The reality of childcare is more like a patchwork. So I thought things would get a) simpler and b) cheaper once Cubling starts school. That would have been the naive world view of the uninitiated. With less than a month to go before the big day of starting school, I'm awfully smug because I managed to get all my childcare needs met. Yes, you heard me, and I know it'll make some jealous and want to hit, kick and bite me, but the jigsaw is complete.
And this is what it looks like, verion 5.13:
For term time:
- 8-9 am Breakfast club on 4 mornings
- 9am-3pm school
- 3-6pm after school care on 2 afternoons a week
- 3-6pm childminder 1 on 2 afternoons a week.
- late work days: child minder 1
- 8-5pm nursery on 3 days a week
- (will change to 2 days plus 1 day at outdoor nursery once she turns 3)
- 8-6pm childminder 1 on 1 day a week
- late work days: child minder 1
In service days:
- Childminder 1 or 2
- Childminder 1 and 2.
Total: 6 child care providers between two children. I've not yet figured out the total cost, but we're on the very cheap end of it all and so lucky in that respect, but one thing I have realised is that we'll be paying significantly more on childcare than we currently do with 2 under 5s. Ok, my working hours are increasing so this is probably the bulk of the additonal cost, but still, my hope that once school kicked in, childcare costs would come down was an illusion.
For the past few months, I've had headaches and near head explosions about how to get it all organised and make sure there are no pieces missing and not gaps. Thankfully, our current 2 childminders (who we fall back on for anything additional) were able to pick up the missing pieces and it all worked out just fine.
However, looking at this it becomes clear that childcare isn't the simple "just put your child into a nursery" situation. My work is not strictly 9-5pm, there are commuting times to consider. After school, school holidays and in service days.
And even if it is all looking good, I still have the conundrum that I need Snowflake to be at nursery 8.30-5.30 and the nursery will only offer me 8-5pm, leaving me half an hour short for being able to have a full working day.
One of the suggestions are taking your baby. Have you tried it? Well I have and to be honest, not a lot of work gets done and I'm not sure if the work I do manage to get done is offset by the distraction from work that my colleagues surely experience (open office). A parent co-op? All I can say that whenever I tried to organise child activities , as soon as it goes over the 2 hours threashold it has to be registered, inspected and a whole lot of regulations, paperwork sets in which includes the necessity for any workers in this scheme to be disclosed and training towards a child care qualification. Not doable for working parents.
I do like the idea of combining care for the elderly and childcare. Of course I might be naive not having experienced the ins and outs of this, but it sounds like a solution which would benefit both children and older people, so I'd like to hear more about it.
As to schools being open all day, I've been arguing for a while how it would be good to have a one stop point for childcare, i.e. a child care provider located at a school and integrating preschool and after school care. Here in Scotland at least, pre school is delivered in half day sessions, so the nurseries that are attached to schools will mostly only offer 2.5 to 3 hours a day for 4 and sometimes 3 year olds. Which is no good if you're working. There are exceptions to this but these nurseries are notoriously difficult to get your child into. After school and holiday care would be best delivered as a standard at each primary school (I've not yet even found out what holiday care there is available and how much it costs as we're lucky enough that one of the childminders can step in).
Integrated childcare. The magic word. Sounds so much better than having to stop at 6 addresses during the course of a week.
Universal childcare. The end of worries and financial strains on families, which demonstrably has led to more equal societies and happier children in the Scandinavian countries - thus actually saving money in the long run rather than costing the taxpayer (through lower rates of crime, reduced mental health costs, lower health budgets, less prison sentences, less vandalism, less substance abuse, and the list continues).
The thing is, it can be done. It's not a distant dream. It does depend on political will and public support for the idea that children are an asset for the whole of the society and not just the parents' issue; that universal and integrated childcare reaps benefit for all of us, whether we choose to have children or not. And looking at the comments on the BBC article, we are a looooong way off such public support.