When BC Premier Christy Clark invited mom bloggers to a round table discussion about how to make things better for BC families, there was one resounding answer: create affordable and accessible daycare.
As you know, my days of daycare are long since over, thank whatever God you will. Because it was a nightmare, and one I’m not keen to revisit, even in my memories. But for those of you foreign to the issue, here’s a recap.
The statistics were not in my favour; for all of the children in need of daycare in our province, there is space for about 20%. I knew this, going into my first pregnancy. But I was stupidly optimistic. Other people had trouble finding daycare, but surely my little cherubs could scale waiting lists just like they would one day scale mountains on their way to conquering the world. Somehow, I would find an in, and my career would continue to flourish as fast as my body shrunk back to its former size.
Reality, however, proved drastically different than the world I inhabited in my head.
As my maternity leave came to an end, no daycare spots magically appeared, just like the baby weight did not fall from my hips. I remember strapping on my Baby Bjorn and knocking on the door of every licensed daycare in our community, in a futile attempt to make headway. Surely, they couldn’t turn us away in person?
Surely and easily, they did. I looked at licensed at-home daycares, and finally found one I thought would work. My daughter, predictably, screamed like a tyrant everyday I left her before fighting the morning commute. I thought it would abate after a week, but it never did. “You’ll know in your gut,” everyone told me, “if it’s a good situation or not.” Everyday, I felt sick when I said goodbye to her. If I listened to my gut, I would have to quit my job, since there were no other childcare options. (My husband and I were not comfortable with leaving our baby with a nanny, which was the solution for most of our friends.)
Everyday was a struggle. Everyday I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Everyday I evaluated the importance of my career over my daughter’s well-being.
A couple of daycares and a year later, I was ready to go on maternity with my second child. If you think it’s hard finding daycare for one child, it’s almost impossible to find places for two. And at double the cost, economically, it makes less sense. I threw in the towel, gave up my job, and have been out of the work force ever since.
Of course, I’m one of millions of women who have done the same thing, there is nothing special about my situation. However it left an indelible mark where my career once lived. A path unexplored. A giant piece of me taken away, not to mention a livelihood. How many other women feel the same way? Likely, millions.
Christy Clark was brutally honest, if nothing else, about the situation. For starters, BC can’t afford a system of daycare similar to the costly Quebec model, she told us. Quebec has higher provincial taxes and receives transfer payments, which help fund their program. And secondly, it’s hard to convince voters to care about childcare, since it affects people for a small window of time (roughly five years, from birth until age five).
My children are now in school, but this doesn’t mean I am short sighted about the need for a better childcare system in our province. It no longer affects me directly, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want things to improve for other families, and especially other women. Our society and province would only stand to benefit from a strong childcare system that enables women to continue on their career paths.
I may not benefit from a better provincial childcare system in BC, but I have three daughters that are intent on conquering the world, and they just might.
A coalition of child care advocates, who are much smarter than me, have put together a compelling and comprehensive plan for a better childcare system in BC. For details, check out their website at http://www.ecebc.ca.
I initially assumed it was spam and almost deleted it. But closer inspection showed the email was a legitimate query from the office of our Premier, Christy Clark, to come to her office to discuss ways the government can improve things for BC families.
My first reaction was this was like our Prime Minister asking Howdy Doody for help. I might possibly be the least politically minded person in the Northern Hemisphere. I know she’s busy, but hasn’t she read my blog? Then again, perhaps that is the point.
After this initial reaction, a tirade of others. As if she will listen to little old me when I propose the province of British Columbia create a traveling circus to be available, free of charge, for the children of British Columbia. And where the hell was the Premier ten years ago when I was a working mother with absolutely NO daycare options for my tiny tots? Better tardy than never, I suppose.
So I have thrown myself head first into a political crash course, figuring out federal versus provincial jurisdiction between carpools and laundry. Note I didn’t say between whale sperm facials and shopping, like those proper Real Housewives of Vancouver.
Leading off with the idea that the provincial government should come to an agreement with our teachers is a bit obvious, but clearly that is one thing high on our list. For the love of God, put that problem to rest. And how about a provincial fitness tax-credit to match our existing federal credit? More encouragement to get our kids off the sofa and get some exercise. One friend has passed along a plan for changes and improvements to Early Childhood Education, so that we can provide an affordable, integrated childcare system.
In the jaded, shadowed recesses of my mind, I wonder if this is all a publicity stunt. On the other hand, it can’t hurt to try. The meeting is next week. It’s downtown, which means I should change out of my track suit, possibly the most exciting aspect of this invitation.
Really, thanks Christy Clark. I thought you’d never ask.
Want me to be your mouthpiece? If you have any suggestions, or a burning desire for a province-wide traveling circus, this is your chance to dish.