Don’t start with your ‘why have kids if you won’t look after them’

For now, our childminder showers our daughter with care, affection and attention when we cannot

In the toss-up between the crèche and the childminder option, the latter always won out. Photograph: iStock

In the toss-up between the crèche and the childminder option, the latter always won out. Photograph: iStock

 

Oh childminder of mine, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways. She manages to somehow radiate calm and enthusiasm at the same time.

Her home has been childproofed, yet is teeming with lovely toys.

My daughter, no doubt bored with us two dweebs bouncing her up and down for fun, brightens up considerably when she sees her childminder. The baby is fed, she is changed, she is rested, she is brought out for fresh air. If I’m a little late for collection, she waves my apologies away. And, best of all, she appears to have a genuine affection for our daughter, calling her Miss Muffet and mentioning the chats and activities they are going to enjoy for the day. I close the door on them and feel a momentary pang that I can’t join in on their fun, but then I remember that there are bills to pay and that’s the end of that.

We have our childminder for five hours a day, three days a week – were we to use her full-time for a 40-hour work week, we’d be talking at least €1,650 a month.

Our childminder is worth every cent, but really, who can afford this?

Instead, B and I tag team for the remaining 25 hours of the working week, and pull in favours from family. We’re lucky we’re in a position to do so. I work from home, and have interviewed celebrities and politicians while the seven-month-old sits across from me, looking quizzical. I’ve transcribed while she naps nearby. I wake at 6am to work, and often file at 9pm, after the baby goes to sleep. It’s not easy, but it’s a damn sight easier than most people have it.

Last week, new figures released by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs show that some Dubliners pay up to 70 per cent more for childcare than in rural areas. The research shows that childcare fees for full-time care across the country increased by 3.6 per cent last year, with parents asked to pay €184 per week on average for full-time care. In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, parents of a child under one year could expect to be charged €265 per week for full-time care.

In the toss-up between the creche and the childminder option, the latter always won out. Several pals with children complained that their babies had picked up flu/foot and mouth disease/other nasties, necessitating time out of work (while they still paid for the creche place).

Close to ideal

Besides, many of us – myself included – were minded as kids by a neighbour on the road we lived on. More often than not, she happened to have an absolute clatter of young charges – usually other kids from the area. While my parents worked, coming home from school to a house that at least looked a bit like ours was close to ideal. It was homely, it was raucous, it was social, it was routine. Her cooking was better than my mother’s. It was an informal arrangement that worked out well for everyone. We were mammied day in, day out, even if it wasn’t our actual mammy. The neighbour in question earned some pin money without having to leave her house.

There has been much talk of late about how the childminding industry in Ireland is deregulated, with only 81 in-home childminders registered in the entire country. The efforts of Tusla and the Department of Children to regulate childminding haven’t really worked, meaning there are about 19,000 childminders and 35,000 Irish children being minded without a system of regulation.

The benefits for parents are obvious, but when you think about it, where are the incentives for childminders to register?

Granted, there are tax breaks and subsidies for childminders, but if you can get away with it, why pay any tax on what small amount of money you do make?

From what I can gather, childminding is an arrangement that’s akin to a leap of faith and trust. You can screen and ask for references, first aid training and Garda vetting clearance all you like, but it often becomes a gut call. Personal recommendations on the bush telegraph appear to be the best bet. As in all walks of life, some childminders are better than others. But somehow – perhaps it’s the unspoken agreement of mums – it all seems to work.

I can’t be at home with my daughter all the time. I wish I could. Don’t even come at me with your ‘why even have kids if you won’t look after them’ tripe.

For now, our childminder showers her with care, affection and attention when we can’t.

For three days a week, she’s getting the stability and calm of a loving home, even if it isn’t ours.

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