(First published on The Contented Calf Website on Wednesday 12th June 2013. 3YO was approaching 4YO and I was wondering how childcare was going to work....)
Look up ‘conundrum’ and this is one of the definitions you get.
1. A confusing and difficult problem or question.
2. A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.
riddle – puzzle – enigma – mystery
It also conjures up images of that clock ticking away for 30 seconds on Countdown.
And whilst I
maybe being am being over-dramatic, this is what sorting out 3YO’s ‘wrap-around childcare’ (recently learned phrase) for when she starts school in September feels like. (Of course, she’ll be a fully grown-up 4YO by then, not a child genius.)
It is indeed a ‘confusing and difficult problem or question’. When talked about between my mummy friends and I, it brings about a slightly manic laugh or smile as we navigate our way through the maze of breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, ‘light teas’, holiday clubs, nursery runs, waiting lists, etc etc.
Pre-children you sort of think that you only have to get through the early years of a child’s life co-ordinating and paying for childcare, whilst juggling work and home life.
“Once they get to school” you think to yourself, “it’ll all be easier and cheaper. They go all day, every day. And it’s free! Simples.”
First up, the school that 3YO will be going to only does half-days for the Reception class – for the whole first term. Now, I completely understand that there are some children who have never been in any form of childcare and this is their first time away from their parents. For them it will be a big step being away from their parents everyday, and they need to ease into school. Also, although 3YO has been in nursery three days a week from when she was one, I realise that going to school will be a big unsettling change for her too, regardless of the fact she’s used to being in childcare.
I do understand.
That said, for parents who have to / want to work, a whole term of 9am-12noon only at school is
very tricky almost impossible to cater for alongside a job. Perhaps the half-days could be over a two week period? Or by choice for the first term? Or at least just for the first half-term? But a whole term – it’s almost three months!
“Ah ha” I hear you say, “what about our new friend ‘wrap-around care’?”
Well, at this particular school, we can not apply for it before 3YO starts school. They don’t do afternoon sessions for the first term, matching up with the morning-only school sessions. We can only apply in November for January. However, having spoken to the person who runs the breakfast and after-school clubs (they don’t do holiday care), although she can’t say for sure, it’s looking like the waiting list is so long, that when they start in September, they’ll already be full from the children on the waiting list taking the places of those Year 6s who have left. So even if we were to apply in November, there’s unlikely to be any space come January anyway.
Which brings me back to my childcare conundrum:
- a) What do I do for the first term?
- b) What do I do after January?
At the moment, I have 3YO’s name down at a nursery just round the corner from us. They do do afternoon sessions, and do have space for the first term. And if there are enough children who need picking up from the school at lunch-time, they will do a walking-bus from there back to the nursery. They also have space for 1YO. AND they do do all-day sessions starting around 9am. So I can give both girls breakfast, drop 1YO off at nursery and 3YO (then 4YO) off at school, and collect both from the nursery.
Well…. ish. As I said, I’m still waiting to hear back on whether the numbers work out for the lunch-time pick up. If they don’t, then I have to re-think. It would break up my work day to pick 3YO up from school and drop her off at nursery – plus, I think it would be too unsettling for her.
If it’s a no from there, then 3YO (& 1YO)’s current nursery might be able to collect her from the school at lunch, and for the first term she’ll go there for three afternoons. And 1YO would stay there as she is now. It’s a not as close to the one round the corner, but could still be a good option, especially as we all know and like it so well.
However, I’ve then got to work out breakfast and balancing nursery and school runs, which seems a complete ‘riddle, puzzle, enigma, mystery’. Nursery provides breakfast, but school doesn’t (and remember for the first term there’s no hope of us doing breakfast club at school). So…. do I get both girls up extra early, do breakfast at home, and then take 1YO to nursery around 8/8:15ish, getting 3YO to school by 8:45? Does 1YO miss nursery breakfast (that we’ve paid for and can’t opt out of)? Or does she have two breakfasts? Or….. do I not feed either of them, drop 1YO off to eat at nursery, feeding 3YO en-route to school? It is unfair / a bit weird to feed 3YO on the way to school? What would I give her? Is that even an option really??
And that’s the first term.
After that it does settle down – a little. At least 3YO will be in school from 9am-3pm, everyday.
But of course it’s not totally straight-forward. The nursery round the corner definitely does not do after-school pick ups. And as the school-sponsored after-school club is probably not an option, I’m now thinking that I would put 1YO in the closer nursery for four ‘school day’ sessions, instead of three full-day sessions. That should work(ish). It’s still not exactly what I’d like as I was really looking forward to being able to spend two school-length days one-on-one with 1YO each week (and of course I’d have half-terms with 3YO when 1YO’s at nursery). This option means I only get one day a week.
On top of that, I’ll have to think about, plan and prepare tea, for both girls, every. single. day. I realise how incredibly petty and selfish that sounds. But hopefully there are other parents out there who understand how draining the whole ‘what should we have to eat?’ question is…?? (Please, say I’m not alone.) One of the benefit of nursery days is that I just don’t have to worry about the logisitics of childcare fully, for the whole day. It’s bliss. Bad mother bliss.
I’ve of course also looked into child-minders and/or nannies. Child-minders might still end up being an option if they don’t all get booked up. And for now we’re a no for nannies. I’m not sure I could handle the extra administration of employing someone. I struggle enough with our own as it is!
I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks what the future holds. But safe to say, I just can’t wait until this d*mn Childcare Conunundrum is solved. Time is ticking away like on that big Countdown clock and I just want it sorted. It’s driving me round the bend!
(And of course, is not free.)
With love from our family to yours,