As some of you know, I live in a small town. We are 30 – 45 minutes away from anywhere with a Costco. So, we have limited options for everything. This includes childcare. That was not a problem until recently.
Let me give you a little context. My husband and I moved here this summer for a job opportunity. He just finished college with a degree in welding and fabrication technology. This job opportunity just fell into our laps. We felt lucky that he was able to find a job within months of graduating because it is not that way for many people.
Anyway, we had to move to a new town where the cost of living is very high. We could have moved to a town further from my husband’s job that was less expensive, but that meant he would have to drive through a canyon in the winter in our Honda Fit. That car is great, but I don’t trust it driving through snow and ice in a canyon. It is also our only car. So, one of us would have been carless, and I didn’t want to be without a car with the baby.
So, here we are in a small, expensive, and secluded town. My husband’s job pays him just enough for us to live on, but it does not offer health insurance. We make too much for our baby to qualify for Medicaid (government health insurance). Don’t ask me how in the world we do not qualify for Medicaid when we just break even each month (I could go on an entire rant about that). That leaves us worried daily about what we would do if one of us got sick, or if there was an accident. People said to look into the Affordable Care Act, but that is not affordable for us. We cannot afford $900 premiums with $8,000 deductibles. That is highway robbery!
All of this led N and me to decide that I should start looking for a job. I was able to interview for a couple jobs and receive a job offer in a matter of weeks! I was so excited to be able to help our family have what they needed.
The next step was to find childcare. I did not think that would be too difficult. We knew we needed to find something affordable so that we could also pay our new health insurance premiums. That meant that a nanny was out.
I spent days calling every childcare provider in the valley. “I’m sorry. We don’t have any openings for children under 2. The state requires us to have only 2 babies per adult.” I was ready to give up after hearing this the tenth time. Then, there was a glimmer of hope; a woman who runs a daycare out of her home had an opening! This was the best news! So, my husband and I set a time to meet with her to make sure we could trust her to watch our baby. We met her and asked her a million questions to make sure she would be a good fit. It sounded perfect! She was affordable, didn’t watch too many kids, and our son would be the only baby.
That Friday, I dropped off my son for his first day of daycare. It took everything I had not to cry and to actually leave him. Everything seemed great! That all changed the next Wednesday. When I went to pick up my son from daycare, the woman watching him expressed concern that he did not like to be put down. Let me just remind everyone that my son is only 5 months old, and he is not used to being around 5 other kids all day. I pointed out that he probably needed some time to adjust, and he might need more naps during the day. Then, I headed home. It was only about an hour later that our childcare provider texted us… TEXTED US, that she would not watch our son anymore.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
I was in tears because I was so stressed out. I did not know what to do. What was I going to tell work? I had not even been there a week! I did not ever want to see this woman’s face again. So, I asked my husband to go to her place, pay her (I did not even want to pay her), and get our baby’s things. Was she even allowed to do that? What was I going to do?
I called work and sent an email letting them know I would not be in the next day because my childcare flaked on me. Let me just say, my work has been amazing. They let me work from home for a week while I tried to find a new childcare provider, and when I let them know that I could not find anyone, they looked for ways that I could keep working for them from home.
I am lucky that I found an employer who is willing to work with me. Many women are not so lucky. I will not be making as much as I would make as a full-time employee, and I will not qualify for the company health insurance (we have found an alternative for that). I am just thankful that I will be able to contribute to our family’s income while spending time with our sweet little boy.
Childcare is such an important resource, and, unfortunately, it is scarce in my small town. Is that the case in other small towns too? How can we make it easier for people in the workforce to find affordable options? I don’t think we should underpay our childcare providers. I know I want the person watching my son to be well qualified and compensated. Maybe the burden falls on employers. Should companies have company childcare? Should companies offer a stipend that helps pay for childcare outside of a person’s salary? I don’t know the right answer, but I am hoping that starting the conversation will help to solve the problem.