child care

Three years out of the paid workforce and I started to want back in. Is it a mistake?

Everyday, I am so busy as it is. I am exhausted. My head is spinning with all the things I’m trying to get done, trying to think through. I have a long list, my finger in many pies. It is difficult to explain to people what it is I do, but please believe me when I say: I do a lot.

And if I get a paid job, even a very small teeny-tiny part time job, what will change? What can I stop doing? Yes, someone will else will have the pleasure of minding Wren while I am at work. But I will still have to make his lunch, get him dressed, get him there. Will Turtledad do more cleaning? more laundry? more anything?  Nobody but me will put the time and mental energy in to do all the research in to Wren’s health care needs. And I just don’t trust the professionals.

My volunteer and activist work will probably suffer. My social life will suffer. The dog will get even less attention, no doubt – poor old thing. And this already very-intermittent blog will suffer.

I do hope that my garden won’t suffer. I hope that my mental health won’t suffer. I hope that Wren won’t suffer.

I think there’s little doubt that life will be even more busy. I can only hope I’ll learn to cope.

So why do it?

To develop another side of myself, to help me feel like a more-rounded multi-dimensional person, because somehow the many, many things I do now are not enough.

So that I can say ‘I have a job’. I don’t believe anyone should need to say that, because there are so many other things of value in the world – but right now, I do.

To keep myself employable, with the possibility of financial independence, because who knows what will happen in the future.

Because it’s been three years out of paid work, and each day I feel my confidence is dwindling and that world is becoming scarier. If I don’t do it now, it will just get harder.

Because full-time parenting is too much for me now. I need time away from Wren. Oh yes, there’s the mama guilt as I write that, but that’s how it is. And I feel like I need a paid job to justify having someone else care for him for more than one morning a week – even though I could easily fill that time in other ways.

Because I live in a town where it is surprisingly easy to get work right now, even possibly interesting and meaningful work.  That may not always be the case, so I feel I should take advantage of the situation while it is here.

And I have a beautiful wonderful friend who will care for Wren for at least some of the time while I work, so I feel like I should take advantage of her while she is her. Um, no, I didn’t mean it like that. I just know that Wren will be happy with her. Ah, easing mama guilt.

So there you go. Are you convinced?

I have applied for a job. I had to do it, but I am terrified of what will happen next.


Last week I was almost dying from need of a break, and I haven’t felt like that much, but it’s just really time for a break. I was feeling overwhelmed with mothering full time and pissed off with our isolating social structures. But this week, too many lovely options have been plonked at my feet. Or rather, one option I pulled together myself, the others burst forth from other mamas I know.

Let me share with you a beautiful alternative to childcare; a model which has been working for many groups in this town for some time. It’s called ‘playcare’.
You need: 6-8 kids
One paid carer. Anyone with energy and enthusiasm for kids will do.
Keen parents.
One morning a week, 3-4 hours, the kids all go to one house, to play and be cared for by the carer plus one parent. The parents take turns being the “parent-on”. They play, share morning tea (and possibly also lunch), and the other mothers get a morning OFF. And everybody wins. The location rotates every 10 weeks, to share the burden but avoid too much shifting round for the kids.

An alternative model (the second group I’m involved with) has no paid carer, but instead 2 parents are rostered on each week. It’s cheaper, but means everyone is doing twice the shifts.

I prefer it to regular child care because it’s grassroots community based, between friends. It builds community, as everyone spends more time together, understands better where everyone else is at, and creates more possibility for sharing child care and supporting each other outside of playcare.

It has disadvantages too. More time organising. Can’t just drop a kid off somewhere without doing any of the planning. And it cannot accommodate more than the most flexible job. This is an issue for me, as my desire for a ‘real job’ is growing.  The other childcare option that emerged this week was a Family Day Care spot, with a carer recommended by a friend. I have decided to put that off for now, not wanting to start too many new things at once.

I haven’t blogged about it yet, but Wren has cystic fibrosis. The main implication in relation to childcare is that he needs to take digestive enzymes with his food, anything that has fat or protein in it, which is pretty much anything except plain veg and fruit. It’s not difficult to do once you get the hang of it, but there are some guidelines to learn and it does require someone to pay attention to what he is eating.

The response to this at the first playcare group meeting was disappointing. People chose to limit morning tea to fruit and other foods which don’t require enzymes. Okay, so they’re accommodating him, but nobody was willing to learn about the enzymes or take on that responsibility. Afterwards, I felt really sad about that, alone.

The following day at the other playcare group meeting, the response was very different. People immediately expressed an interest in learning about his enzymes. They asked questions and had proactive suggestions about how best to organise it. It was heartwarming. It really made me feel supported.

Okay, so the enzymes are not the biggest part of managing the condition, they’re not difficult for us these days. But it really means something when people make an effort to not simply ‘accommodate’ difference, but to understand it and to share the responsibility in managing it.I feel concerned that a situation will arise in the first playcare group where Wren will help himself to something fatty another kid is eating and nobody will remember he needs enzymes, or if they do, they won’t know what to do. It certainly won’t kill him, but it’s not good for him.

I don’t want to be too hard on the first group.  One mother in particular was having a stressful day, she was in the middle of moving house, not in a frame of mind to take on too much more. And I did present the issue slightly differently to the two groups.

But let me say this: if you have a friend with a child with any kind of medical condition/ disability/ special need MAKE AN EFFORT to learn about it. Ask them about their needs. Offer to help. It means a lot, not just the practical help, but also the feeling of being supported, less alone.