Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sticker shock

Good thing I am not the depressive type because, wow, this post-holiday week is an unfun, mess-cleaning, downpouring rain-fest. I'm a little puffy about the eyes probably ya, because I've mounted what seems to be a more fruitless and heartbreaking search for daycare than I thought possible.

Local AND quality AND affordable? God, I'm so naive!

Yes, I want my childcare provider to make a living wage, and yes I probably will get what I pay for -- thank you lady for filling in my stunned silence with that chastising byte of wisdom -- but after a couple days of touring blue collar homes and immigrant family basements and weathering the culture shock of other peoples intimate lives, I'm worn out and incredulous. My brain hurts from the math ...

< thoughtbubble >At X dollars per month, add 30% to how much I'll have to make above X before taxes, divide it into worked hours -- I'll have to work full-time just to afford part-time childcare, or work-full time to afford full-time childcare with a cut in take-home pay, and standard of living and less time with my child< /thoughtbubble >

I'm ducking through water sheeting down off the corrugated fiberglass porch roof, dead summer plants, dirty tipped-over molded-plastic yard chairs... still optimistic. Obese lady here, bra-less and be-slippered, reclines on K-mart furniture, tells me she'll let my child cry it out at nap-time. Do I get a discount if I pretend to not notice that your husband snuck out just as I was pulling up? Did he pass a background check too?

A dedicated childcare facility, the kind with a designated hand-washing station, and no visible personal belongings (stacks of mail, coupons and receipts, laundry, litter boxes), a place like that costs almost as much per month as housing and bills, combined.

How is this possible? America, you have truly said FUCK YOU to working mothers. I know, because I used to not give a shit about these matters, as a representative non-mothering American. Now I am mothering, and I'm totally alone in this mess. Even when I try to talk it over with Clark he says to me WELL, IF YOU THINK YOU CAN WORK ENOUGH TO COVER THE COST -- GO FOR IT.

Because I'M THE MOM, RIGHT? IF I WANT TO GET ALL UPPITY ABOUT HAVING A "CAREER" I'D BETTER FIGURE IT OUT MYSELF?* His right to work is unassailable. Agh, these stupid old cliches, this stupid mess, these hopeless times!

It'll all be different in 2011, right?

*That isn't exactly fair because Clark has never said that and he has been unfailingly supportive if a little lop-sided, but I still think the point is salient...


asha said...

Holy god! Doggie daycare centers are better than that. There must be a place.

Kristiana said...

Yes, this is all true. There is often a waiting list several months long, plus application fees...

asha said...

Well... get on them all and check back often. People's lives and schedules change. Something will open up.

Roy said...

I really, really almost hate to say this, but I think, after having gone through this process and made my (our) share of mistakes, the job you are about to give to that obese, bra-less, be-slippered K-Martian could be done by you for close to the same cost, but so, so much better. Like I said I almost really really hate to say that. Shoot me down. Write me off. But think hard. Maybe the very first years are very much more important than subsequent years. Can you afford to give her three or four more? Not, like, she would never see you, but maybe she would like to see you when she comes home from school. Maybe until she's a fifth grader. Then decide. Or probably through middle school. She would need to come home to a mom then for sure. But I'm a dad, so I don't really know. So, not to interfere. Just $0.02.

nina said...

It never leaves you: that sad understanding that in this hellishly rich country, it's family or career. And that only one career can move forward. And though I agree that working part time and being home is splendid, I can't help but think that it would be even more splendid if this was a choice, not done for lack of alternatives.

And when you get divorced (and half of us do), then that career that has surged forward continues to surge forward and yours just barely keeps up with a sucky economy.

Rich people hire a nanny. The rest struggle through endless inadequate childcare situations.

In the alternative, there is Sweden (2 years paid parental leave). Or France (paid parental leave plus nanny funds). Or really, any other family friendly country. Ours is not that. Not by a long shot.

eclectic said...

This is precisely why I don't much practice law anymore. Indeed, America HAS said a giant FUCK YOU to us.

Here's the problem: SOMEONE has to raise children, if children there are. I finally decided I wanted to do it rather than working my ass off at a job I only occasionally enjoyed so that I could pay someone else to do it.

To be candid, I have regretted it at times.

But not as often as I thought I would. Because in the final analysis, I thought (and think) I am actually better qualified to raise & educate young people than someone who may or may not have even finished high school.

Carter's in 2nd grade now, which means that theoretically, I could work more... except for those non-contract or conference or snow days when he's not in school, or sick days, and oh yeah, school dismisses at 2:20 and age 8 isn't really a good time to hang out at the house alone. *sigh* I had thought by now I'd be back to work full time, but then who would volunteer in their classrooms? Who would take them to their sports practices and music lessons? Is it more important that I 'have a career' than that they get exposure to extra-curricular activities? I still don't know, and I fear I may have done it wrong sometimes. But I think if I'd chosen the other path, I'd have the same fear. I think maybe it's a giant no-win.

All of which is to say, I'm so sorry I don't have any answers for you! I do believe, however, that a child growing up knowing she is valuable lives up to that belief.

I'll say this: no choice is permanent. Thea will be fine, no matter what you choose in this regard, because you love her so well. And you can ALWAYS choose differently if your first choice takes you down a path you find yourself (or her) not liking. So go forward boldly, and revise if/when necessary.

Wish I could give you a big hug!

Kristiana said...

the places with waiting lists are waaaay out of our price range, costing well over $1200 a month.

not working isn't an option. there is no way we could get by on one income. i didn't really tell the whole story here. i've been back to work for over a year. i started out at just a few hours a week and now work 20-25.

until now i've been working evenings and weekends when clark was home. we also got by with help one day a week from the grandparents and trading childcare with an interpreter friend of mine whose daughter is only 5 months older than thea.

my interpreter friend just got a m-f job working for the school district and i got a schedule full of day classes for the coming term -- hence the need for daycare.

it is really disheartening in a country this rich that we can afford subsidies for huge corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, endless wars on nouns, etc. -- but can't afford to help working families. adding to the mess is so many people vehement about voting against their own best interest.

all that said, i should mention that clark came home yesterday afternoon and explained that he'd figured out how many extra hours he'd need to work to get it covered. i'm not really abandoned, but i sure felt lonely touring strangers homes.

someone said...

Well that's awful. I know the women that work with me are mostly single and I think they mostly use family. 1200 dollars a month? I used to babysit for .50 an hour. All I know is when I found really great childcare I knew it at once and could finally relax and do my job. Otherwise I was worthless. There is no good answer.


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