Category Archives: childcare

Miss Three is at war with her carers, and I’m on her side..


Here’s a confession, I haven’t had major sleep problems with Miss Three since she was four months old.

That’s not to say we’re not up a lot during the nights; there are often bad dreams, illness, heat or cold issues and sometimes a need for emergency cuddles, but we know that in the grand scheme of things, we’re pretty fortunate.

I’m the last person to claim the credit.  We had fantastic support from the sleep support centre provided by our local area health service when Miss Three was four months old.  As hapless parents who knew very little, this was a godsend.

Since then things have gone fairly well.  Miss Three gave up her daytime sleep about six months ago, it made the evening bedtime quicker and less stressful and we’re quite relaxed about that.

But every day she’s at daycare, her carers spend two hours trying to get her to sleep.  They pat, cajole and beg and she just doesn’t sleep. I get reports (from her) about how they will try and get her to ‘be good and have a sleep today’.

And I really don’t care.

I understand that those who work in daycare need a break during the day – this is absolutely not about that.  I also understand that some kids need a sleep, and others a little quiet time, but I do not understand telling a child that good behaviour is sleeping when they really have no physical need for one?

We spend the first few years of our children’s loves agonizing over their sleep patterns.  There’s a very good reason that Go the F*** to Sleep is a bestseller.  And it’s a serious issue for working mums, who are trying to commute, make decisions and function like regular human beings during the day, often on very little sleep.

I’d love to get an afternoon kip on the weekends, and it was lovely while it lasted, but if they don’t need it, there’s simply  not much you can do about it.

I try so hard to support our lovely carers and any rules or processes they implement.  I think consistency in expectations, especially on things like manners, eating patterns and treatment of other people, is really important.

But I’m sorry daycare, I just can’t back you up on this one.

Kirsten

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Six options for mums with sick kids

We’ve been fairly lucky this winter (touch wood nervously), but when Miss Three is sick, things get pretty tense in our house.  Negotiations about who has the most critical meetings and deadlines at work occur.  There are thin lips all round.

Like a lot of families, we have no real backup plan.  Our parents live too far away and missing a day’s work can seem like a crisis.  It’s usually worse for Miss Three than it is for us, but at the time it feels like a disaster.

The other challenge is that, when kids are sick, it’s usually going around in the family, so you’re probably struggling with something too.  But there’s no sick leave as a mum, right?

Coping with Jane has published these tips on Four ways to avoid a sick child in day-care which has some good ideas, but there are times when none of them work, and you just need to get by.

Here are your options.

OPTION NUMBER ONE

Force your kids to get up and ready for day care.  Often a bit of a false economy as the carers are pretty expert at spotting a sick kid and will whip out that thermometer and call you home by mid-morning.   The rules are often that they have to stay away for 24 hours after being sent home, so you may have turned one sick day into two.

OPTION NUMBER TWO

Call someone – anyone – to look after your sick kid(s).  Mums, neighbours, friends, paid babysitters, can all come into their own at around 7am on a sick day.  A paid babysitter can earn more than you do, so this can also be a false economy.

OPTION NUMBER THREE

Try and do it all.  Call your employer and explain, offer to work from home, and then, if your work allows it, log in and try and get as much done as you can.  This method usually involves using a television as a babysitter, or taking calls with a child whingeing in the background.  In many jobs, and for many employers, it’s also not allowed.

OPTION NUMBER FOUR

If you are one of the very fortunate, use one of your carer days as a leave day and explain to your employer that your child is sick and you will not be at work today. They understand and know that their flexibility will be appreciated by less time goofing off at work and a more engaged and loyal workforce.

OPTION NUMBER FIVE

Try and get your husband or partner to do one or all of the above.

OPTION NUMBER SIX

Lie and pretend it’s you who is sick so your employer doesn’t regret employing a working mum and just thinks you’re always ill.

Have you used any of these strategies?

Kirsten

Do women want it all, or do they just want better child care?

Many of you may have seen Anne-Maree Slaughter’s piece in July edition of The Atlantic magazine about women trying to have it all, and the subsequent internet debate about it.

If you haven’t, you can read it here.  You can also read pieces responding to it, here, here and here. It caused a bit of a fuss, largely because it allowed lots of journalists to get excited about whether feminism had got something wrong.

Most of this debate misses the point entirely.  Many women in Australia grow up thinking we can have it all, and then the reality of having children and raising a family hits us.  For some, it is the first time they experience any sort of discrimination, or realise the world isn’t fair.  In Anne-Marie’s Slaughter’s case, she realised it was impossible to commute across the country and still see her children.  I’m not sure what she expected or why that was news to her, but we’re all learning I suppose.

In my experience, many women are perfectly fine with taking a backwards step in their career to spend more time with their children, especially while they’re young.  We know that this means less superannuation, a slower career path to seniority and less involvement in major work decisons that might happen when we’re not there.  It’s frustrating, and when we know we’re capable of doing our bosses job it can drive us crazy, but we can cope.

The problem arises when we are willing to work, and know our kids will be fine if we worked at all/more days/different days, and we can’t find the childcare or the employer who will help us manage these responsibilities.

To that end, I am pleased to see that Childcare Minister Kate Ellis put removing restrictions on childcare centres being open after 6pm onto the agenda.  For many families, this would reduce our burden considerably.  As would more reliable public transport.

Another option could be to allow some centres to open on Saturday in areas where there is local demand among miners and shift workers.  No-one wants to have children in 24 hour care, and so this would need to be regulated, but having some help available for families at odd hours would surely help the many shift workers we have in our economy, as well as those of us (like me) who battle Sydney traffic in the evening to avoid a fine by getting there after 6pm.

Would more flexible child care make a difference to you? What else do you need for your version of ‘having it all’?

Kirsten

 

Stop press. Kids in child care are just fine. Good news for working mums

New research has today confirmed what most working mums already knew – that kids in childcare are just fine.

The research, reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, confirms that childcare use in the first year of life has no discernible bad effects.

The research is Australian based and tracked children through to eight or nine.  It found that among two and three year olds in childcare centres, there were no differences in behaviour or adjustment between those who started as babies  and those we started later.  The researchers looked at the evaluations of teachers as well as parents, so isn’t based on parents justifying their own choices.

Making decisions about when to go back to work and what’s best for your own kids is hard, and finding the right centre and feeling comfortable about your choices is even harder.

There’s no way of  getting rid of that nagging feeling that your own choices may not be the right one forever, but you can now know there is conclusive evidence that if you decide to return to work a little earlier than you planned – your kids will be ok.

Feel better?  We hope so.

More information on the study is available here

More on what we’ve had to say about the importance of quality childcare is here.

Is your child care costing you more than it should?

Apologies for the hiatus, but our day care arrangements are changing and our house is in a state of chaos.

However, we break from this personal hiatus to share some important information all working mums need to know, and potentially do something about, before the 30th of June.  Yep, that’s in a few days ladies.

DID YOU KNOW ALL MUMS WHO WORK OR STUDY MORE THAN 15 HOURS A WEEK ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CHILD CARE SUPPORT?

Not just those who earn below a certain level of income.

Not just those who receive Family Tax Benefit.

All of us.

If this is new information to you, and you had kids in care in between July 2009 and June 2010, you have only a few days to get your forms into the Family Assistance Office because you can get the money retrospectively, but only for two years.

If your children started care more recently and you’re not claiming the rebate, you have a bit longer to get everything in order, but it’s still a good time to get your finances in order and claim all you can.

Here are the facts you need to know.

  • The Child Care Tax Rebate is not means tested. You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year regardless of your income.  Verification of this from a government website is here.
  • The other form of support, the Child Care Benefit is designed as what the government calls an ‘equity measure’, in that it is designed to help people who need the financial help most.  This one is only available to families on incomes up to around $160,000.  You can read more about this one here.
  • For both forms of care, long day care, family day care and outside school hours care and occasional care all qualify but any informal care (grandparents, nannies or babysitters) doesn’t.
  • You can get the form for both forms of support from the Family Assistance Office (located in Medicare offices).

There is an online process, but you need to know things like your CRN number.   If you don’t know what a CRN is, or whether you have one, I’d suggest an in-person visit.  Personally I found the website incredibly clunky and unfriendly, and I like my local Medicare ladies, so I gave up and went into the office where all of my questions could be answered and my form received with confidence.

They even gave me a little receipt that is pasted on our fridge until they process my form.

The form itself is pretty straightforward and took about 15 minutes to fill out.  You need to know things like your Medicare numbe, bank account details and passport details if any of you have travelled overseas lately.

Working mums work really hard, and many of us are also responsible for managing the household finances and general administration as well as our paid job and the mum job, but the benefit of adding this one to your To Do list is that it has the potential to make you money.  And hopefully make paying that heating bill just a little bit easier 🙂

Kirsten

The great nanny debate

There has been a lot of debate lately about taxpayer subsidised nannies.

We asked for feedback when the debate kicked off with this great piece from journalist and working mum Stephanie Peatling about Tony Abbott’s pitch to working mothers.

Most of you agreed anything which helps working mums is a good idea, but didn’t have strong views either way. The piece kicked off a week of debate about support for working mums, with Childcare Minister Kate Ellis saying on Adelaide radio  that nannies shouldn’t be subsidised because;

Often they’ll clean the house, they’ll do a whole range of things which taxpayers have never previously subsidised those families that can afford that to have that service and I think that we’ve got other priorities.

Another Minister, Chris Bowen, shared his family’s experience with a nanny and why he didn’t think it should be subsidised here.

Misha Schubert summed up the debate (and exasperation of many working mums) in yesterday’s Sunday Age, which you can read here.

The best thing about this issue is that both parties seem to agree that more support for working mums is a great idea, even if neither is proposing definitive solutions.  They also disagree on how to provide that support, and most working mums would probably agree no one has got it completely right.

What many commentators seem to get confused is that the two forms of child care assistance have been developed to help families in different ways, and have a different impact on the economy.

Some politicians even got this wrong when they claimed that all child care assistance is means tested.

First, the Child Care Tax Rebate is not means tested. You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year regardless of your income.  Verification of this from a government website is here.

This isn’t because the government wants us all to have ten children or even because it thinks working mums are ace.  Although wouldn’t that be nice?

It’s because it’s in the interests of our economy to get women who have had their education paid for at least in part by the  government to back into the workforce and being productive in a jobs generating sort of way.  (No, we are not saying stay at home mums are unproductive!  The geniuses who measure our economic performance are, because they measure cash money and how it creates jobs for other people.)  It also creates more taxpayers, and helps the government in the long run.

The other form of support, the Child Care Benefit is designed as what the government calls an ‘equity measure’, in that it is designed to help people who need the financial help most.  This one is only available to families on incomes up to around $160,000.  You can read more about this one here.

For both forms of care, long day care, family day care and outside school hours care and occasional care all qualify but any informal care (grandparents, nannies or babysitters) doesn’t.

I understand why nannies aren’t subsidised, but I think the reason it’s such a popular idea is because the current system of care doesn’t work for lots of people and even people on average incomes are prepared to consider something ridiculously expensive for more flexibility.

Some people don’t think day care works for very young children, especially if you need it more than one or two days a week.  Some people work odd hours.  Unfortunately most of the debate in the media has been focussed on highly paid executive women when I suspect the people who have the most trouble are women who work shift work.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is to work as a nurse, a waitress or real estate agent at Saturday open inspections if you need formal day care outside of “8 til 6, Monday to Friday”.

Being a Sydneysider, I also wonder how much travel time plays a role in decision making.  If we use local day care, and have a 45 minute commute each way, that’s another hour and a half factored into our kids day at care, and how many hours we are available to work.

For me, on the days Miss 3 is in care, I have to drop her off at 7:45am at the absolute latest and only get to pick her up at 5:45pm, which means I don’t get to work a minute early and I leave exactly on 5pm.   Not all employers are as okay about this as mine is, so I wonder how much of a problem it could be for others. It’s also a prety long day for Miss 3, and means a pretty ratty evening of overtired three year old tantrums.  Fun for the entire family…

For what it’s worth, what I think I’d like to see any government do would be;

1. Continue to keep the two levels of support as they exist – they complement each other well and help different families in different ways.  Make both of them them more generous if at all possible.

2. Improve availability of care so that we could all get places at the centres close to our homes and/or work.

3.  Bring in legislation so that any employer who judges or punishes a working mum for scooting out the door at exactly 5pm is forced to spend an evening with a ratty three year old and then asked whether they think their employee is taking it easy.

There’s my policy solution. What do you think?

For about child care support, read our post on Five things all working mums need to know about changes to childcare.

Childcare benefit – creating a society ‘dependent’ on handouts. Apparently.

Today in the Financial Review, Liberal MP Jamie Briggs has claimed that childcare support from the government creates a cycle of dependency.

Is he kidding? Let’s hope so.

The article isn’t online so I can’t provide a link but here are some choice quotes.

What comes with these big spending Labor Governments is a society that is more and more dependent on government handouts. Take, for example, childcare.

This cycle of dependency is reinforced by policies that make it harder and harder to get off the government teat.

Mr Briggs goes on to express concern about the changes the government is making to childcare and the potential increase in costs as a result of improvements in staff qualifications and staff to child ratios.

Strangely, the thing that irks me most is that he refers to quality childcare in inverted commas.

“Quality” child care

Umm, it’s not a joke, or a made up thing. It’s something most mums (and dads) want for their kids.

I can think of a few other areas of govenrment expenditure that might also create dependency.  Like a certain politician’s salary? It’s all about which government spending is worth it. Mmm

 Childcare support helps mums get back into the workforce – contributing to family income and rebuilding their careers.  Quality childcare (not “quality” childcare) helps kids learn and play well while their mums (and/or dads) are at work.

There are mixed views about the government’s changes to childcare. I’ve penned a view of mine below. Share your views here.   Or you can let Jamie know on Twitter (@BriggsJamie)

UPDATE 5pm: The full article still isn’t available on the newspaper’s website but it is on Mr Briggs’ webpage at jamiebriggs.com.au