“It’s like a second mortgage, isn’t it?” You’ll often hear parents of young children say about their monthly child care bills. Well it is and it isn’t. It’s certainly a hefty chunk of change, but you’re not paying it for 30 years’ guts. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t own a brick and mortar house after that. No, instead you get the school book list, the uniform list, the after-school care bill. Having children is more expensive than anyone will ever tell you.
And yet I wasn’t prepared for the moment when an interviewee casually added up her own childcare bill over the years, for three children. “I probably paid about 80,000 for childminders,” she estimated.
I was incredulous, but when I looked at the totals, I realized that, depressingly, she wasn’t far off target. The average childcare fees nationwide have risen again and now cost 184 euros per child and week. In more affluent parts of Dublin it is €265. If a private childminder is paid 50 euros per child per day – an amount that seems common, but by the way is far below the minimum wage – that is 250 euros per week or 1,000 to 1,250 euros per month. That can add up to 15,000 euros a year. If your child is cared for from six months, that can be four years of care – 60,000 euros times three children, that’s 180,000 euros. It’s a lot of money for a couple just so they can go out and work. As a friend noted on Twitter: “While we’ve never blamed nurses for earning a decent wage, we did resent having to pay it out of earnings already taxed. It was a fine to go to work.”
And while those numbers sting, they’re also far from a fair wage for childminders or facility owners doing some of the most important and responsible work you’ll ever ask someone else to do. As with most caring, female-dominated professions, the sector is woefully underfunded. Taking care of children is also seriously hard work. What they get paid for it is frankly scandalous.
Needless to say, the childcare situation in this country is rapidly reaching a breaking point. The Facebook parent groups I’m in are crammed with moms struggling to find daycare spots or trying to find someone to drop them off early in the morning or pick them up after school. Many are putting the names of children who are yet to be born on daycare waiting lists.
Last month, this same newspaper ran a report on women who were unable to return to work because of a lack of crèche places and available childminders, or because the costs of said care were prohibitively high. You may notice the use of “women” here.
Let’s be honest: the problem of child care – this choice between child care and career – is almost exclusively a woman’s business. If you are a male and the primary caregiver in your home I will assume that you are progressive enough to understand and appreciate that you are in the minority here. The rest of us, on the other hand, are the main contact person in the crèche, calling the childminder when the temperature peaks, buying gifts for the kindergarten teachers at the end of the year.
And since the problem of childcare is primarily a mother’s problem (although, in fairness, the costs often hit both parents straight into their pockets), the government is in no real hurry to tackle this. There is a lot of lip service to the complexity of the situation in the corridors of power, but when it comes down to it the attitude seems to be ‘These are women, they’ll sort it out’ or ‘Surely she can ask Grandma for help’. (In 2016, 16 percent of elementary school children were cared for by an unpaid relative or friend.)
Grandmas have finished raising their children. It shouldn’t be up to them to fill the void and turn the simple joy of seeing their grandchildren into a full-time commitment.
Most people pay for childcare simply because they can work, and yet this seems to be viewed as a voluntary expense. I’m sorry but “ask mom” isn’t a sustainable solution when 61,000 babies are born here every year.
Sure, there were programs and incentives to soften the blow, but for most working parents, they’re a bunch of beans. The ECCE program, which offers preschoolers three hours a day of free preschool care, is great if you’re a non-working parent. Even if your facility does not offer all-day care, you often still have to pay a full-day rate for a childminder. The much-discussed National Childcare Grant Scheme provides my household with a relief of around €23 per week; Certainly nothing to sneeze at, but a drop in the ocean when the monthly expenses for our only child are often over €1,400.
Why subsidized full-time childcare isn’t readily available for every preschooler who needs it is beyond me. Why isn’t there a tax break that would also bring a number of childminders into the revenue system? In Iceland, childcare costs are capped at €60 per week. In Finland, the state offers a universal day-care centre, the most expensive of which is €290 per month. In Finland, too, the state supports parents in finding suitable childcare, from organizing nannies to finding places in kindergartens. Why? Because they consider childcare to be an essential public service that is essential to the smooth functioning of the entire country. And not, as our government seems to think, a problem that women will willingly bend over backwards to solve. I’m here to tell you now, we really aren’t that willing at all.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/why-does-our-government-believe-childcare-is-a-problem-women-will-willingly-bend-over-backwards-to-fix-themselves-41531371.html Why does our government think childcare is a problem that women willingly bend over backwards to fix themselves?