When I say “childcare”, what comes to mind? For me, it’s “sickness” and “money”

Levi and Tate commenced childcare in May 2023. We had many trial days and they would cry hysterically when I left their studio. This would then make me cry hysterically and often had me rethinking my life choices. 

Watch my TikTok video of Mum-guilt during our trial period

We powered through the first couple of months of childcare, with nothing more than a runny nose or cough. I wasn’t concerned as it seemed every little tacker in the studio always had a dripping nose. 

Winter is coming

Between August to October, we were smashed with back-to-back illnesses; Bryce and I included.

It felt like every other week, there was something new; RSV, COVID, conjunctivitis, Hand Foot and Mouth, you name it. Of course, to be expected during the winter months. 

Two very sick, sad little boys Image: Liss Rawson

Parents who’ve had kids in care forewarn you of the joyous bugs the little ones will bring home. What I didn’t know, and it was my own ignorance for not asking or considering the question, was that I still pay full fees for those missed days of care.

I’m sorry, what?!

In July, the ACCC began its investigation into the childcare industry and confirmed: “…that childcare fees rose faster than inflation and wage growth during the past four years, rising by between 20 per cent (for centre-based day care and outside school hours care) and 32 per cent (for in-home care).” Shocking. 

I recognise the main financial aspect; staff of course need to be paid. But let’s look at it from the angle of a disadvantaged parent.

The person without leave to spare? What if they worked part-time or casually? What if they’re a single parent with little to no support network? What if they were the full trifecta?

I’m not condoning this, but I understand the single parent’s potential thought process. 

If I don’t send my (sick) kid today, I won’t get paid (yet I’ll still pay for care regardless). If I don’t get paid, I must sacrifice something: not paying the rent, bills, groceries, medicine, petrol for the car etc. If I choose not to pay the bills, my services may be cut off, groceries: we live off toast, rent: we could eventually be homeless as I’ve already missed x amount… these horrible thoughts turn into a vicious cycle of worst-case scenarios. 

Primary parent

As the primary parent, it falls on me to take time off when the kids are sick. It’s not feasible or practical most times for Bryce to call in sick (even though he has from time to time). Whereas I work for a government organisation, and while I’m not disposable, I can be spared. It doesn’t make it fair on me though, making that frequent sacrifice. 

The ‘man flu’

As a Mum or the primary, we soldier on. We could be on death’s door and still find a way to get shit done. What was immensely frustrating for me during those months of sickness, I would power through the day (of course complaining the whole time), whereas my husband… my sweet, sweet husband *sighs*. When he had the flu (legitimate Influenza A on this occasion) it was like he suffered from the black plague.

The back of the hand may as well have been on the forehead.

True, he could say that he had ‘man’ flu. I believe ‘man flu’ was always the excuse to get out of caring for the kids and themselves! To that I say, buck up babe!

This is where ‘The Second Shift’ for the primary parent is considerably stressful. Trying to do everything – work, cook, clean, raise kids and care for the sick. We only get paid to go to work, nothing more. 

Staff shortages

Without doing a deep dive, I am simply making assumptions here as I am not an industry expert. However, the industry’s alarming shortages speak volumes from recent stats. Educators are simply underpaid, overworked and not recognised. The below was taken from the Jobs and Skills Australia website of shortages in this sector.

Image: Jobs and Skills Australia

Subsidy changes

When the federal government introduced the childcare subsidy changes in July this year, it was a little blessing in the eyes of many. A little bit of money stays in the pocket.

This was not the case.

In fact, many centres raised their fees, so some were no better off, many worse off. 

I wonder how many parents no longer send their kids to care because it’s now not financially viable? It doesn’t help there are months of waitlisted applicants with no other option.

What needs to happen next?

Is it time for a governing body to step in to fully regulate and standardise fees across the board? 

Will building more centres work? 

Can people be encouraged to return to the industry or choose it as a career option when it is no longer as once appealing?

Would a clear indication of where fees go; say groceries, new toys, equipment? Evidently not to staff wages. I’d love to see some transparency. 

What was pleasing for me amongst all this chaos? I found I could look up every childcare service in Australia and see their overall ranking. The centre where Levi and Tate attend was ranked as ‘Outstanding’ (woohoo!) This gives me peace of mind that I am getting my money’s worth, and the staff at the centre receive a little recognition. What’s a little incentive worth these days?

Did you enjoy this post? Want to share your experience? Leave a comment or head over to the Contact page and send an email. Love to hear from you!

8 thoughts on “When I say “childcare”, what comes to mind? For me, it’s “sickness” and “money”

  1. Emma

    I went through all of this! I almost lost my job as being the primary care taker and getting sick also meant i had sooo much time off. The school i was at almost asked me to bring my son so that i wasn’t missing any more lessons. It was the most stressful transition back to work – sleep deprived, constantly sick and looking after two babies (son and partner 😂)

  2. Anonymous

    Absolutely agree with this! I’m an early childhood educator myself and work in the industry, and i have never understood why parents still have to pay for the day, even though their child would be off sick.
    The industry is majorly understaffed, the hard work and effort you put in is 95% ignored and we are extremely underpayed for what we do.

    1. Liss

      I applaud you and the thousands of others who do what you do for our kids. I do understand the concept of keeping the child’s ‘place’ within the centre, regardless if they’re off sick. I recognise that even if a child is absent, that doesn’t mean the educator is doing ‘less’ work because they’re a child down in their room. It’s more from a government perspective to better support families yet balance that with increased pay for educators. You look after kids all day long at work, many then go home to take care of their kids and begin ‘her second shift’ – cooking, cleaning, baths, dinner, reading, homework etc.

  3. Anonymous

    FDC Educator and my fees certainly didn’t go up 32%, but yes they went up. All families came out better off still though. A big reason most have gone up each year recently is because of the free childcare package that came into effect during covid. For me I had to work the same amount of hours, provide the exact same service provisions and not be paid at all for any new enrolment or child that happened to start after the fortnight period the government took our average income from to determine the measly 50% they would pay us. We were also not allowed to increase our fees for a substantial period of time. So for FDC this meant we worked our arses off putting ourselves and our families at risk everyday with a smile on our face for about a third of what we should’ve been earning. We lost more than 50% because we also have scheme levies to pay plus the parent levies also came from the 50%. FDC has also always more generally a lot less expensive that centre based, this is even reflect by the government by giving us a lower hourly ccs cap than centre based care, even though we have to do the exact same!!
    An average of 40% of my income goes directly back into resources and consumables, maintenance etc for my business. I have worked across both centre based and FDC for close to 25yrs. Yes staff are under paid and overworked. I have worked for both private and religious owned centres. All paid minimum wage and rarely update resources, we bought our own for use. Had weekly compulsory after hours staff meetings unpaid, had to stay back more often than not until enough children left so the staff were in ratio, unpaid,
    The assessment and rating system is also flawed. Don’t get me wrong there are definitely centres and services they do put the work in and deserve their rating but there are a concerning amount that don’t and just put money and time in to look the part and fudge documentation. I have even know some to then remove all the new resources purchased after getting the good rating. A quick look on some of the fb pages dedicated to early childhood education and care would be a real eye opener to some families with the treatment of staff by management and even families as well as some practices that should not be happening.
    Currently the government provides more subsidies than I’ve ever known or had for my own children. I was paying more 20yrs ago than what a family would pay now. I don’t know what needs to change but right now there is too much pressure and expectations on educators from both families and the department of education. Early childhood educators were treated so poorly throughout covid and that’s when a lot left the sector. We are not valued as highly as primary teachers, not even close yet we often have to study longer for our qualifications, work longer and more manual hours and have lot more regulations, policies and paperwork, for way less pay and only the standard four weeks off per year (not me being FDC haha), that’s if the staff are lucky enough to have their leave approved. Many aren’t being approved as there just isn’t casual staff available to maintain ratio. A lot of ECE left and get paid more as a TA in primary schools, better work conditions, less paperwork by a mile, and time off to regroup. We have to document everything, literally everything and then also reflect and critically reflect on it all, while providing individualise educational program for each child’s interests and development, action that program while also giving care to the child. I do FDC because I love the smaller group and the bonds I create with each child making everything more purposeful, oh and way less germs. Yes you pay for days children are absent because you are effectively paying for their spot. A business would not be viable if say 20% of the children were absent at one time, they still need to pay the staff. Each child gets 42 allowable absences per financial year with ccs still applied and more can be allocated with a medical cert if they go over the 42 days to avoid paying full fees. This can often happen with children that attend 4-5 days per week.
    Sorry it’s a waffle, I sometimes get upset when my chosen career is always looked at like a money pit to the people we do this for so they can go to work or have time to themselves knowing their most precious beings are loved and educated in their absence.

    1. Lauren

      It’s really valuable reading your insight. As a teacher I definitely know how hard educators work and are often sadly undervalued within society. There’s definitely no right answer and finding the right balance between work-family-finances is very difficult and puts a lot of stress on relationships.
      Despite the CCS increasing this year, my daughter’s daycare cost have increased $19 a day so we aren’t saving anything in the pocket. I guess when you tie these pressures with the high cost of living it’s a pressure cooker situation for many families. High inflation has put pressure on all of life’s basic resources and wage growth for many is not keeping up.

    2. Liss

      Firstly, not a waffle at all 🙂 Secondly, thank you so much for the valuable insight! I truly appreciate it. I hear what you’re saying and you give such clarity when, as I mentioned, I only see and feel what I experience within my centre. This was not meant to be hurtful to the wonderful staff at the centre – more the ‘bigwigs’ who run these corporations and chains.
      My words may cause a stir, as they are my own words, my personal opinion and experiences. I have been afraid of expressing myself because of repercussions and to not be ‘liked’. I enjoy writing as it gives me a chance to express my views (without provide false or misleading information as best as I can – always happy to be corrected) and I love to see both sides to a healthy discussion. I love that you came here to share this information and show me a side of childcare (FDC educator) that I have never seen.

  4. Ebony

    You have taken the words out of all our mouths. Everything you have said. The struggle is absolutely real. The expense. The never ending sicknesses. I cant remember the last sixk day I have taken for myself. I cant afford to waste them on myself. It leads to burnout.. guilt..stress… It is definitely an area that is letting young Australian families down! Stopping them from upskilling, gwtting back to work and supporting the economy.

    1. Liss

      Tell me about it Ebony! Not one day since I have been back at work was because of an illness directly related to me!
      Not to mention, if the Mum is staying home constantly – she’s also missing out on superannuation going towards retirement if she is on unpaid leave (all that super missed during that maternity leave period too) x


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