Every family deserves to have access to child care, but for single parents, it is an absolute lifeline. Toddle spoke with single parents to find out exactly what child care means to them.
‘It means I can work’
‘The hardest part for me was finding a child care centre that fitted in with my work hours and location,’ shares Jenny. ‘Luckily I found one that closed a little later so that I wouldn’t be constantly running late to pick my daughter up.’
For single parents, being able to work and have their little ones taken care of is absolutely essential. ‘When you don’t have a partner to help out with the care of your child, it makes it really tough,’ says Jenny. ‘But having the support of a great child care centre makes all the difference.’
Jenny explains that it was really helpful for her to have another support person that she could call on when she was stuck. ‘If I got a call saying that Lily was sick and needed to be collected, I had a girlfriend who was happy to pick her up for me - it was great as I do a job where I can’t leave during my shift if there’s nobody to cover me.’
Be sure to check out our Child Care Subsidy calculator to see what fee support you would be offered as a single parent.
Social life for children
‘It was really important to me that my daughter understood that other people could take care of her, give her directions, feed her and keep her safe,’ shares Alison.
‘When you’re a single parent it’s easy to feel as though you are your child’s everything. Not only is this not ideal, but it’s also not healthy for a parent to have that kind of pressure on them.
Using child care when I went back to work exposed my daughter to other conversations with adults, new types of food, and of course other children to play with. Nobody can play as well as another child their own age!’
Alison says that many single parents fulfil all the roles of good cop, bad cop, playmate, confidant, taxi service and comforter. ‘It’s exhausting to be honest, not having a partner to help out, and it’s so important not to let yourself become emotionally drained. Child care allows me to fill my cup up, before I can fill my daughter’s.’
Educators become part of your support team
For John, having full-time care of his boys Monday to Friday meant that the child care responsibilities fell to him alone. ‘For me, it was really hard not having a partner around to ask advice on things, so I found myself relying more and more on the amazing educators at my child care centre.
For instance, I approached one of them to voice my concerns as I thought one of my boys was having trouble hearing out of his left ear. The educator kept an eye on it over the next few days, and then we had a good chat about it. We agreed it was worth investigating further, and she offered me some great advice about who to speak to. It really helped me feel so supported, rather than feeling like I was all on my own.’
Single parents can lean on their educators for that support with other areas too, such as toilet training or dropping the daytime sleep. These people are childhood professionals, so they’re a valuable resource when you feel like you need a bit of advice. They can also just be a kind, reassuring voice letting you know that you’re doing a good job.
Social life for parents
Many parents find that their social circle widens when they start child care. For single parents, it’s a chance to build that village that everyone’s always talking about.
‘When my children started at child care, I knew literally nobody in my area with children,’ shares Alita. ‘It became my source of friendships, as I got to know the other parents at drop off, and my girls made their own friends and we organised play dates. It opened up a whole new social side of life for me and it was fantastic.’
Alita explained that it was nice to interact with some other adults, rather than feeling stuck at home all the time with very small children. ‘It’s worked out so well for us in that the girls have made some nice friendships and we know they’ll end up going to school together down the track.’
Some time for yourself
‘Single parents should never feel guilty for wanting to do some things on their own,’ shares Jo. She made sure to factor in some time for herself when her daughter started child care.
‘I would drop her off and then head to the gym or for a walk before I started work,’ says Jo. ‘It gave me a much-needed brain break so that I could be more productive for the rest of the day.’
Being able to stay on top of errands
‘It sounds like such a small thing, but being able to do the shopping, get my hair cut, or go to the dentist on my own was fantastic,’ explains single mother Steph.
‘I had my children in care for four days a week. On three of those days I worked, and on the fourth day, I was able to just get on top of things, run errands, clean the house, do the washing. It felt like I had a chance to breathe instead of always being on the back foot previously.’
A chance to learn new things
‘There are things that children learn at child care that as a single parent I just couldn’t do,’ explains Lara. ‘My children even learn Japanese and do yoga, it’s amazing.’
For little ones, being part of a child care community means that they are learning social skills, independence, confidence, gross motor skills...the list goes on. ‘They learn a lot more than just how to count to ten, though they do that too!’ says Lara.
‘If I tried to sit my children down to teach them a song or a game, so often they wouldn’t engage and we’d just end up frustrated,’ explains Lara.
‘But they’ll come home from child care and they’re so proud to show me their artwork and tell me all about the song that they learned or the ball game that they played. To me that’s invaluable.’
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