Category Archives: Work life balance

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

Five things all working mums need to know about changes to childcare

Last week when dropping Miss Nearly 3 at childcare, I spotted a mysterious sealed envelope marked “For Families” next to the sign in sheet. I looked around furtively and slipped it into my handbag, secretly hoping it was cash.

No, it was a letter from the government. After reading it, I was none the wiser as to what it was about. But after reading the leaflets and a bit of help from Google, it turns it was about money – money the government could be giving me – or indeed, you. So, if you never saw the envelope or received it, but had no idea what it was about, here are the key points.

1. Lots of Australian families aren’t claiming enough child care benefit because they don’t know about it or don’t realize their family could qualify. Child care benefit can be paid for families with incomes up to $161,581 in some cases!

2. 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.

3. Child care tax rebate is different from the child care benefit and is not income tested. (Yep, you read that correctly – NOT INCOME TESTED). You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year.

4. You can claim these benefits up to two years in arrears. Talk to your child’s centre about getting those old receipts now!

5. You can get most of these benefits fortnightly, quarterly or annually direct into your bank account.

Important note. None of these changes mean your child will come home any less overtired. They will still smell as though they’ve been with other small children all day. I call it Eau de Day Care.

The Government also investing more money in childcare. This will mean things like:

• A better staff to child ratio

• Childcare workers will be better qualified

• An increase in fees in most centres

There are different views about these changes in the media. Some outlets have reported that costs would soar while others argue that the changes are worth paying for.

My fees haven’t gone up yet, but that could be because the standards were introduced earlier in NSW and we may have already absorbed them.

These are important issues. I wish the letter had said some of these things. Talk to your local centre and find out how it will affect you. Mine is a bit worried about losing some good staff but none of them have left yet.

Did you know about these changes? What do you think? More information about the child care rebate and child care rebate is available your local Family Assistance Office (they are located in Medicare offices) or by calling them on 13 61 50.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lessons for working mums – no thanks

I have a love/hate relationship with Gwyneth.  I love most of her movies, but her lack of self awareness, or the world most of us live in, is quite odd.

Last week in an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Gynweth  said what made her marriage work  was being at home when her husband returned home from work.

What??  Nothing like a bit more pressure and guilt from a high profile and wealthy mum to make the rest of us feel bad.

I don’t really care about what works for Gwyneth because her life is so unlike mine  –  although I am interested in how some of the amazing mums I know manage to hold it all together despite challenges like commuting, managing finances and imperfect child care arrangements.

Fortunately Michelle Beckett at the Huffington Post UK has managed to sum up my concerns about this.  She writes:

I’d love to stay at home in the day with my three daughters, baking organic recipes from your twee lifestyle website and getting my nose hairs detoxed with sea purslane or whatever.

Waiting sweetly in a pretty dress for my husband (if I had one) to return from work, so I can rub his shoulders and fetch him his pipe and slippers as his organic butternut squash and quinoa supper cooks….

Let me tell you about MY life. I know enough about your perfect one, thanks…

I’m a single self-employed full time working mum of three girls aged 15, 11 and nearly three. I won’t moan, I consider myself very privileged. I juggle my successful business with organising myself, the girls, the logistics of two ex husbands, the housework, the cooking, the… holy crap, please no one drop in and notice my kitchen floor…

My life is a whirl of missing school letters, frantic washing of school tights at 11pm when we’ve run out, trying not to shout at kids for missing homework left to the last minute, painting walls, potty training, nursery pick ups…

Mixed with… (deep breath) preparation of PowerPoints and booking trains so I can go speak on stage to business audiences, as I try to look immaculate, professional and as if I have it all together behind the scenes, perfectly, like Gwyneth does.

Check out the full version of Michelle’s piece here.

What do you think of Gwyneth?  Am I being unfair in resenting her lessons to working mums?  Or is she simply answering questions about her life and if any of us feel guilty is it our problem?

The Smartie Sandwich – evil or genius?

Is this what I will put in Miss Nearly Three's lunchbox? Probably not

The Daily Telegraph has reported today that there are calls for an overhaul of school lunchboxes in the UK because one kid went to school with a smartie sandwich.

Clearly this is not ideal.  Except maybe for the child involved.  However, I am pretty sure that Miss Nearly Three isn’t ever going to get the ‘herb crusted chicken wraps’ I see as healthy lunchbox ideas advertised in women’s magazines.

Here’s what I think could be done to make it easier for mums to provide healthier lunches. 

1. Stop judging parents who go with the quickest option that their kid is happy to eat. 

2. Provide flexible working hours so mums who have to commute and start at 9am every day aren’t under so much pressure to find quick and easy options.

3. Teach kids to make their own damned lunches as soon as possible.  I’m working on Miss Nearly Three.  Without success I might add.  Although she rather enjoys licking the margarine from her (plastic) knife and sticking it back in the tub.   Delightful.

As an aside,  I’m pretty sure there are dads out there who make school lunches.  My dad used to make mine a long time ago.  Is there a secret movement of dads making school lunches across the land?  I hope so.

Does working cost too much?

I read in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend an article about thousands of nurses threatening to resign as a result of increased costs to retrain. Apparently the Victorian Government is asking them to pay to upgrade their own qualifications and it’s not worth working anymore.  Some of them are considering other professions.

This had me doing a few sums about how much it costs me to work.

I really love my job, but sometimes I feel that, once you include work clothes, transport and day care, I don’t always “turn a profit”.

I completely understand women who don’t love their pre-kids job not wanting to go back.  Often it  doesn’t make economic sense to do so, regardless of your personal preferences.  Some days it’s worth it just so I can eat my lunch without adjusting a fairy costume from the Dress Ups box in between each mouthful.

The upside of working is that, even when my take home pay doesn’t seem that great, I’m contributing to my own retirement through my superannuation, which I know I’ll probably be grateful for later.

I know lots of women only make it work economically with the help of grandparents.  If so, did you know the Australian Government now provides the child care benefit to some families? Check out the familyassist.gov.au website for more information.  This too has an upside and a downside.  How do you talk to your mother-in-law about your toddler getting more sleep? Hmmm…

When is it worth going back to work?  How much do you need to earn before it’s worth being apart from your kids? Would you change careers to make it more worthwhile?

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