So, You Want to Have a Baby: Childcare or Conception: Which Comes First?
“When can you have a baby?”
When this question is asked, who do you think is asking it? The first answer that springs to mind might be that of a parent asking another parent. Although the guess is good, in this instance, it’s incorrect.
This is the question that Becca Paulsen will ask her childcare provider when Becca is thinking about having a second child.
Yes, you heard that right. When young parents plan to have a child, one of the first things to do, aside from buying a crib, baby-proof, or visit the doctor, is to speak to your early care provider to see if she has space.
Although so far Becca has been lucky, she empathizes with other young families’ struggles to find quality childcare throughout her small community of Cozad, Nebraska.
Cozad is a place that Becca, her husband, and their 12-month-old daughter Presley are proud to call home. After attending UNL, Becca moved back to town for many reasons, but especially for one: she loves it.
“The beautiful thing is that the community is watching out for each other,” said Becca. “When Presley is 16, if she’s out driving where she shouldn’t be, I’ll hear about it before she gets home!”
Although there are many perks and praises to be sung for Cozad, an issue remains. Despite the safety, watchfulness, and communication, who, young families ask, will watch my child?
Becca has been lucky and persistent. When her daughter was born, she worked as a massage therapist, which she does to this day, while her mother cared for Presley. Better yet, Becca’s mother took time off from her full-time job to watch Presley from Becca’s office.
This childcare arrangement was one that Becca and her mother had planned.
“I wanted to be a nursing mom and be there for my newborn baby,” said Becca.
Despite the initial convenience, however, Becca experienced hardship after her mother had used up her available vacation days. When Becca looked for a quality provider, she was thorough.
“I asked people I know and trust about childcare,” said Becca. Sure enough, she was put in touch with an incredibly popular, effective, and excellent provider – and one of the few in Cozad.
Becca was then greeted by a situation that’s less than ideal but all-too-familiar. The provider told her that she’d love to take Presley…but not for the next two years.
This conundrum is a frustrating one. Becca’s fellow parents have dealt with this issue, and that she continues to witness it.
“One of my good friends is trying to figure [childcare] out and she’s expecting her third child,” said Becca. “She’s since had to step away from her position due to a lack of childcare. This has been stressful for a lot of parents.”
Becca said her friend and her husband are now living off one income, which has been difficult. Becca has observed other hardships, too. The school has a high turnover rate due to some of the young teachers being unable to find care and moving. Families have quit jobs, lived off one salary.
If Childcare Is Essential to Economic Prosperity, Then Why Don’t We Talk About It More?
Although Cozad is a caring, wonderful community, like so many places, sometimes, the topic goes silent.
“Honesty and communication are the first and most important steps,” said Becca when asked how she and her community could create more quality centers. “Nobody is voicing the issue.”
Becca said that this problem isn’t specific to her hometown. Despite the silence and its occasional falling by the wayside, the lack of quality childcare incites worry from families all over the nation.
Despite our shortage of quality care, though, we also occasionally encounter grace and luck. Such was the case for Becca when forces aligned, and she was able to come into quality care and off the two-year waitlist.
“We were fortunate. Some children [in the provider’s care] were happy with their current sitter, so Presley got bumped up a year!” said Becca.
But as someone who loves and cares for her community, Becca continues to count her blessings and wonder about the future of childcare for those less fortunate.
“If you think you’re going to have a baby and you’re planning to go back to work, childcare is at the top of your to-do list, especially if you’re looking for high-quality care. As young parents, we want our kids to be LOVED, cared for, and nurtured, not just fed, and changed,” said Becca.
Becca said that she’s following her advice. As she and her husband plan for a second child, she intends to begin looking for care, starting with the provider whom she currently has.
“I’d ask [the provider], ‘When can YOU have another baby?’ Then, I’d decide if it’s time for Baby Two,” said Becca.
As a committed parent, Becca said she’s willing to do whatever she can to secure a spot for her unborn second baby at a quality center.
“I’d be willing to reserve a spot and pay for it before I have the baby,” said Becca. “I want my kids to be RAISED. That’s what childcare is.”
Where is the Love? Where Can We Find It? How Do We Get More? Becca Meets Her New Provider
When asked what she considers to be quality care, Becca provided a shining example. When she and her daughter received the wonderful news that a spot in the center had become available, they were greeted by a larger-than-life small-town welcome.
“We went in for an introduction, and it was Presley’s birthday,” said Becca. “The kids were so excited! They made a huge ‘Happy Birthday’ sign, and Presley LOVED it!” She said. “THAT is what I mean by love!”
Becca said she was delighted to receive many other materials that further enhanced her sense of a quality provider.
“Walking in, she gave me a packet and a calendar with activities, motor skills, and silent skills. Presley got to play, as a 12-month-old, with the two-and three-year-olds with Play-Do…!”
Becca said that her daughter learned and engaged with her new, older friends.
“I LOVE that she learns from the provider and other kids. She’ll be with other 12-month-olds AND learning from two-and-three-year-olds!” said Becca.
One of the most important things Becca wants for her daughter is to synergize with children of different ages.
“They’re learning from each other. They’re teaching Presley! She sees that he does this, she does this, Presley will think, ‘I’m going to take all three of those different ways and do it my way!’”
In addition to making her and her daughter feel welcome, Becca considers and dreams of more quality centers like the one she’s joined to provide another essential component: love.
“There is a lot of love here,” said Becca of her hometown. “We’re a big family. Presley’s class won’t be 400 kids, but 40 to 50 where she’ll know everyone. I can let her play outside in the dirt and not always worry about who’s out roaming around.”
And Becca doesn’t just want this love for her daughter; she wants to spread it to her friends and families seeking early care.
“If we could take what [our current provider] is doing and put it on a larger scale – teaching the kids emotions, reading, and writing – that would be incredible!” She said. “Our kids are learning about the world. To have them learn what love makes them better, kind, LOVING adults!”
When asked about her future childcare dreams, Becca’s vision goes beyond her and her cohort having to plan childcare before conception.
“We want our young people to be LOVED ON. I want someone to care for my child almost as much as I care for my child.”