Sunday, 22 July 2012


Long ago, before children, I remember asking a coworker, a mother of 5 year old twins, "what are your plans for the weekend?" "Just surviving" was her response, which at the time, I thought was kind of odd.

Now, I totally understand.

The other day, my 5 year old said to me "I love weekends". (Actually, she was practicing her French, so she said "j'aime le weekend.") Of course, everyone loves the weekend, the break from routine, the freedoms of an unplanned day, but for children, weekends are extra special because of all the extra time they get to spend with mom and dad. For mom and dad, however, this means sacrificing the break from routine or any freedoms of an unplanned day. The kids still need a routine, or else it seems that they are even more unmanageable than ever!

And so, we give up on the idea of
sleeping in, since kids, although they understand about weekends, just don't comprehend the beauty of sleeping past 6 a.m.! And any ideas of lounging around and simply relaxing or "doing nothing" are quickly squashed by whines of boredom, cries for attention, or squabbles demanding intervention. And I am starting to learn the hard lesson that although I may think that weekends are a good time to get projects done around the house, with 3 young children, this is next to impossible.

This weekend, in particular, was a difficult one. Maybe because the past week 
was one of new routines and hubby away on business. But we were all tired, which meant more-than-normal misbehavior, short tempers, irritability, and probably overly strong reactions to normal child misbehavior. By late afternoon, we were counting down to bedtime.

It was one of those weekends that I'm grateful for ending. I'm glad it's Sunday night, and looking forward to returning to our weekly routine in the morning. It sounds terrible, and I feel guilty for saying it, but sometimes, the work week is easier and more enjoyable than the weekends.

Now that the kids are asleep, I've done my crazy
Sunday Night tidy-up and I'm ready for bed myself, I can look back and remember the fun things about our weekend, and hope for a better outlook tomorrow.

And prepare to survive another week...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Putt, Putt, Putt (Or, what I think about as I drive to work)

Oh well, it’s later than I wanted to be leaving.  I hope traffic isn’t too bad.  Stupid clock in the car is 2 minutes slow.  I really should fix that.  I wonder how to do that… nope that didn’t work.  Oh, what a cute dog.  And there goes that lady walking with the stroller again.  Funny how you see people day after day as your paths cross but you never know each other.  And then there’s some people you never see… We haven’t seen Scott and Heather for ages, we should really try to coordinate something.  I’ll leave that to Bill, he’s the social convener.  Where do all the weekends go, anyway? Oh, the car’s making that groaning grinding sound again.  Have I told Bill about that?   Wouldn’t it be great if we could just ignore it?  I can’t be bothered with a trip to the auto shop and a bill that we’ll need to pay.  Which reminds me, I think the car is due for an oil change.  Yep.  Crap, why do I have to deal with all the car stuff?  Cuz I drive the car, that’s why.  Wouldn't it be great to ride your bike to work… Slow down cyclist so I know it's safe to turn onto the on ramp for the highway.  5, 4, 3, 2, 1 blast-off! OK, guy - speed up or move into the next lane, I need to merge here.  Shoot, I forgot my sunglasses.  What happened to that other pair?  Oh yeah, I think I lost them in the lake.  Good thing I only buy cheap pairs.  Stupid lake.  My itchy spots are almost gone, and thankfully Middle didn’t complain too much yesterday and slept through, but it’s frustrating that the lake’s got swimmer’s itch this summer.  Kind of gross, actually.  Try not to think about it.  Big surprise.  OneCity transit plan dead in the water, they say.  It was a visionary idea.  Visionaries don’t seem to get much support anymore.  That’s pretty sad.  Stupid Rob Ford.   How can you want subways but not want to tax the taxpayers?   Ah, that’s what taxpayers do.  Pay taxes.  I wonder how many of these people stuck on the DVP would be willing to pay a little more property tax to get better transit.  Think about it… how much would it have amounted to per year anyway? Surely, with all these people sitting in their cars day after day, someone can come up with a plan to end gridlock.  I’m thirsty.  Too bad I didn’t make tea this morning.  Oh, and my stomach actually rumbled.  What did I pack to make for breakfast?  Oh yeah – egg, wrap and avocado.  Sounds pretty good, I guess.  I’ll want sugar in my tea though.  I really should stop putting sugar in my tea. I feel like something yummy.   Really bad habit though, noshing away on chocolate and crap at my desk.  Don’t have any today anyway.  That’s good.   And it's okay that I didn’t run this morning.  I went to bed too late.  But I did do some abs and other exercises.  Yeah me!  Wouldn’t it be great if I could run every day?  Bill said I might waste away to nothing.  Wouldn’t that be marvellous?  I’d love to get rid of this flabby belly.  Kind of have to stop eating crap to do that though.  Hmmmm.  Remember – call the gym to get receipt so I can submit for refund from work.  Maybe I can also find a class at the gym on the weekends or something so I don’t feel so bad about not using my membership.  I shouldn’t have gotten a gym membership.  Oh well.  Oh shoot, I was going to get off the highway there to see if it’s faster… the back way can get pretty backed up, but it’s summer so school’s out so maybe it would be better.  Stupid construction.  Good that they're putting in better public transportation, I know, but very frustrating to sit in this long line of cars waiting to turn left cuz they took away the left turn lane for a bus lane.   Taking transportation to work would be great though.  Think of the reading I could do.  OK, do I want to put on make-up before I get to the office? Now where is my security pass?

Monday, 9 July 2012


There are spots for Youngest and Middle at our Child Care centre of choice! (yeah!)

They start next week.(so soon!)

Still no spot for Oldest, but Day Care Administrator says she'll keep us posted. (mild optimism.)

Lots of things to figure out (?):

1.  How to tell the nanny. 

Will she want to stay on for just after-school care for Oldest?  How much would we pay her?  What about August when school hasn't started yet?  Will she want to just watch Oldest for less money? And, if nanny doesn't want to stay on to watch Oldest:

2. Logistics of firing nanny. 

I think we agreed to 4 weeks' notice.  Will she still want to take her vacation the last 2 weeks of these 4 weeks. What else do I need to do?

3. Telling the children.

What's the best way to explain this to a 2.5 year old?  How do we 'sell' it to them?  How will Oldest feel that she doesn't get to go to day care?

4. Transitioning Youngest and Middle to day care program.

How will they feel about giving up days of relative freedom with the nanny?  Will they cry? How long will it take for them to adjust? 

5. Child care for Oldest for rest of August.

Look into day camps, grandparents, and extra days off for me.  Will Middle be upset that she doesn't get to go to day camp? 

6. Finding after-school care for Oldest when school starts. 

Probably means hiring another nanny.  What a headache.  And she'll need all-day care for non-school days too.  Is this possible?  Will she be OK at school for lunch?  What about the breakfast program... is this too much to ask from a 6 year-old?

It's going to be a busy and stressful couple of weeks...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Daycare Poor

A recent article by Tamara Baluja in the Globe and Mail addresses how the high costs of child care are leaving many families "daycare poor".  It's the equivalent of being house poor, where you own a home but don't have money for much else.  With monthly child care costs as high as $2000, many families don't have a lot of money left over for 'extras', let alone long-term saving.

I wouldn't consider us to be daycare poor.  We haven't had to remortgage our home like one family I recently heard interviewed.  We are still managing to contribute to our retirement savings through our company plans. And I certainly don't feel as though we are struggling to get by.

But the cost of child care has definitely impacted us in a number of ways:

Line of credit.  I hate our line of credit.  We originally got it years ago, before children, in order to finance our car.  We're supposed to be paying it off, but instead it sits there like an emergency fund that we regrettably dip into far too often.   Mostly to cover our primary bank account when it inevitably drops into the red, or to cover credit card balances when cash flow issues arise from time to time.  I fear that our line of credit will never go away.

Child care choice.  A nanny may have been more affordable option, but it is not my first choice.   Especially with 3 preschoolers, I think that it is too much to expect quality care from a single woman, who is experienced, but untrained in early childhood education and child development.  I believe that the social development of my children would be better achieved in a structured environment with trained experts, and so, I echo the words of Halifax dad Sean Williams, interviewed in the Globe and Mail article, who:
"believes in the positives of daycare, even though the annual cost of $18,000 for his two daughters is tough to manage. “I’m not sure if my kids would get the same attention or expertise in home care as they would with early childhood experts, or learn counting and alphabets,” he said. “You get what you pay for.” "
Sofa. We have two absolutely terrible sofas in our house.  One on the main floor living room, and one in the basement playroom/living room.  The first was gifted to us when Nana passed away.  It has since been ripped and torn by the cat, made dirty by a dog who (isn't supposed to) sleeps on it, and stained by markers and juice.  It's covered up by a sofa cover, but I'm sure it's not fooling anyone.  

The basement sofa is a cheap, terribly uncomfortable davenport that is now also filthy.  It's been peed on, puked on and suffered many juice and yogurt spills.  Although it's been cleaned, it still looks worn and I can never totally forget about the things it's been exposed to.  And it's terribly uncomfortable.  I mentioned that, right?

However, we just can't seem to justify the purchase of a new sofa. (We've talked about, but decided against, trying to buy one second hand.  We're too worried about bed bugs, and besides, what things might that sofa have been exposed to that I just don't know about?)

Backyard landscaping.  I dream of patio stones in my garden.  And a privacy fence, at least where the trees aren't big enough to limit my sight of my neighbour's yard.  Instead, we have wood chips.   They look nice enough, but they bring a lot of dirt into the house, and weeds and mushrooms sometimes sprout up.  And instead of a serene garden escape (at least when my children aren't outside playing), we see the weeds and garbage strewn across our neighbours yard and often listen to the yapping of their Jack Russell terriers who bark at us whenever we move.

Vacations.  Aside from a fantastic annual ski holiday with my in-laws, who mostly pay for the trip, and wonderful trips to my parents' cottage, we don't foresee a family vacation for several more years.  Which is OK, I think.  Family vacations with young children generally require a vacation after the vacation, don't they?

Some of these financial impacts are significant.  Others are pretty trivial.  But it does make us think about what we could be doing with an extra $24,000 each year.  What would you spend your money on if you didn't have to pay for child care?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Squeaky Wheel

From: Average Working Mom
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2012
To: Day Care Administrator
Subject: Re: RE: Wait List Check-in for My Daughters

Dear Day Care Administrator,
Thank you for speaking with my husband last week regarding my daughters’ position on the wait list for your day care centre. 
Needless to say, we were quite disappointed and frustrated with the situation.  I certainly don’t envy your responsibility in managing the day care places and wait list.  It must also be highly frustrating for you to deal with the multitude of families searching for quality care when the spots are so limited.
I understand that due to capacity limitations, there is no chance that there will be a spot for my oldest daughter.   My husband explained that even children currently enrolled in the day care in the Preschool program are being turned away from the School Age program. 
Based on your conversation with my husband, it seemed as though there might be a limited possibility of spots becoming available for my middle and youngest daughter in the Preschool programs.   This is a little reassuring, but still leaves us in limbo.  If spots for one or both of them become available, we will then be in a difficult position of finding, justifying and combining some sort of before- and after-school care for our oldest and/or all-day care for one child, with child care at the day care centre for another.
I was also quite upset at our apparent miscommunication about the requested start date for our children.  Knowing how difficult it is to secure a day care spot, I certainly never intended to reduce our chances even further by requesting the same start date for all three children.  I realise that the likelihood of this occurring is very, very low.  I believe I had asked to move our requested start date to any time after June 2012, and that your system selected September 2012 as this is when the greatest changeover in day care places occurs.  However, in the past, I have been offered spots for my children up to a month or two before my requested start date, and I presumed that this flexibility was built into the system.  I also mistakenly presumed that the start date could vary between children.
My frustration also stems from the fact that our oldest and middle daughter were in the day care centre in the past.  Because we couldn’t justify the financial cost of keeping two children in day care while I was at home on an unpaid maternity leave, we sacrificed our spots.  But not before putting their names back on the wait list.  That was in the summer of 2009.   My children have been on the wait list for almost 3 years.
I’m sure that the recent gentrification of our neighbourhood, and the increasing number of babies and young families has impacted the demand for spots at the day care centre.  And I imagine that the upcoming changeover to All-Day Kindergarten at this school is having an effect on the management of day care spots.  I have no idea how the wait list is managed, and I can only imagine the complexity of figuring out wait list priority versus requested start dates.   It seems like a nightmare.  Or, a game of chance.
Perhaps this is part of my frustration.  I believe it would be helpful for parents if the day care centre could issue some sort of policy and procedure on how the wait list system works.  It might make me feel less like I was playing a game, and more like I was part of a process.  Is this something that your institution has considered?
I hope that I haven’t come across as overly negative, and I certainly don’t intend to be attacking you or the management of your day care program in any personal way.  But as you can imagine, and probably encounter on a daily basis, finding quality child care and dealing with the waiting game of day care program wait lists, is incredibly exasperating.   If there is any way that I can work to help change the system, by sharing my concerns with other administrators, participating in strategic planning, or contributing to letter writing campaigns, for example, please let me know.  I would appreciate the opportunity to take this cause to a higher level and strive to improve the system for all families.
Thank you for your help.
Kind regards,
Average Working Mom