I’ve been holding off commenting on the Government’s proposed changes to childcare because it means admitting that I still feel guilty over a fairly major part of her upbringing so far; that there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t question whether or not I did the right thing… whether or not I’m still doing the right thing.

When my maternity leave came to an end with Isabel, I put her into nursery so that I could return to work. Financially I assumed we had no choice as I’d already dismissed self-employment and there was no way we’d be able to survive solely on Karl’s income (not helped by the fact that we were living in more expensive rented accommodation with high utility bills). Despite the cost of childcare, which was a huge part of our income back then and the ultimate reason for me going self-employed now, it seemed like the only sensible decision we could make.

Isabel is what some people call a “highly sensitive” child. I hate the term but it’s spot on, really. She has issues with noises; people (not just strangers – her own family); seams in clothes; textures of certain foods. She is very aware of the feelings of others, breaking into tears at the slightest hint of sadness in a DVD or song. She notices change; picks up on smells before anyone else can tell they’re there; is easily scared… the list goes on.

As you can probably imagine, a sensitive child doesn’t do well with being dumped in nursery for 8 hours a day. And so when we chose a nursery, we picked one with the best staff ratios, with a good staff retention rate and one where I knew that Isabel would get the one on one attention she needed when she needed it.

So when the government says oh, we’ll just increase the ratio of toddlers – crazy, rambunctious, noisy, active toddlers – to staff (1 staff member for 6 toddlers) to reduce the cost of childcare, I sit and think of my daughter in her first weeks of nursery, surrounded by 5 other children also needing one on one care and I can’t get the image out of my head of her alone, crying. Crying because it doesn’t matter how talented, how amazingly well qualified a nursery worker or childminder is, they only have 1 pair of arms. 1 lap. Less time for her, less time for the other babies and toddlers.

Isabel now has the choice over whether or not she goes to nursery (pre-school now), and her enthusiasm means I still pack her off for 3 days a week. But if I was back there, making that decision all over again knowing full well that she’d be sharing the attentions of a staff member with 5 other kids? I’d have given up employment and found a way to live off any benefits I could have claimed. And I’m guessing that’s not what Cameron wants at all.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s crazy to me that when governments talk about reducing spending and tightening budgets, this is often some of the first stuff they propose. I feel like the interests of the most vulnerable people (who are still in the early stages of developing as people!) should be prioritized over those who are more resilient. Yet instead of reducing bloat in the government, etc etc etc, they go after people who are essentially helpless when it comes to the impacts of these decisions.

    I guess politicians don’t realize how hard these decisions are on people. They generally come from upper-middle-class (at least) backgrounds, so never have to make this kind of difficult decision, where it feels like either option is somehow wrong.

    • says

      “I feel like the interests of the most vulnerable people (who are still in the early stages of developing as people!) should be prioritized over those who are more resilient” <- this, a million times this!

  2. says

    Ratios here are ridiculous. In Idaho, the maximum for kids over 36mos is 1:12. I think Wesley’s daycare class is something like 1:8 or so? I can’t even handle him half the time, I don’t know how his teacher handles SEVEN OTHER children along with him.

    I’ve been vaguely keeping up with what’s going on on your side of the pond w/r/t childcare, and… I sympathize. Any way you slice it, the decision to let your kid be taken care of by somebody else is difficult. Especially when the powers that be are talking about relaxing the ratios so they get less individualized care. Ugh.

  3. says

    As far as I can tell, governments all over the world are trying to balance their budgets (even though that might be a bad thing in this economy, but I’m not an economist who would know) and they’re making cuts to every social program possible. It’s a pity, because I don’t think that anyone can manage five screaming toddlers at once.

  4. Lea says

    I live in France and in daycares the ratio is 1 adult for 8 kids. School starts at 3 years old here and most of the time there is only one teacher and one help for 23 to 28 tiny pupils.