Posts tagged: daycare

Working Parents Deserve First Dibs on Shifts

By , February 7, 2013 4:45 am

It finally happened. A court of law has ruled that caring for your children is more important than prime time TV. Earlier this week a Canadian federal court upheld a human rights tribunal’s finding that employers have an obligation to try to accommodate employee needs as they pertain to childcare.  That means if your boss can reasonably let you work the day shift so you can drop your kid at daycare, then she has to.

(UPDATE: From the Globe and Mail article linked to above, “The ruling also leaves the onus on employees to prove that they have made reasonable efforts to sort out their family obligations before requesting help from their employers, Rudner said.” This isn’t about every parent trumping every non-parent. It is designed to protect those who would otherwise be forced to leave their job.)

Before I go any further, let me fully disclose my biases. Not only am I a parent, I am also a night owl. I worked shift work in the Telus Mobility call centre for a brief stint before I had kids and I could not for the life of me understand why young, childless people made such a fuss about working until 9pm. You know that means you don’t have to be in until noon, right? And you get to skip rush hour altogether? And you can still meet friends for a drink or whatever? I just didn’t get it. I still don’t.

But I don’t have to get it to understand why it might seem unfair for one employee who does the exact same job as another to get first dibs on shifts just because she has a kid. I mean, imagine if I had to start coming in at 8am! INJUSTICE! It seems unfair, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right.

It’s common decency, for one thing. I once worked lunches as a server with a woman who had to pick her daughter up from school at 3:30. This meant that I always had to put in the grunt hours between 3:00 and 5:00 when you clean and prep and make next to no tips and she never did. Not once did it ever even occur to me (or to anyone else) to complain. She had to leave at 3:00 just like I could only work two shifts a week because I was in school and the owner had to yell at everyone because he was an asshole. It’s life. You deal with it.

Having children may be a choice, but taking care of them is not. Juggling work and childcare is hard enough for working parents on a typical schedule. (Sick days and PA days and doctor’s appointments and school breaks all have to be covered somehow.) But how would a single parent even go about finding child care to cover shift work? Daycares have set hours and round-the-clock nanny care is absurdly expensive. A parent’s need to work around child care limitations does trump someone else’s desire for a 9 to 5 lifestyle.

Okay, I lied. It’s not a choice. I mean, even if I employ my power of hypothetical thought to its utmost and imagine that I could have opted to ignore my own biological imperative to procreate — even if I, personally, could have chosen otherwise — somebody has to have the children. Reproduction is necessary for our political, economic and cultural continuation. Who is going to write all the TV shows when you get old if people stop having children?! God, think about it. (Oh yeah, there’s that social security problem too. That would have been smart to bring up.)

One more thing. What is the primary factor holding women back from equal footing in the workforce? Motherhood, that’s what. This is not to say there aren’t other factors (like blatant sexism in the tech industry, for example), but this is the biggest. Women take more time off from their career when their children are young, they work shorter hours and they choose less demanding career paths so they can be there for their families. For some women this is a choice they want to make. For many others, this is a choice they have to make.

So bravo, Canadian federal court! Bravo Justice Mandamin! This is a huge step forward for Canadian families and an even bigger one for women everywhere.

Ontario Full-Day Kindergarten a Good Thing

By , January 15, 2010 2:08 am

There is lots and lots of grumbling from all corners as Dalton McGuinty and his Ontario Liberals get ready to offer full day everyday kindergarten to a very few elementary schools by September. From parents desperate for a solution to the daycare-to-kindergarten-and-back daily shuffle to taxpayers who grumble about providing “free babysitting” to four and five year olds. Even more parents don’t know what to think.

There’s also the question of whether this is too little, too late. McGuinty promised full-day kindergarten for every child in the province by 2010, but instead it will available to only 15% of kindergarteners with a promise to make it the new province-wide standard by 2015. Nobody is quite sure how they will get the resources to follow through.

I generally hate to be a cheerleader, especially of some beaurocratic policy initiative, but this is a cause that can use a few more enthusiastic voices. So here goes.

Most kids are not in their parents care anyway. In Toronto at least, the number of households with stay-at-home parents is pretty small. (I couldn’t find any solid stats, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) There are single-parent and two-parent families with children in full-time daycare, there are families with nannies, there are in-home child care arrangements, and there are work-at-home parents (like me) who try to make a buck or two with or without some sort of child care. Then the kids start kindergarten and the parents, daycare centres, nannies, etc. have to figure out how to get the kids to school and back for their two and a half hour day. It’s a drag at best. A logistical nightmare at worst.

Full-day kindergarten (with the built-in after-school care option) means that parents no longer have to worry about that. It means that the kids are not shuffled around either. They are in one place all day everyday. They actually get an extended kindergarten curriculum, which has got to be better than the average daycare counterpart.

But, c’mon, is there really educational value in full-day kindergarten? There actually is. Some studies (like this American one) suggest that a more relaxed, integrated, play-oriented and full-day program is better for 4 and 5 year olds. The research suggests (though we only have short-term studies right now) that there are academic, social and behavioural advantages. As the Ontario government states on it’s website, the benefits of the full-day program do tend to be more pronounced in low-income communities. (Because, sadly, the child care a working-class single mom gets is not the same as the child care a middle class couple gets.) Obviously there are also parental education levels that tend to cut across class lines and would impact the value of institutional versus home care as well.  There are, however, no apparent adverse affects on any children attending full-day programs and, in fact, it appears that the reading and math learned in full-day programs was higher overall than that of  half-day programs.

I have also been told by a trusted friend and fellow mom who is working in the French board where full-day kindergarten is already in place that it seems like a good curriculum. The kids do well, they have fun, and they are happy. Isn’t that about all we can ask for?

But why should WE PAY for your babysitting, asks the middle aged woman coming up on retirement.  It’s like certain members of society forget that it doesn’t end with them, and I am sick of hearing about it. Somebody needs to have children or we are all screwed. Who do they think will pay out their Canada Pensions or tend to them in their old age or serve them at freaking Tim Hortons in a few years? So, yes, full day kindergarten takes some of the financial burden off the parents. That is probably the number one reason I’m in favour of it, to tell you the truth. When full-time child care costs about $1000 per month per kid the average family can barely afford to keep their jobs. If my husband and I both had full-time jobs we almost certainly would not qualify for a child care subsidy, for example. The cost of child care for our two kids, however, would be almost as much as I could expect to earn. So, I stay home and try to work around their schedules as much as possible. I would say that I’m lucky to be able to find work that allows me to do that, but that is a load of crock. Most people do not want to work non-stop seven days a week into the wee hours of the night for very, very little money. Luck has nothing to do with it. If Colum were attending full-day kindergarten in September, though, part-time care for Irene might be more feasible. I might be able to work a little more and therefore earn enough to cover that cost! Note that we do rely on my feeble part-time income to make ends meet and no amount of sock-darning would be able to change that. When two incomes are the norm to achieve a mean standard of living, then the cost of child care needs to accounted for. That’s a societal obligation.

But I like to spend time with my baby and I don’t want him to be gone all day and he’s not ready and I’ll miss him. Sure, I get that too. I mean, Colum was in full-time daycare for a whopping 4 months while I worked just enough to qualify for my second maternity leave. Now he goes to a nursery school two mornings a week and it does seem like a natural progression for him to move to five mornings a week next year. Full days do sound long. (Although I’m sure he would adjust in no time.) So don’t do it. You can always opt to enroll your child for just the morning or afternoon. (Though I guess they would miss half the programming that way.) In fact, I just learned that children don’t have to go to school at all until Grade One. Of course, that starts to sound like homeschooling and don’t even get me started on homeschooling …

But wasn’t this all supposed to be in place already? Why can only 15% of children attend the full day program? Well, I called out the McGuinty government on this back in May of last year when I had heard from trusted sources in the Ontario Early Years Program that there was no way that the government could make this happen. Even now there are concerns about the cost of implementing this program across the board and the logistics of space and teaching staff. The government’s plan apparently doesn’t account for the union-regulated school boards salaries when hiring Early Childhood Educators, for example. And what will happen to day care centres when they lose half their kids? And how exactly will these schools be able to provide care during the summer, March Break, and other non-school days? I must admit that I’m impressed that in the face of all these doubts, concerns, questions and criticisms, the government is going forward with this anyway. They don’t have all the answers and I will not be surprised if we don’t have full implementation by 2015, but they are trying. Is 15% of kindergarten spots enough? No, but it’s a whole lot better than none.

Public Meeting About High Park Daycare Moratorium

By , December 4, 2009 12:35 am

Monday, December 7 at Annette Recreation Centre. 7pm.

Last summer there was a year-long moratorium placed on new day nurseries opening on 3/4 blocks of High Park Avenue for the purpose of evaluating the impact these small daycares would have on this residential street. Neighbourhood parents staged protests and I may have posted about it once or twice. (This interim by-law very nearly prevented The Teddy Bear Academy from opening it’s doors after one of those massive old homes had already been renovated to fit a daycare and dozens of children were already registered.) Continue reading 'Public Meeting About High Park Daycare Moratorium'»

McGuinty Full Day Kindergarten Promise FAILS

By , May 26, 2009 12:53 pm


Politicians have pulled on working parents’ heart and purse strings only to let them down hard once again. During the 2007 election campaign, the Dalton McGuinty-led Liberal government of Ontario had pledged to turn the province’s half-day kindergarten program into a full school day with before and after school care by September 2010. This would mean no more shuttling kindergarteners to and from daycare and school. It would lift a huge financial burden off working parents’ shoulders and allow even more parents to work outside the home. It would represent an institutional commitment to early childhood education and an acknowledgment of the value of families in our society. It would have, rather, because it ain’t going to happen. Continue reading 'McGuinty Full Day Kindergarten Promise FAILS'»

All I Want For Mother’s Day

By , May 4, 2009 3:24 am

My goodness, there is a lot of hype out there over Mother’s Day. Every business under the sun is hocking something special for Mom. And every mommy blogger is jostling for a piece of the action: We’re moms! We know what we want. And what do we want? Bluetooth headsets, tote bags, teeth whitening and more. Now far be it from me to take the air out of anyone’s shopping sails, especially when shopping can be done in the name of economic recovery, but it really is a bit much.

If half as much time and energy were put toward forwarding some real mom-friendly initiatives as is spent on marketing for Mother’s Day, we might be lightyears ahead. So here’s a rare and uncharacteristically earnest call to arms at the Playground Confidential. All I want for Mother’s Day is: Continue reading 'All I Want For Mother’s Day'»

Daycare Despair

By , April 15, 2008 10:55 pm

“What do you do for childcare?” This is a seemingly innocent question that can really get under my skin. The true answer is that we care for our child ourselves. I’m home (and often out and about) with Young C from Monday to Friday and Ed picks up Saturdays while I work. That leaves Sunday for family time. Still, I tend to babble in circles. “I work from home, you see … uh, yeah, freelancing … well, no, I’m not very productive, I guess … he’s on a wait list for part-time care … I do work Saturdays …” The problem is partly that while I did not want to work a full-time job and have to hire someone else to care for my child, I also had no visions of becoming a stay-at-home mom. There was no love lost for the tele-help job I’d held before Young C was born, either, and I thought I would be able to pursue a part-time career as a writer while I stayed at home. I have done a teensy bit of writing, but I finally have had to face up to the truth that I’m just pretty drained after putting in a 12 hour day as a mom. I wound up having to pick up one or two waitressing shifts over the weekend to make ends meet, which, of course, leaves even less time and energy for doing the work I want to do. It hasn’t been a horrible set-up considering that I get to take care of Young C all week and then can make pretty good money in just a couple nights. Until now. The fast pace and long shifts and crowded dance floor of the restaurant cum live music venue where I work means I won’t want to be there for the second half of this pregnancy.

The other part of the problem is that I have been trying to get child care. At 18 months, I decided that Young C would probably do well in a daycare setting on a part-time basis and set out to register him somewhere. But this is Toronto and unless you’re willing to let the retired lady around the corner watch your kid, you have to wait. (And we’re not even looking for a subsidized spot — that’s a whole other story.) Now I know there are great agencies that assist with finding a regulated home care spot, and I’m sure that many of those women do a wonderful job. But I wanted Young C to have interactions with his peers and be cared for by fully trained Early Childhood Educators. I wanted a daycare centre, yes, but I wasn’t particularly picky beyond that. I wasn’t worried about getting him into a Montessori program, for example, particularly after learning about their TWO YEAR wait list. So we toured the local High Park Jr. YMCA and spent $40 to get Young C’s name on an estimated four month wait list for any two days a week. Five months later, I’m told that a spot has opened up but they no longer support part-time care. What?!? We had all our eggs in this basket, assuming that our flexibility would make it fairly easy to find a match. Hell, we could even do one or three days a week if we had to. I was told that they would double check the policy and call me back.

So, plan B. Novus Day nursery is around the corner and offers half-day care, which is even better than two or three full days for us, and they start at two years old. So we make an appointment and are told that Young C would be able to start within a couple weeks. Even though he’s not quite two, they are impressed with his language and independence. Great. Tick, tick, tick … I call back a month later to find out exactly when Young C can start and now the story has changed. They have space, but are only licensed to care for two children between the ages of two and two and a half. So we have to wait until the end of June. The difference between having him in for six months before baby number two arrives and we likely have to pull him and four months seems huge. Starting him now would have meant a few weeks of financial cover while I worked at writing during the week and kept my restaurant gig on the weekends. There will be no such cover in July. The cost will be even harder to justify since my father and teenage brother will be available for occasional child care during their summer vacations. So we’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to drum up some work in the meantime and maybe we can enroll him for just three mornings a week.

So, what do I do for childcare? I’m still figuring it out, and something tells me that there’s really no long term solution when it comes to kids. We’ll do what we can for now, and when there’s two babes in the picture, we’ll figure something else out.

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