Monday, May 19, 2008

Childcare Vancouver

Last month I said something about childcare and my dear AlphaDogma was all WHAT?? The assumption she had had was that there would be a good range of childcare choices in this fine metropolitan locale; for a number of reasons there are not.

1. Social Credit
For many many many years BC had a legion of the white plastic belt types managing our provincial affairs. It is my belief that while the 70's and early 80's brought actual public or at least group daycare to communities of women in Saskatchewan, the Maritimes, Ontario (obviously) and even Alberta not so British Columbia. Public money was expended to break ground for nice bridges and fancy highways, world expotitions, and BRIC shares.

No ground was broken for things like daycares and the ground that could have been gained there has now been permanently lost. Building childcare services from scratch are, like my business of libraries, EXPENSIVE. Too expensive really for the post-social-safety-net economies of North America. I have a range of micro-daycares run out of family homes that I can call, make that about 75 outstanding phone calls on my to do list. These centres can be great but they inevitably have downsides (challenging children at home belonging to the caregiver, short hours, fickle landlords, poor facilities, long vacation closures and even complete service cancellations). I will use one of these for my two year old, probably part time. To be honest I found them a bit unsuitable for kids over the age of 3. They just become a pay-as-you-go clique with a jeopardy of waaay-hay-hay too much TV.

2. Not a family City and Mo-Wo the Ad Hoc Urban Geographer
Vancouver is expensive to live in. I love being a city dweller. I liken my neighbourhood more closely to the rural-come-newburb small village feel of the town I was raised in back then -- even more than said town is nowadays. It seems odd to me but daycare is much cheaper and more plentiful in the burbs.

I live in on Sesame Street, South Vancouver. It has, in my scientific studies, a high density of SAHMs. It seems a bunch of us bought in here for the same reasons. It was one of the last realistically priced places to buy in Vancouver if you wanted a family home at the turn of the century. There are families with kids under 7 about every 3 doors on the 3 blocks surrounding me. This has created a vibrant and happy parenting environment and it has fostered more courage, may I say, to stay home longer and/or part-time through the pre-school years. I get a different story from my friends in Richmond, Coquitlam and Kerrisdale.

3. Nanny come lately
I could hire a nanny I guess. I am not a nanny fan and truth be told it is June... There will be no pre-school after next month and my 3 year old might commit hari kari if stuck home for the summer staring at her brother and an in-home care provider. Also, nannies in Vancouver are too plentiful for me to deal with. Every Jane, Agnes and Melodica his just migrated here from Manilla, Bogata, Nelson, Chetwynd and Provost thinking hey I CAN LOOK AFTER CHILDREN! It is a needle in a haystack to find good people.

I am interviewing and think I might do a nanny share with another family 3 days a week. But how long will I hire the person for? People I know with nannies often invest a lot into hiring a nanny they keep for only 12 months. What is the point of this?? All that search time, training and then getting accustomed just to do it all over again, and over again and over again.

There was a time when I told people I would go back to work when I had good childcare. I have in my 4 year parenting career had about 7 childcare scenarios. For the most part no scenario has lasted more than 7 months. I would clearly label one of those as a 'good childcare scenario'. Based on the conditions and my own experience I might never work. I don't think I have ridiculously high standards I just prefer my kids are not bribed with candy, barraged with gender sterotypes/division or are left with TV's for hours on end while I am at work.

Though my husband might be surprised to hear this I do think it is a form of discrimination. I like working but I like my children to be safe, secure and developing normally more. I have one friend with good childcare and I think if I could have beat the odds as she has of finding daycare I would be a different mother. She has her kids in a quality, managed, group settings that are continuing. These are centres care for kids for the periods of age 1 to 3 and then 3 to 5, adding preschool content to the latter program. I have 1 friend with quality care like this. Remember I am Mother-Woman!!! I know hundreds of mothers in Vancouver and getting spaces like these are a long shot. (Getting them in a single centre, by the way, is nearly impossible, my buddy still faces dual drop-offs cross town). If I had to make my work decisions solely based on my desire to go to work and not on a blend of work and available childcare services. I would be a different mother.

And just saying that I could be different as a mother at all seems a bit strange to me.

In the end I might be getting somewhere. There has been some luck on my part but nothing that will be simple. I am currently entertaining putting my Girl Friday in a full-time play-based daycare, one she was in before. I'll register my son in a family daycare twice a week and then book on for a nanny share with another two year old three days a week. Maybe I'll find a ft daycare for him by Fall? I will try and hang it all together for at least a year. We'll see.

This set up offers the kids a good bit of social time and development while I work. That is very important to me. I found when I was working before that I want the off work hours to be family time and the work hours I have to be work hours for them, too. It also gives us a bit of flexibility, for my after hours teaching and errands help and so forth by using a nanny part of the time. Both of the daycares by the way are within a block of my home so that gives us both time and the sense of community that I think is important for little people as their independence in the world grows incrementally.

So what do you think? Is this a crazy blended solution? As you know I can tend to over-think things. I have not been happy that I need to go to work now. I want to find a soft-shoe solution, one that the kids think is fun and not one that puts the emphasis on fancy parental goals for development and programming. I have done that before and have not been pleased with the results. I know they are only 3 and 1 so their opinion might not be the most elaborate but as you know those are not always the most accurate opinions in matter like these anyway.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly scamcouver is the BEST category title. EVAH!

Secondly, what are you talking about? Are you blaspheming the Coquihalla Highway?

I always assume -- incorrectly, it turns out -- that urban dwellers have a plethora of choices in all things (ie which of these 64 Starbucks within a two block radius of Robson and Denman shall I frequent today?). I stand corrected.

And your solution sounds good. Very workable.

3:51 p.m.  
Blogger cheesefairy said...

Your plan sounds very do-able...I guess this indicates how accustomed I am to our choices in this city.

..including this part of the 'burbs. My kid still cringes every time we run into our former daycare provider and her screaming mimi of a daughter, which is a couple times a week given the small town NW is. Luckily we can usually hear them coming and duck into a shady alley.

9:03 a.m.  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

ps: what you've worked out sounds more than do-able, actually. It sounds like something that will actually benefit all of you. nice work, Mother-Woman.

9:07 a.m.  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Wow...complicated by doable..I hope for you and the kids!

I keep praying I don't need care..

doing ok with the preschool and school though so far!!

12:52 p.m.  
Blogger kittenpie said...

it sounds complicated, but workable, and it sounds like it should give you the mix of what you are looking for, most importantly.

I've been lucky - we had a nanny share for the first 8 months after I went back, and then moved her into a daycare that I love. She will stay there forever, and they give priority to siblings, so hopefully the Bun will join her there once he gets old enough. Meanwhile, I suppose we have to work another short-term share to bridge that annoying gap, but it's not so bad.

5:15 p.m.  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

It seems weird to me that people only keep a nanny for a year. I'd want a longer relationship for my child and this person who was going to care for her. After 2 years we are now realizing we are going to lose our nanny in about 6 months. Or as she says, we are going to transition to a non-financial relationship. (This is ideal - someone who still wants to maintain relationships even when you stop paying them.)

6:10 p.m.  
Blogger mo-wo said...

NL- I have found out, due to the competition for nannies here among other things, that a lot of nannies sort of specialize. They tend to like the under 1 year, 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4 thing. They will do that year and then start looking again. One nanny site calls 1 year long term. This surprised me when I started looking. 6 months who does that I thought?

It is not necessarily the families who don't WANT to keep care arrangements longer.

I always think longer is better but I have loosened up a bit on that expectation.

9:16 p.m.  
Anonymous Geoff G. said...

Now that our sprogrette is nearly 5 weeks old, our panicking about child care is in full swing. I suspect nanny-share is our best option as well, provided of course we can find someone who wants to share.

However, I'd like to suggest a counter to your theory that the white-belts were more interested in dams than daycare. That may have been the case, but I think part of the reason was the fact that there simply wasn't the problem there is today. No problem = No motivation for a solution.

When I was a youngling, my mum enrolled me in "playschool" with little difficulty. She toured then facilities, and picked one. My siblings wound up in daycare at a local church. Again, no queues or waitlists, just 'open houses' and 'please join us.' I think it's unreasonable to have expected a (c) 1978 Grace McCarthy to have foreseen the crisis that was to have come and to have planned accordingly.

Finally, let me dangerously suggest that there's plenty of land for daycares, provided one is willing to tap into a sacred cow: City Parks. A quick check at the Vancouver Parks and Rec web site shows there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of city parks in Vancouver-proper-alone. If the cities were to free up the land, I'm sure suitable pre-fab (not trailer) structures could be placed in the corners of many of these parks, resulting in many more childcare spaces. It only takes a little thinking 'outside the box.'

3:33 p.m.  
Blogger mo-wo said...

Ah dear cherished fresh meat male commenter GG.

Of course you are right. No one could have expected Grace MacCarthy to get the job done in this case.

5:02 p.m.  
Blogger Mad said...

I've been meaning to come back to this. As you know, we loved our Nanny. She left us after a year and moved away to TO for school. We loved her. She loved us. Twice now, we have visited Toronto (for other reasons as well) and Miss M has jumped into her arms. I couldn't have hoped for a better bond for my child.

We have struggled with day care, as you also know, but I think it's b/c Miss M is not a day care kid. In the end, I don't think of day care as more long-term or stable than Nanny care b/c the kids change teachers and classrooms each year, all of which can be very upsetting.

The issue of no/limited choice in child care in Canada is round about my biggest bug bear right now. I HATE having to leave my child where there is a space rather than where I think she might thrive. I am hoping that she will thrive at the new place but only time will tell.


9:03 a.m.  

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