I've posted little bits here and there (there being Facebook) about the daycare situation, but I don't think I've pulled the whole story together into what is sure to be a gigantic and unwieldy post. You can't wait, can you?
Original Plan: in effect April 27th, my planned return to work date
Gwen in daycare 3 days per week
Gwen with her Gramma 1 day per week
Gwen with Mom or Dad 1 day per week
This works out super well as Gwen's Gramma - who is officially retired, but takes on fill-in work once in a while - is on a contract working Thursdays and Fridays until May 1st.
Keep this plan in mind as you read the following.
I finally managed to speak to the manager of my top-choice daycare centre. I told her that I had submitted my paperwork last July and wanted to get a sense of the likelihood of Gwen getting a three-day spot for the end of April. She responded that she was "just getting the waitlist organized" but mentioned that there was a three-day spot for Mon-Wed opening up for February (this was in late January). "Would you be interested in that?" she asked. "Herm, um, maybe," I said. She told me she would call when she finished organizing the waitlist.
I talked it over with Chris later that day, and we decided that we would ask about the likelihood of another three-day spot opening up in March or April. If it didn't seem optimistic, we would take the February spot. We wouldn't put Gwen in for full days right away, but would do a more gradual transition. We feel she is ready for outside care, and will function well there.
So we came up with the Early Daycare Plan: in effect "in February".
Gwen in daycare 3 days a week
Gwen with Mom 2 days a week
Wait, you might say, what happened to Gramma? Well, Gwen's Gramma is working Thursdays and Fridays until May, remember? And the centre is talking about a spot for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. So Gramma isn't available. And that means that even though Gwen is in daycare three days a week, Mom can't go back to work yet, because there's no care for the other two days.
(There is a chance, though very slim, that should this come to pass my managers will make use of me for 1-2 days per week until my original return-t0-work date. They have been absolutely immovable on the issue of making my job part-time instead of full-time on an ongoing basis, as it would mean the permanent loss of FTEs for their department and no manager wants that. But if "the February spot" does materialize, I will let them know that for the months of March and April I am available for some work, and the choice will be theirs.)
(If they can't make that work, it means that I will be paying for part-time daycare while my only income is EI. That'll be fun. More on finances below.)
So, the next issue is that it's now edging towards mid-February and I haven't heard back from the centre. It seems obvious to me that either the spot in question is not actually open yet, or that she has given it to someone else - perhaps once she perused the waitlist, she saw that there was someone looking for a three-day spot who ranked above me.
Now, most people would probably say, "Call her back and get this sorted out!" After all, it's been two weeks since we spoke. How long does it take to organize a waitlist anyway? Srsly.
On the other hand, a friend of mine has a daughter in the same centre and she has given me some insight into the situation. I learned:
- because the centre is affiliated with a high school, many of the parents there are high school students
- high school students - even, or perhaps especially, those who have babies - are not known for their organization and straightforwardness
- as such, it is difficult for the manager of the centre to get answers about whether these students require care in the coming months
- which then makes it nearly impossible to "get the waitlist organized"
This friend then advised me to just wait, that some darn day the manager would get her list figured out and would call to offer me a spot.
Well, if this were any other service or product I was seeking I'd be close to walking away right about now. I don't have any shame or qualms about calling a prospective employer to remind him or her constantly of my presence, availability, and suitability to the position they are trying to fill; because after all I am trying to convince them to give me money. But it irks me to have to do the same things in persuasion of giving my money away.
But this isn't any other service or product. This is the centre that, hopefully, will be providing Gwen with care, attention, stimulation, and learning for the next four years of her life. On her behalf, I will put up with the incompetent management and lack of organization. I will grit my teeth and jump through the hoops, once I figure out where they are.
In the meantime, though, we're kind of living in limbo. The centre might call any day to offer us a spot, and if we don't hand over $500 right away then that spot will go to someone else. It's getting more and more difficult to plan anything at all in advance, as we're never sure whether the coming weeks will be spent in continuing our current pastimes, or in transitioning Gwen to daycare. As you can imagine, it's frustrating and more than a little anxiety-inducing.
In the meantime, there is the money issue.
Now, this one really stunned me. I originally reserved only a three-day spot for Gwen because I really wanted to work only three to four days myself, and I knew that her Gramma would be taking her one day a week. Even as it became more and more obvious that my managers were not going to budge on the part-time work issue, I felt good about the fact that Gwen would still be spending the majority of her time with family, and that with my full-time wage paying for only part-time daycare, we should be in a fairly good financial position.
Rarely in my life have I ever been so drastically mistaken.
I suppose it's in poor taste (not to mention terribly dull) to spill all our financial details on the Internet, but here are the salient points. After paying for our absolutely critical expenses: mortgage, car insurance, car payments, student loan debt, utilities, groceries, RRSP contributions, and of course daycare - we have less than $50/month between the two of us to pay for the extras. Extras ranging from personal care products like shampoo, to a new item of clothing once in a while, to gym memberships and yoga classes, to birthday or Christmas presents, to trips to see our family over the holidays.
The really good news is that I only have one year left on my car loan, so while 2009 is going to be a really challenging year, 2010 will be better. Chris and I have talked at length about some coping mechanisms we are going to put in place to survive the year and make it not too horrible. I have faith that we can make it work, and we are both approaching it with good attitudes, trying to make it into sort of a game of how to spend the least amount of money.
The other bit of good news is that Chris is, after all, a commissioned salesman, so while the budget we live by is based on his base salary, at busier times of the year he will bring home more money, which can then be put aside for leaner months. It's hard to remember that now, this being a very lean time of year, and it's a little frightening to try and predict what This Terrible Economy is going to do to his commission (his sales are mainly to school districts, cities, restaurants, and resorts: the latter of which are greatly affected by the downturn).
The biggest surprise in all this is, as I said above, how grossly wrong I was about the cost of daycare. Chris and I both work full-time and while we are not professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) we have solid white-collar jobs, he in industrial sales and me in government. We are not minimum wage workers flipping burgers at McDonald's. And yet to get our daughter into part-time daycare is going to nearly put us in the poorhouse. What a sorry situation!