GAYS MILLS - Childcare is a topic that dominates a huge part of my life. Whether it be whose turn it is to cough up the $200-plus each week to pay for it, counting the days until 4K to when that bill will go down, or reading the struggles of other mothers who too, are wondering what they are they going to do when it comes to childcare?
Right now, I am rather lucky. Our situation is unconventional–working in opposite directions and lacking traditional family structures makes our childcare situation difficult at times. Between our combined incomes, we do not qualify for the state subsidy.
However, I happen to work in an area where there is a licensed daycare center that is filled with wonderful women who legitimately care about my children.
And additionally, I have the steady support from Chasca’s grandparents each and every Monday and I typically have each Wednesday off of work. Without this combination of things, we would not be able to make our situation work. Even now, financially, it certainly can be tight. It’s a huge cause of stress for me at times and I’ve had to learn to just let it ride, because I really have no other option.
I know this is not the case for every family and that many struggle to no end in terms of childcare so when I had the opportunity to attend a listening session recently held by Senator Howard Marklein I decided to squeak my wheel. The perfect opportunity came when the conversation shifted to why are people in the area not working, despite the availability of jobs. The politician seemed to attribute the numbers of open jobs to lack of housing in the area.
I shared with him that I felt that many families with young children struggle to find work that will allow them to afford (or qualify for) childcare. Or in some cases simply find available providers they feel comfortable with.
I shared with him the project my grandmother-in-law and her friend had been working on–something to generate a little conversation about issues that affect people living in the Driftless Area. They kicked off their efforts with a discussion about childcare, or the lack thereof.
My involvement in this was to survey my friends about their experience. I found, that by a landslide, the biggest hurdle to young people, some college educated–some not, becoming employed is the lack of affordable (or simply just available) childcare. I expressed exactly this, straight from the mouths of the people, that the reason they aren’t working is not for lack of housing, but for lack of what to do with the next generation they’ve created.
When I surveyed the women, I had several responses. Most of which included statements revolving around how it just doesn’t make sense for them to work. Even one who actually worked at a daycare couldn’t afford to pay the discounted fees with the wage they received.
One woman shared that she “went to college so she wouldn't have this exact problem she faces now of being able to afford childcare while she works.”
Some shared that they receive the childcare credit subsidy, but even after that, they have to pay half of their income to childcare. However, they can’t even find a suitable provider that is licensed to accept the subsidy. Putting them back at square one.
The politician responded by indicating that the problem is nothing new. Everyone everywhere is facing a lack of daycare. He went on to give examples of his own adult child who put their career on hold to raise their small children because they “valued motherhood” and didn’t think daycare made sense.
Even though I don’t think it was the point of the politician to insult me, his choice of words left me feeling ruffled. I too value motherhood, I am a young parent who remains living and working in the region that I grew up in. But the reality is I need a paycheck too. Not to mention, I value my career and what it means to my identity.
Through my own experiences, like this one, and the surveying of my friends, I feel as though there is a large disconnect between people in regard to childcare and the debilitating struggle it can be.
We live in this region that is ripe with poverty, but we can’t find a way to support our young families better? So they, in turn can be better? Consider the lives of the childcare workers who we entrust with our children. Why is their extremely important job valued at only minimum wage in most cases?
These are supposed to be the best years of our lives, of the lives of our children. It’s extremely vital to their development, and finding someone we can trust with the care of our children shouldn’t be such a challenge, or cause such stress for parent, guardian or the child. The reality is, you can value being a parent and love your children and you can still be in a position where you need to work to provide for them.One thing I think we can do is continuing to have these conversations. Talk with your local politicians, influencers and the important people in your lives. Maybe if we all put our heads together we can come up with more solutions to support the children and families in our region and not just brush it off as ‘oh well, it's a problem everywhere’ type of situation. Because, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child.