Monday, June 16, 2014

MOMday: The Trouble With Dayhomes

Warning: This one's long and maybe a bit ranty.  I'm actually amazed, looking back, that I haven't written about this more.  It has been a huge weight on our lives for all of these years.

Had someone told me five years ago that childcare was such a bothersome beast, I would have laughed and told them they were insane.  How bad could it really be to find someone to care for your kids and allow you to have a career or some form of fulfillment outside of motherhood?

Boy was I ever jaded back then.

But then, by the one year mark in my twins lives, I should have been totally aware that this was going to go all uphill from here.

The first year with twins is a busy time.  An overwhelmingly busy time where you lose whole months and don't remember the last time you breathed.  What this meant for me was that I was suddenly faced with the end of my one year of maternity leave and I had NO ONE to leave my kids with.  Dayhomes in Langdon just didn't have the hours we needed and finding one in the city was so daunting.  Day cares were prohibitively expensive.  It would have been almost as much as my take home pay to put them in one - if we could find one that had a short enough wait list to give us hope.  So private dayhomes was it...and I couldn't find one that could take two kids under two years old.

Why is that, you ask?  Well, a lot of the dayhomes that have multiple spaces are newer and are usually a result of a mommy deciding to stay home at the end of her mat leave - with her own "under two" year old.

I was lucky that year, though.  I looked into my work union agreement and it turned out that I could extend my leave.  I was working at the school board and I could extend my leave to the end of the year PLUS another year.  SWEET!  Since I was a 12 month employee - that would buy me another year and a half.  Hubby and I figured we could afford to keep me home a while longer on his salary and so I settled in for another year.

But then, my daughters decided to only learn one language.  And that language wasn't English.  Twinese ran rampant in our home and it was getting frustrating.  As the girls were getting closer and closer to their second birthday - I made a really hard decision.  I had to end my leave early.  And that meant finding a dayhome.

That first search actually went quick.   I was able to find a place that was workable on our commute and was remarkably affordable.  She was a grandmother, the girls liked her and we decided to give her a try.

I returned to work just before they turned two.    Work was not all it was cracked up to be.  I was miserable in my old role and was thrown into a dramatically different team than I had been with before. The first few months felt like adjusting to a new role - both my own and that with our dayhome.  It wasn't long before both started to slip.

I noticed it in little things - like how she always seemed to be coming out of her bedroom when we picked the girls up.  Like she'd been sleeping.  And our kids were in the "dayhome" area of the house, behind a baby gate in the playroom.      When we noticed scrapes on the kids and would ask her about them - she would never remember them falling.   It was like little red lights all over the place.  When a friend sent me a job posting for my current job - the timing was perfect to make a move on both the job AND dayhome front.  So I did.   And I became significantly pickier in the dayhome search.

I returned to Kijiji for my search.  It didn't take long to find two dayhomes that fit our new criteria.  We only needed to meet with one to find a perfect fit, though.  She would still be caring for the girls if we had our way - trust me we tried.   The girls spent a year and a half in her care before the day that I showed up and found her in tears.

Her condo board had pulled all business permits in the complex.  They gave her until the end of the week to shut down...she negotiated a second week.  We were out on our keisters with hardly time to find a replacement.  I rushed to make arrangements with my work to allow me to work from home until we could find someone.

But then dayhome number three appeared.  She was relatively new, but had aspirations of running multiple dayhomes and we liked that she had similar professional credentials to the one we had just lost.  She was professional - almost too professional - and justified her extra expense in that she had a helper and would take the girls on many field trips.

This was the dayhome where we learned exactly how the dominoes start to fall.  First, she kept insisting on extra money for fieldtrips.  Then, her helper left suddenly.  Then, the girls told us they weren't allowed to play outside anymore.   Then, I saw something she accidently posted on twitter about looking for a rental house.   The dominoes were falling.  I started to feel like we were suddenly going to go through a repeat of dayhome #2.

I started to look for a different dayhome within 3 months of our move to her.   Only this time, we had school looming.  And we don't live in Calgary so we had to stop picking from the vast pool of city dayhomes and try to find something that could fill the role for the school years.

I wrote to the dayhome we are currently with on a few separate occasions during those months.  She had the hours we needed and the location.  She was willing to school transport.  She was willing to feed them the way we required.  But she didn't have enough spots to take both.

Until one day in late November.  I happened to be home sick and was starting to feel a bit better late int he day so I was boredly going through kijiji and I saw and ad saying she had TWO SPOTS!!!  I pounced!  We interviewed her that night and were REALLY impressed.  The next day, I told her we would love to move to her in the new year and then I gave notice to our other dayhome.

That was 7 months ago.  The girls have been in this dayhome for half a year.  And BOY can a lot change in half a year.   They have been fantastic with the girls.  Truly fantastic. We have seen amazing developmental leaps in them.  They are probably beyond kindergarten curriculum at this point from what they are learning there.   But we have also been kicked out twice and renegotiated our way back in (neither booting was our fault).  Now, they can't drive the girls to school.  Of course they can't.

Let the new search begin.

But we're stuck.  Stuck to a Langdon dayhome and, more specifically, stick to THIS dayhome because there is an interesting phenomenon in Langdon.  Dayhomes don't seem to have hours that actually WORK for parents who actually work in the city.  Take us - we leave our house at 6:30 every morning.  Drop off the girls and head to the city.  Hubby is dropped off before 7:30 and I usually get to work by 8.  Then - I leave my office right at 4:30.  Pick hubby up by 5 and we are on the road home.  Usually we get there around 6, but if there is an accident or bad weather - we can be squeaking into the dayhome driveway at exactly 6:30.   There is very little wiggle room.

So we are lucky to have this dayhome with it's hours of 6:30 to 6:30.

Other Langdon dayhomes?  Well - they open at 7:30 and go to 5:30.  Or maybe open as early as 7 but insist on closing by 5:30.  I get it - their kids need to go to the soccer that starts too early for my kids to join.  Or to dance that ends by the time we are getting into town.   But those aren't hours that work for real working moms...and definitely not for single vehicle working families.   Apparently, I have heard, that those dayhomes are for the STAY AT HOME MOMS!!!!  WTF!!!!

Three years and four dayhomes.  I never thought that would be us.

Let me tell you - I now truly appreciate those exorbitantly expensive organized daycare centres.  With their structured hours and their caregiver:child ratios.  Sure, they may look like little prisons for children and they may cost as much as private school...but you get what you pay for.  You get the transportation they promise.  You get the hours they set.  You don't need to worry about them closing without sufficient notice.  You don't need to pay for them to take vacation.  You don't need to worry about your children being abandoned or drawn into drama.

Worth every penny after all we've been through.  Of course - there is a group of ladies trying to open one of those here in Langdon.  It's just too bad the county keeps tying them up in red tape.  This last time I wrote - I didn't even get a response.  It leads me to believe that dream has been crushed.

So I will be trying to get the girls through one more year.  Once they are in grade one, there is organized before/after care at the school.  But Kindergarten is going to be an interesting year around here.  I really wish I had a time machine to get us through it.

4 comments:

  1. "Fulfillment outside of motherhood?" *clutches invisible pearls* Hahaha.

    This sounds like a crazy experience-I don't envy you. I always knew I would stay home-I wanted to, plus I didn't have a job or career I loved. We are fortunate that Dave's wages can take care of all us.

    I really miss adults sometimes and have found I can now be quite awkward when out with groups...I'm trying to make an effort to socialize again this summer ;) It makes me tired just thinking about it.

    The girls will have so much fun at school!

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    Replies
    1. LOL. invisible pearls!
      Taking just two years off really makes me understand what you say about social awkwardness - I really noticed a difference when I first went back to work. Some of it has persisted the three years I've been back.

      After all we've been through, I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to just stay home, but I know that they needed the outside stimulation that I couldn't provide with our limited mobility while I was off.

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  2. That sounds like quite the ordeal. No wonder so many parents look stressed. There is a child care facility in our office building and I can just imagine what they charge people in exchange for the convenience. Good luck with it till they get in school.

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  3. How frustrating beyond words! It's so hard to find someone you trust with your children. I had a few issues with Audrey's dayhome situations and I'm so not lookin forward to finding care for two when I go back to work.
    The dayhome overall has been such a positive experience for Audrey but I really wish part time work and dayhomes were more of an option as working full time with one child was so exhausting and I never felt I had enough time on the weekends to even do the bare minimum to get ready for the week.

    Hope you find a good solution for next year.

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