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Late night childcare

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Guest EBmel

By Justine Davies

 

 

An article in The Australian earlier this week grabbed my attention. Titled 'Bid to trial late-night childcare', it reported a potential trial of “flexible” hours at long daycare centres, to allow them to operate during the evening and on weekends. Or, as it was described in the article, “round-the-clock care”.

 

The trial has been proposed by Goodstart Early Learning, a partnership of The Benevolent Society, Mission Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Social Ventures Australia, who took over many of the ABC Centres when ABC Learning so spectacularly imploded a few years back. Goodstart describe the proposal as offering more flexible solutions to support the changing needs of Australia's families. Rather optimistically, I think, they want to investigate how they can “provide access to quality early learning and care beyond the traditional operating hours".

 

My question: Is round-the-clock care selfish? Sad? Or just a sign of our times?

 

Some are convinced that the selfishness of parents is driving the proposed changes, with news articles attracting comments such as: “These kids would just be institutionalised - because their selfish parents are too busy with their own lives and desires or just plain disinterested in caring for them. Out of sight, out of mind”.

 

That seems like a fair call if parents overwhelmingly took advantage of around-the-clock care to "institutionalise" their children ... well, around the clock. But come on: would that really happen? I know that some people who don’t yet have children might believe intellectually that parents will seize upon any opportunity to offload their offspring, but as a mum I truly believe that the vast, vast, vast majority of fellow parents always have their child’s best interests top of mind. Sure, our children’s needs have to be balanced with our own financial, emotional and social needs, but that lifelong give-and-take is called being part of a family unit.

 

So would it be selfish? No, I don’t think so.

 

But sad? Yes, I think there are aspects of the proposal that are sad. Primarily I think it’s sad that the government will potentially consider subsidising around-the-clock long daycare in preference to subsidising a home-based nanny. If parents are working night shifts or weekends and could have their child looked after in their own familiar environment, surely that would be better? Better for the child and the parents? Yet sadly it’s not an affordable option for many, as home-based care doesn’t attract a generous government rebate.

 

 

On a personal level it’s also sad for both parents and child when there isn’t a wider family support network available to step in. It’s a function, of course, of our increasingly mobile and busy lives. While mobility and work provide us with a level of freedom and material security that previous generations could only dream about, they also come at a cost. That’s progress, I guess.

 

So sad? In some ways, yes.

 

Above all else though, extended daycare hours are most definitely a sign of our times. A generation ago, the norm was to have two-parent families with a working father and a stay-at-home mother. Of course there were dual-income families and single parent families too, but a generation ago they were a minority. And it was easier to achieve the “norm” back then, with the average home costing around four times the average income.

 

Fast-forward to now and the average home costs around eight times the average income (more, in some cities). That’s a doubling in real value and inevitably it means that the “average” family will need two incomes to achieve the same goals as their parents. Hence, more than half of all women with young (preschool age) children are in the workforce, and for couple families, 45 percent of children aged 0–2 years have both parents employed.

 

Furthermore, with around 40 percent of the workforce estimated to be in casual, contracting or other non-permanent positions, we’re not all given the luxury to pick and choose our hours. Particularly not when consumer demand for everything - from our veterinary surgery to our supermarkets, our telecommunications call centres to takaway food store - to be available to us 24/7. Again, that’s progress. But again, it comes at a cost.

 

Extended hours childcare is definitely a sign of our times – but is a good one? Or is there a better solution?

 

 

Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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whatnamenow

hmm What do I think? As a family Daycare Educator I see two kinds of parents who take up the offer of outside hours care. One side and the overwhelming majority of parents i see are shift workers, workers at restaurants/cafe's, nurses, doctors etc who dont get a choice to work 9-5 or even 8-6.

 

There is however a small amount of parents who use this as an opportunity to relive their teenage lives and place their kids in every fri/sat night to go out clubbing.

 

So i agree completly with the need for working parents. But wish it could be expanded into more in home care/family daycare environments rather than centre's that reflect nothing like the home environment children would normally be in at that time of the night.

 

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bakesgirls

I think it's a great idea. As a nurse who works shiftwork on a 24 hour rotating roster, I can't describe how much it would help us out. DH is in management at his work. Some days he is required to work longer hours, if I am at work he has no choice but to leave in time to travel to pick up the kids, therefore everyone who he is supervising at work has to leave also. He has always been very concious of the fact that some of the people who he is supervising after hours, rely on their overtime to support their families. So his being forced to leave, means other people don't earn as much.

 

We have always been lucky enough that my mother is just around the corner to help us with childcare if we were ever caught out, but she is also in management where she works (full time) and quite often she also has to stay back, so is unable to pick up the kids if DH or I are running late or both at work, but as I said, if she is available she helps us out. So besides DH leaving early, the only other option is for me to leave work or just not go in if I can see that there are going to be issues later in the day with pick up times. This has impacted on how much our family earns, and my abiity to progess at work amongst other things.

 

Later opening times would make such a difference to us. The kids would be picked up by whom ever could get there first, but also allow more flexibility with our careers.

 

I really do think it's a sign of the times. Not everyone works 9-5 Monday to Friday, there has been an increase with people working shiftwork, nightwork, casual and I can't see that changing anytime soon.

 

My kids go to family daycare, that would be my preference for extended hours, a place where they are already comfortable and is like being at home for them. In saying that, it doesn't mean that they will be there for a huge amount of time, most likely they will be there for the same amount of time as other kids. They will just start later such as midday instead of 7am, and leave after 8 hours or so.

Edited by bakesgirls

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Katie_bella

I think you have conveniently forgotten that there are many, many people who don't work M-F/9-5. While it might seem selfish to put children in care until late in the evening, sometimes thats what families need to enable both parents to go back to work. The child may not be in care for any longer than the average each day, just that the start/end times are different. Not all families have family support close to home either.

 

I am a shift worker, my DH works 8-5 but is a bushfire specialist fire fighter and Nov-Feb is on call and is often away for days at a time if there is a fire that is difficult to control. Our families live between 4 and 12 hours drive away. I would rather know my child could be cared for by her normal carers for an extra few hours in the evening rather than beg friends to take her, shunting her from place to place. I can't just walk out on my patients because some idiot played with matches because they "liked to watch fire".

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darcswan

Perhaps its a question of overall time in care, not the specific hours during which care occurs. Day/night care does not suggest a child will spend 23 hours a day away from mum and dad.

 

Flexibility to cater for all kinds of workers (especially shift workers) is a fair request from parents and should not be anymore unusual than the 9-5ers.

 

So yeah - maybe we don't need to feel sad just yet.

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Mpjp is feral
I think you have conveniently forgotten that there are many, many people who don't work M-F/9-5. While it might seem selfish to put children in care until late in the evening, sometimes thats what families need to enable both parents to go back to work. The child may not be in care for any longer than the average each day, just that the start/end times are different. Not all families have family support close to home either.

 

This a thousand times over. I think your sentiments are niave and seem ignorant to how a large portion of the population work. Or would you be happy for teh ambo's only to attend your home for your sick child betweeen 9-5?

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Nutty nut

I know a lot of couples with 2 shift workers in the family, eg 2 nurses, ambo's, or doctors. This would be a god send. No it's not sad, it's the way some of us live, so that when you, your child, and your other loved ones can get looked after when they are sick. That's really kind of insulting Justine, and I don't usually take offense to blog posts.

The same would apply in multiple other industries, such as hospitality, security, cleaning, taxi driving. As PP's have said, not everyone is Monday to Friday 9 to 5.

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qak

OP i think the point of round the clock care is to meet the needs of shift workers, not to provide (effectively) full time care for a child.

 

I thought this was already available in (city) centres already; and that they are so expensive that would limit their usefulness.

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Bam1

I think it is the OP that is sad not the situation. I really don't want to go back to the "good old days" and if some people need/want to work outside the "normal" hours, who is to say that their kids shouldn't have decent childcare. Most of the people I know who would love late night childcare are single mums who are nurses.

 

All because someone is a relative does not automatically mean that they will provide quality childcare.

 

OP if you can't write an objective blog, please just go back behind your white picket fence weren't women supposed to be silent back when they were barefoot and pregnant.

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Guest LeChatNinjah

Words cannot express how different my life would have been after my DD was born 8 years ago had this sort of care been available.

 

As a shift worker, the stress, exhaustion and basically career-death I experienced due to lack of flexible childcare was ridiculous, and it's only now that I feel I'm starting to get back on my feet.

 

It would also have saved the government thousands and thousands of tax-payer dollars which came my way when I was unemployed (due to lack of flexible childcare) and then in retraining me.

 

I do think it would be better if at least some form of in-home care was included as well, because I'm sure a lot of young kids would have real trouble settling down for the night in a centre, not to mention the disruption of waking them up to take them home.

 

 

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noonehere

dam it somebody stole my idea...

 

 

this kind of care is needed for shift workers or even for parents that dont work average hours.

 

of course it will be regulated. look at how heavily daycare is already.

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MerryMadrigalMadge

Honestly, what bunk. It’s not “sad” at all. It’s reality.

 

My SIL is an ED doctor, on rotating shifts, on call overnight etc. She separated from her husband last year, who is also a shift worker (police), and between them, they are struggling with their jobs and overnight work/looking after kids. They have family support, but it’s limited – there’s only so many times you can call on someone to come over at 1am when you get a call in.

 

SIL doesn’t want a nanny in house – tried that, wasn’t comfortable with having a stranger in her home, cost a bomb, and again, with irregular requests and short notice, just not practical. She also struggles to finish her shifts on time, so having the flexibility of daycare going past 6pm would be a godsend…

 

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PrincessPeach
*Mrs Puddles* said:

 

Edited by PrincessPeach

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Myprincesses

I think the flexible time options would be great for those who simply can't work the 9-5 jobs, those on shift work.

 

But I also see what the original post is saying. I also think it is so sad that society has been pushed to the point that for families to be able to afford a house, a car and even general living expenses both parents need to work, espcially during this early years.

 

But do we have to stick with societies expectation (and yes some do)? Can we go back to the simple life where you can make it that only one parent does work outside of the home? Can we chose to not have the latest of everthing, go back to the old fashion method of baking your meals and treats from scratch to cut down on the grocery bill, making your own clothes? Can we save for those special things rather than relying on the credit card for everything? Do we always have to living in the city (for some families i know this is yes)?

 

Society expectations is no different to peer pressure at school... Too succeed you need all this!!! But is that what you want? Is that what you desire for your family? Really?

 

Maybe families need to sit down and really look closely out their family, and what they want for their family (and I am not talking about material possessions). And then work out how to achieve that? Does it mean relocating? Does it mean foregoing a few things so both parents don't have to work? Who knows? only you can decide and yes you can make the decisions. You then need to put it into action. Only then will society expectations change.

 

And then for those families who do have to encounter the difficulties of shift work, there certainly needs to be a solution out there to provide childcare? Is this the right one? I don't know because will it be an option for just children between 0-5 since it is linked to childcares or will it be open to school age kids as well? They have to go somewhere as well.

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tothebeach
Above all else though, extended daycare hours are most definitely a sign of our times. A generation ago, the norm was to have two-parent families with a working father and a stay-at-home mother.

Are you suggesting that it is sad that we have moved away from this? That women now have the ability to plan for their own financial security?

 

I, for one, have no desire to go back to a generation ago when most women were expected to stay at home.

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BetteBoop
Honestly, what bunk. It’s not “sad” at all. It’s reality.

 

My SIL is an ED doctor, on rotating shifts, on call overnight etc. She separated from her husband last year, who is also a shift worker (police), and between them, they are struggling with their jobs and overnight work/looking after kids. They have family support, but it’s limited – there’s only so many times you can call on someone to come over at 1am when you get a call in.

 

SIL doesn’t want a nanny in house – tried that, wasn’t comfortable with having a stranger in her home, cost a bomb, and again, with irregular requests and short notice, just not practical. She also struggles to finish her shifts on time, so having the flexibility of daycare going past 6pm would be a godsend…

 

It's seems a pretty cynical attempt at whipping up the furore that many people express about people overusing childcare.

 

It's a non story and the headline should read - "Shift workers need childcare too". Stop the press!

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GenWhy

It would be a fantastic idea! I'd prefer to see nannies (as in qualified registered nannies) be subsidized so my kids would get a bath and dinner in their own home and sleep in their own beds. Family is not always around or even willing to help. It limits choices of shifts and many, many mothers have had to resign from employment due to inability to attend for shifts. It is a sign of the times and it won't get any better. It's so expensive to live these days!

 

As for simpler things... I too had a fantasy of living the simple life. I went back to baking my own bread, making everything from scratch and even pulled out the sewing machine to make clothes and toys for the kids. It cost me triple the amount it would have to get stuff at the store. When you can get a top for $4 at Kmart but material costs a bunch more and is time consuming. Buying bulk store bought recipe bases etc again costs ways less than making from scratch. People lived simply because it was simpler times and there were no other options then. It's more expensive and harder to do in 2012.

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ubermum

This would be awesome for me. It would be great though if there was overnight care for older children, not just those that would be in a daycare centre, but kids up to say teenagers. My dh works interstate and I am a nurse so our childcare is a headache. Actually, it would be pretty cheap to provide that kind of care because you wouldn't need that many staff when the older kids are sleeping. I know in aged care, we have 3 staff members on night shift to care for 80 residents. You could also have the facility set up with bunks like a dorm room for kids.

 

 

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AmyP

I think for some families it is needed. I for one have really limited access to family, as my parents both still work and they are in their 60's, and my in-laws look after my son's 1 day a week but they have a busy life and this is the extent of the help they can offer. Fair enough, so many grandparents are the non-paid child carers of the day, more flexible child care would help a lot of families I know.

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rubyruu

Many years ago I did family day care and I would have children in care overnight, these were children who were from single parent families whose parents were nurses. They had to work the night shift at times and then they would need to sleep during the day to be ready for the next shift. The ones who were school age would be able to sleep during school hours then spend time with their kids after school but the younger kids were often still in care for part of the day while their parent slept.

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MGB

I think something like this would be great. My husband and I are both shift workers and my husband is also required to do on call and we have no family close by to help out with care. I am due back at work in Feb and don't even know if it is going to be possible due to not having any child care options.

 

Something like like this is very needed for many families, particularly when both parents are shift workers and have no other options.

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outdoorgirl81

I'm an emergency doctor who works a 40 hour week on a round the clock rotating roster. My husband works "normal" hours, but plenty of my friends are dual shift work couple, and such a system would fill a crucial gap in available childcare. It's alright Justine, you don't need to feel sad for me that my mum doesn't live next door to "step in" to look after my daughter, the highly trained educators at my childcare centre do a hell of a lot better job of looking after my daughter than many of the grandparents I know who provide free childcare. The Goodstart girls in my town are amazing!

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RichardParker
It's seems a pretty cynical attempt at whipping up the furore that many people express about people overusing childcare.

 

It's a non story and the headline should read - "Shift workers need childcare too". Stop the press!

Yep. And the kind of people who 'overuse childcare' because they're too drunk or stoned to look after their own kids - their kids are better off in care anyway.

 

As for simpler things... I too had a fantasy of living the simple life. I went back to baking my own bread, making everything from scratch and even pulled out the sewing machine to make clothes and toys for the kids. It cost me triple the amount it would have to get stuff at the store. When you can get a top for $4 at Kmart but material costs a bunch more and is time consuming. Buying bulk store bought recipe bases etc again costs ways less than making from scratch. People lived simply because it was simpler times and there were no other options then. It's more expensive and harder to do in 2012.

And this. It's a nice idea but I didn't spend (and taxpayers didn't support me to spend) 5 years at Uni so that I could bake and sew to save money.

 

After-hours and more flexible care seems like a no-brainer to me. This article sounds like my aunty's pitying comments about today's women 'having' to send your child to daycare. What she, and everybody else who thinks childcare is sad is REALLY saying is that WOMEN should be looking after children, and they should be doing it for free. And they should be sacrificing their own career advancement and income to do so. You only have to replace the word 'women' with 'men' in that last sentence to see how ridiculous that notion is.

 

I

Edited by Max Gravitas

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willow79

Another nurse here. I have no family around & when my dh has to go away for work I have to take time off as I just can't make my current childcare hours work around shift hours. So extended hours for us shift workers would be awesome.

 

Times have changed, we expect shops & businesses to be available to us outside 9-5 m-f. Childcare hours still seem to be geared at the traditional working week.

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therealnatasha2

I am a university lecturer and the university's normal hours of teaching are 8am-9pm. Which means at least twice a week during semester I have to teach in the evenings. None of my family live any closer than 200km away. No choice if people are to be educated! Also what about my students - many are mature age and have kids and most postgraduate courses are only offered in the evenings to cater for those working and studying.

This is a no-brainer.

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