Elizabeth Warren’s Childcare Story

I really enjoyed seeing this clip of Elizabeth Warren sharing her struggles with finding quality childcare. I was watching it going “I FEEL YOU GIRL!”

But when she got to the part about potty-training, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Let’s face it, she was extremely lucky – a lot of neurotypical children would still be having accidents after only one week of potty-training! But, of course, for many ASD kiddos potty-training is a way more difficult and lengthy process. I felt that pit in my stomach because it reminded me of all the struggles we had had with Tuffy’s first daycare. It was the university-provided daycare, and we were so lucky that we had gotten a spot there because the waiting list was insane! It was literally IN OUR BACKYARD (we lived in graduate student housing), and it was a bit cheaper than the going rate for daycare – especially for infant (under 1) care.

So we were blissfully enjoying this perfect solution… until Tuffy “graduated” to the toddler room and then the rules began. Tuffy had a hard time keeping up (e.g. he wasn’t able to put his own shoes on at the age of 18 months but apparently all the other kids were, as his teacher huffily informed us). I didn’t know then that he was autistic, but I did know my son and I knew that there was no way he would be potty trained by the age that they required. So after several months of debate, we finally pulled him out of the ultra-convenient daycare and were fortunate enough to find a nanny-share. We paid more money and spent more time driving around, but we at least had an option that more-or-less worked for us. (But it kicked off round after round of changes – a few months later our nanny-share family moved away, etc.)

Long story short, I don’t begrudge Elizabeth Warren having a super easy child. I’m glad she beat the odds and is fighting for better support for many families. But I say “many” and not “all,” because “universal childcare” probably doesn’t mean ASD-friendly childcare. More childcare is absolutely a step in the right direction, I’m just skeptical about how inclusive it will truly be.

Law-Mom: OMG, her speech made me cry!! And you’re right, Econ-Mom; it will help most people, but certainly not all. How could it, though? Every child is so special and unique. And every family’s situation is, too. But I feel for your situation. I really do. Because I know how hard it is, even with neurotypical kids.

I could blab a long time about the challenges of childcare. Although my challenges were probably fairly typical, I have worked both part-time from home, as well as full-time out of the house, so I think I’ve experienced the “full spectrum” of problems that are attendant with each situation:

  • When you are working from “home” with young kids, you HAVE to leave the house. Unless you have non-clingy children. I did not. If I was going to have help, I had to be gone. And it’s hard to find part-time reliable care! Most people want more than 10 hours per week of work.
  • When I was working full-time, I sent my children to daycare (which is really just extended-day preschool. I am fortunate that SC2 was fully potty-trained when she started.) The women there were wonderful, and I trusted them completely! Full-time daycare was a lot easier, because it’s always there. (Though, see problem with most such facility hours, below.)
  • When the kids were older and in public school, it didn’t really get easier, but it did get cheaper. (Daycare was $2,000/month for two kids at the same time.) Actually, it did get easier when *both* my girls were finally in public school. Before that, I had to do the “two-kid-shuffle” between drop-offs and pick-ups–i.e., add an extra hour to your day JUST taking your kids to and from daycare/school.
  • Back to before and after school care. While reasonably priced and fairly convenient, it does NOT offer enough hours for working parents. If you are commuting by train into a city, where the commute is at LEAST an hour, and your train has regular departure/arrival times, you cannot get to and from work, work 9 to 5, and be back by 6pm. It *doesn’t work.* I always had to leave work early and be on the 4:40 train to be at the school by 6:00. Thankfully, I had employers who allowed me to do this.
  • Let’s see…what other “problems” have I experienced? Oh gosh – honestly, you name it in terms of finding help, having help, and affording help, and I have probably experienced it.
  • Oh! SUMMER!! Camp is SO EXPENSIVE, it’s not even funny. Don’t even get me started. Okay, yes, I *did* pay for one of the most expensive camps on the North Shore of Chicago one summer. (The Hub didn’t name me “Mom on 11” for no reason.) But I had my reasons!! Namely, I was *super* paranoid about SC1’s FIVE severe food allergies and drowning. A child in a community near ours drowned at the community park district camp not long before my kids had to start attending camp (i.e., when they were too old for daycare). I had seen with my own eyes the lack of attention kids received at the pool with the Park District staffers, as well as heard some unsavory stories about the Park District’s younger staffers. I was spoiled by the excellent, mature (almost all parents) childcare staff at my children’s preschool/daycare. I was not emotionally or mentally prepared to hand my children’s lives over to teenagers/college students for 10+ hours/day, when I knew all the risks involved! And yes, I am super fortunate I could afford “premier” camp/childcare. But it also meant I was basically just working to send my kids to camp for the summer….which kinda sucked.
  • In short: childcare is a HUGE challenge, logistically and financially. And it adds to the “mental load” of parenting–possibly more than any other logistic of parenting does.

1 thought on “Elizabeth Warren’s Childcare Story”

  1. Hi Moms on 11! Just catching up on the past six months worth of blog posts… The video link is broke, can you re-post it? Also–I’m not sure how you guys have survived. I refuse to go back to work full time until my husband gets his military retirement. Either I’m too picky, my kids are too sensitive/criers/clingy, daycares are too rigid, my spouse’s schedule is too demanding, or some combination thereof. I can’t cope with the demands of working and bringing my kids to daycare. It’s too much!! I commend you both! Life is too demanding without an on-call relative. So unless you have able-bodied grandparents, aunts/uncles available nearby, you have to be the default parent.

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