ~2- 2.5 years.
5. There are commercial childcare centres that seem to be in some sort of time void and really have not progressed at least in the last 30 years in regards to programs and teaching (at least for the under 2 years groups). I was little depressed when at a couple of the centres did not have any clear program planning for the 0-2 years.
6. Childcare placement and charging models really only support people working in standard employment. One thought I had in the back of my mind for either now or the future was to consider teaching. I thought with the school holidays that would be nice and I childcare costs reduced. What I discovered was that childcare does not really support that. You get charged by most centres for ~50 weeks a year if you want to keep your place. If you take holidays (including school holidays) where you can provide notice in advance some will reduce the fee to half for the days that the children are not attending but most charge full rate … whether they are there or not and no matter what notice you can provide.
So after looking at alot of centres and speaking to even more on the phone I was very depressed about the whole situation with childcare and it got me thinking. I knew what my preference was … to be able to look after my son myself. However for a number of reasons including a desire to contribute to the family’s income and to have something that can help keep my mind active I started to explore options for part-time work telecomuting from home. In past roles I have completed at least part of my work from home. After much though I realised that I could be very effective working from home … working around my family commitments if I had an open mind about the work I completed and the hours (times of the day) that I worked.
The more I thought about it the more passionate I became about the issue and started to think beyond myself and my own experience to the wider community. I started to wonder how many women (or men who are the primary care-givers of their children) that could benefit from working from home and how also the community and the environment would also benefit.
So as part of my getting up on the soapbox about this I wanted to write this BLOG and create a website containing information on issues, concerns and campaigns that affect the at home mum