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'I have no idea who will mind my children': Readers' stories of Ireland's childcare crisis

We asked readers to share their experiences of trying to find childcare in Ireland – here are their stories.

“I HAVE NO idea who will mind my children… Currently, we have no options available to us.”

Every year, tens of thousands of parents around Ireland seek out childcare, but many say it has become an increasingly difficult search.

At The Journal, we asked readers to share their experiences of trying to find childcare in Ireland.

The search usually starts with parents finding out how many crèches are located near where they live or work and asking about their availability, but it’s often a struggle for parents to find a crèche that has space, even if they start when their baby is a newborn or during pregnancy.

The next hill to climb is the cost of childcare – and it still might not be exactly the right hours or service to meet your needs.

That’s contingent on finding somewhere that can take the child, with many parents of young infants saying that their local crèches only cater to children from the ages of one or three.

Childcares need to have a certain number of adults relative to the children in their care. The younger the age profile of the children in a crèche or other facility, the more adults that need to be employed.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are proposing to investigate what pushed the childcare sector to breaking point and how a new childcare system can be built. See how you can support this project here

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides subsidies to daycare services for children from the age of two years and eight months until they enter primary school, but while a child is too young to qualify for the scheme, the cost and availability of childcare are a major concern for parents.

Even when their child is older, parents still need to find a provider with a place available.

We asked you to share your stories from around Ireland about your experiences of finding childcare. Here’s what you told us.

The

“My child has a part-time place but I need to work full-time to fund it.”

I have a 19-month-old little boy and a baby due any day. I had my boy in January 2020 and planned to go back to work in October 2020.

The only childcare place I could find was beside where I worked. I had to cancel my child’s place because we were all working from home and my workplace was an hour from home every morning, which didn’t make sense.

I had to find something closer to home. Thankfully, I found a part-time place nearer to me, but I had to work from home with my baby until I found one, which was January 2021. I now have a part-time place but need to work full-time to fund the place.

I have a baby due and the next available part time place is July 2022. This is going to cost me €1,200 when both are in crèche part-time. It will be a difficult couple of years financially. 

“The crèches have told me that a cancellation is rare.”

I currently have a 10-week-old baby. We live in Dublin and I will need to return to work next April when he is approximately 10 months old.

I have tried all the crèches in our area and have either been told that they don’t take babies under one year old or that they don’t have any availability until at least next August. I am on cancellation lists but the crèches have told me that a cancellation is rare.

“A lot of women are being taken out of the workforce because of this.”

We live in Dublin and I find the lack of childcare services really, really stressful. When my son was one, I wanted to go back to work but I couldn’t because there was no crèche in the area that would take him at that age, he was too young. That meant that I could not go back to work for another six months.

This practice is taking women out of the workforce and also decreasing women’s incomes because they can’t earn for a year and a half after they have had children. If a woman wants to go back to work after having kids, she should be able to.

[Many] crèches do not provide a service for younger babies because they need more staff to look after babies (the carer to baby ratio is higher, understandably) and it is not profitable for crèches to take younger children in. There needs to be government subsidies for crèches to provide this service as some women are trying hard to get back to work and they can’t.

Also taking a year and a half out of your working life can be very daunting for a woman. For some people it’s very hard to go back to work at all, confidence is low, and personally I didn’t have the same courage and morale around work that I had pre-baby. A year and a half is too long.

At the moment, my three-year-old son is attending crèche and we pay €730 per month (this includes the ECCE subsidy reduction) for a very reduced service. Because of Covid restrictions and the introduction of pods (which is important I know), we must pick our son up at 4.30pm. For us, this means leaving work in Dublin city at 3.30pm to walk to the Dart, travel to Dublin 5, and then walk to the crèche on the other side.

As you can imagine, being forced to leave work at 3.30pm is really stressful. You are not getting your full day’s work done, you feel people in the office are complaining about you, and then you have to go back to your workload at night when the kids go to bed.

As a self-employed woman, I feel like I am at a huge disadvantage. My earning power is reduced, I feel like I am constantly trying to prove myself because I feel guilty for leaving early, my life is taken over with work, I rarely get a break, and that can really affect your mental health.

The government needs to give crèches more support, especially with the new Covid pod rules and cleaning rules so that they can provide a service that enables parents to pick their children up at 5.30pm or at times that were normal pre-Covid. We are all suffering and we have been for over a year and a half and we need some help.

shutterstock_384998326 Source: Shutterstock/ChiccoDodiFC

“The housing situation paired with childcare makes it literally impossible to exist here as a young family.”

I’m due to go on maternity leave early October and have found the childcare situation appalling in South Dublin.

Currently, there are no affordable care options and almost no crèches with availability in 2022. We recently buckled under fear and worry and paid a deposit for a crèche in late August 2022 that is further away from us than ideal and we haven’t even seen it.

This still leaves a gap of four to five months where I should be returning to work but we have no care to do so. We are still wondering if there is any point in taking this place in the crèche at all.

My husband and I are preparing for one of us to leave our jobs to provide care instead. I wrote to my local TD about the issue of childcare in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown earlier this week and haven’t received a response yet. The staff I have spoken to at crèches are very helpful and some are apologetic.

The cost of full-time care from my enquiries so far is astronomical, ranging from €1,300 to €1,400 a month.

The terms of care are very restrictive on fixed 52-week contracts payable monthly, with no refunds for holidays or absence due to illness (your child will be sent home if sick and not allowed to attend for some days if it’s contagious).

Most places require non-refundable deposits of €700 to €800 for places as far ahead as 12 to 16 months in advance depending on how soon the spot is available. In our case as renters, we can only hope our lease is extended next year so that we don’t lose a deposit. The housing situation paired with childcare makes it literally impossible to exist here as a young family.

The (1)

“There is nowhere that can do the school drop-offs and mind a baby.”

I have three children – seven, five, and a seven-month-old. I work as a guard.

When the pandemic began, I was a mother of two. My crèche closed and the school soon after. I had no one to mind my children, and my hours changed from 10 hour to 12 hour shifts. My husband is self-employed. We managed with the support of grandparents.

The crèche used to take our kids from 7am, bring them to school, collect them, feed them and do homework. In September last year, I was informed the crèche was no longer accepting children from my kids’ school. We were left fully dependent on family support; a mother-in-law who was high-risk regarding Covid supported us in our childcare needs.

I’m due back to work this November after maternity leave. The crèche is still not taking our kids’ school. I have no idea who will mind my children. There is nowhere that can do the school drop-offs and mind a baby, with the added complication of a child’s medical needs.

Privately hiring a childminder seems difficult as they generally do the child care in their own home which isn’t suitable to us due to the allergies and the risks of exposure there. Currently, we have no options available to us.

“We ended up on waiting lists in almost 30 crèches.”

My experience is that the first few months of my son’s life, stressful enough already, were made so much more anxiety-ridden over finding childcare.

The very first thing the Public Health Nurse told me on her first visit was to get a crèche spot sorted ASAP, so I went to the local crèche when he was three weeks old to put his name down, and was laughed out of the place (a woman had been in the day before doing the same at six weeks’ pregnant).

We ended up on waiting lists in almost 30 crèches in the surrounding areas (I live in Dublin 6W) and was one of the lucky ones a few months later when we were offered a space the farthest point from our house. It required a €1,000 non-refundable deposit which we had to pay knowing we were hoping to get something closer.

Nothing else materialised despite my constant calling/emailing, so he has spent the last year in a crèche 40 minutes away. Most crèches also now won’t take babies until they’re one so in order to go back to work I had to rely on help from family and a local woman who kindly made herself available a few days a week until he could start crèche. I also used some unpaid parental leave.

The logistics of organising all of that while exhausted, worried about money and a return to work was extremely tough. I wouldn’t wish it on any new parent.

shutterstock_711874429 Source: Shutterstock/Ulza

“I put her name down when I was five months pregnant.”

I have three children (aged four, two, and a three-month-old). I cannot afford after-school care for the four-year-old starting next week. It’s €30 per day for the two hours that I need it for. I cannot rationalise or afford this.

I can’t get more than two days a week in a crèche for the two-year-old. No place availability yet for the baby for July 2022. I put her name down when I was five months pregnant. We’re based in Kilkenny.

I typically leave the two older kids in from 9:30 until 3:30 at latest. In an ideal world, I would love to pay for the days and hours they’re actually there. This month I have been visiting grandparents and have had them in for just two days this month but have had to pay the full month. At Christmas and other holidays we have to pay for the days that the crèche closes. That’s not right!

Niamh: “I’ve been searching for a minder since April.”

The same difficulties apply to finding a minder too. I’ve been searching for a minder for my three boys since April.

I’ve had to rewrite the ads I place to just trying to find a minder for my one-year-old as there has been no interest at all. Crèches have all told me that there wouldn’t be any availability till next summer at least!

Adam: “We started to eat into our savings for a house deposit.”

Myself and my partner had an awful time trying to find childcare living in North Dublin. We put our daughter’s name down in all the local crèches the week she was born. Only some crèches have baby rooms and there were long waiting lists for them all.

Neither of our employers offered top-ups on maternity or paternity leave, nor did they offer any kind of flexible working arrangement. There was no sign of a crèche place at the end of my partner’s paid maternity leave so she had to move to unpaid maternity leave. This was when we started to eat into our savings for a house deposit.

When my partner’s unpaid leave was coming to an end and all the crèches where our daughter’s name was down still had no places, we made the decision to move to my partner’s parents’ home after they offered to help.

This meant two hour each-way commutes for both of us everyday. We barely saw our daughter and we still struggled to save thanks to fuel, tolls and having to keep renting our apartment in Dublin because we didn’t know when a place would be available.

Eventually, when our daughter was 13 months old, we got the call to say she was in! Our daughter is now three and we’re still renting. Crèche fees mean we can save very little every month (we’re looking at a proposed 7% increase shortly) and we’ve never been further away from being able to get a mortgage with the way prices are increasing.

“The crèche owner knew I was pregnant before any family or friends so I could get on the waiting list as soon as possible.”

I have two children under the age of three. Both my husband and I work full time and we didn’t have the option of family helping look after our kids.

I started looking when my first son was six weeks old, hoping to have a place by the time he was eight months so I could go back to work. We had a mortgage and I had to go back to pay it. We couldn’t manage more than two months unpaid.

We found it beyond difficult to find a full-time space for our baby – there were no spaces in either of the crèches provided by our jobs.

We got our son into a crèche where we paid €1,000 for four days full-time care for our eight month old. We had to take alternative Fridays off work using our annual leave to mind him.

He finally got a space in my work crèche when he was just over one. My second has just started in the crèche too at 12 months old. I told the owner of the creche I was expecting our second when I was 12 weeks pregnant. She knew before any family or friends so I could get on the waiting list as soon as possible.

I now pay just under €1,400 for the two [children] for five days full-time, which is actually cheap in comparison to some places. It’s an amazing crèche and both my kids are very well taken care of there.

When he was in the first crèche, [concerns emerged about it] and our options at the time were to leave my child there in a possibly unsafe environment or me or my husband would have to quit work to take care of him and try to pay the mortgage etc on one wage. 

There are no options at all. You don’t get to choose a place you’d like, you almost have to grab what you can get and be happy with it or leave work.

shutterstock_243943207 Source: Shutterstock/optimarc

Suzanne: “My daughter needs a crèche place so that she can interact with other children her own age.”

We moved from Dublin to Meath when I was pregnant to be near my family. When I was 19 weeks pregnant I started contacting childcare providers in our new area for a place for my unborn baby.

We never got to discussing the cost because either the places were full and she was put on a waiting list or else the provider didn’t take children under two. Apparently this is due to the staff ratios required and it wasn’t financially viable to provide them.

My daughter is now 19 months old and we still can’t find a place anywhere. She’s on a waiting list at a number of crèches but we don’t know how far off she is from actually getting a place.

We are incredibly lucky that we have family who are able to support us. My husband does shift work so our childcare needs change week to week. But usually for the first half of the week, my Mam who has retired looks after her. Then, in the second half of the week, my husband’s parents look after her as they are also retired. And of course, the days that my husband is off work, he looks after her.

My daughter needs a crèche place not just to take pressure off our families but also so that she can interact with other children her own age. She is a very sociable child and she loves yapping away to anyone who’ll listen to her. She most enjoys screaming “Baa!” at other random kids in the playground.

She loves to learn, and while of course everyone who looks after her is constantly teaching her things, she’ll most definitely benefit from being in a crèche. She will thrive around other children. Plus the carers will at least know what they’re doing, which is more than I can say for myself!

Lisa: “Crèches are only made to benefit the 9 to 5 workers.”

I work as a nurse. I am on maternity leave presently but I had a very difficult time finding any childcare for my now 1.5-year-old.

I live in rural Wexford and therefore there’s not a massive amount of crèches around. Most crèches only open at 8am – I start work at 8am and my husband travels to Dublin for work so he leaves earlier.

I also work shift work. As a nurse, this means I could need childcare four days a week or only one. Crèches cannot accommodate this and the only option is to pay for full-time childcare.

Any nurse I work with has a childminder or family members who mind their kids, but at 10 hours a day that can easily add up to €400+ a week. It’s not quite logical to work full time and then pay someone 80% of what you earn, as you cannot avail of subsidies with private childminders.

I am lucky enough that all my family members are still young and healthy enough to be in full-time employment but it also means they are not a child care option.

Spaces are tight in crèches, but also, crèches are only made to benefit the 9 to 5 workers.

The (2)

Fiona: “The childcare sector is seen as babysitting when in fact it’s the most important educational sector for children.”

I taught early years [education] for almost 10 years, a number of years specifically with children with autism; as such I was only ever on a one-year contract. My youngest sibling has special needs so I’ve known the Irish system for disabilities for a long time. My entire pregnancy and first 10 months of my baby’s life were during the pandemic. I had postnatal depression with my first baby and got it again this time.

My sister is due her first soon and lives in Crumlin. Unfortunately, she didn’t call ahead and now the lack of childcare for her baby is going to impact her ability to return to work.

The childcare sector is seen as babysitting when in fact it’s the most important educational sector for children. This is especially true for children with special needs as early intervention is key.

I love Ireland fiercely and, especially after living abroad, I’m very aware of how lucky we are here. But policy makers and those deciding where our money goes time and again prioritise other areas.

It’s horrifically and embarrassingly short-sighted, as it’s proven that the more you invest early on, the more you save later as these children grow. I would wonder how many women or mothers or primary caregivers are on the boards making the decisions?

The biggest challenge I faced initially was navigating our new area when we moved house, finding crèches etc. Then began the phone calls and drop-ins to see the places. Since I’d worked in early education for years in Lucan, I already knew that it would be a case of how long of a waiting list the crèches had rather than getting a start date. But I hoped being in a more rural environment would be better. It’s certainly been better but I still faced a year waiting list and in the end we were lucky and found a wonderful childminder.

The pandemic caused havoc with that as she tried to protect her family and kids. I was very concerned about social development at such a crucial age for my eldest (she was about 18 months when the pandemic hit) so we managed to get her into a crèche for a few hours each week and it’s made such a difference to her. I know it’ll pay dividends in years to come.

In my case, I got postnatal depression around February when the rolling lockdowns continued and I had a toddler and newborn. I’m convinced I would have been okay if only one support mechanism had remained, like a bubble with one other family.

The (3)

Séana: “The deposits were in the hundreds.”

Two crèches I tried to sign up with wanted a cash-only non-refundable deposit for their earliest places which would be when the baby is 18 months, long after I go back to work when baby is six months.

The deposits were in the hundreds. We aren’t even sure where in the city we will be living then so having to deal with the stress of hedging our childcare bets on top of the stress of trying to buy a house is crippling. 

shutterstock_372315763 Source: Shutterstock/Oksana Kuzmina

Tara: “Because of the pandemic you are no longer able to even tour the facility and meet the caregivers before putting your name on the list.”

It is making the transition back to work harder for many, disproportionately women, in my area as we do not readily have access to reliable childcare for babies – particularly those under one year of age. I have personally had to extend my six-month maternity leave by another three months (all of which is now unpaid!) because I cannot find a crèche place in my area for my daughter.

I may be forced to extend this further again as I have not secured a place for her, even after her first birthday in March. The lack of childcare, not to mention the burden of the cost once you can secure a place, is unreal and a dark cloud over your maternity leave.

I have been searching for a place for my daughter since she was four weeks old and still cannot secure a place. Of approximately a dozen crèches in my area only three are accepting children under one year old, all of which have waiting lists well into 2022.

Because of the pandemic you are no longer able to even tour the facility and meet the caregivers before putting your name on the list. Many require you pay your deposit before even getting a look inside where you are meant to leave your child 5 days a week.

If I got pregnant again you would have half a mind to call crèches to put your name on the lists before even making your booking appointment at the maternity hospital.

For a child under one I’ve been quoted €1,200 to €1,500 a month. That’s a mortgage! How we’re meant to afford this and maintain any kind of quality of life is unreal. My heart goes out to those going it alone/single parents that are left to carry this burden alone.

The (4)

Sinead: “I have a well-paid job and it costs me over half my salary every month.”

I have two children aged three and one and I have recently gone back to work following maternity leave. Both my husband and I work full time.

Childcare in Dublin is a total mess. There are a number of crèches in my area, but when I contacted them to ask for places shortly after I gave birth to my first child, I was told by all that waiting lists were one to two years minimum.

I then started looking for childminders. I got one contact through a friend and another online, so now I have two childminders doing two and three days respectively. They are fantastic and love and care for my children like their own – but I know this is a cash in hand agreement and they can choose to stop at any time. I also have to accommodate their holidays, days off and illness. It’s a really high cost (as all childcare is) but I cannot apply for any tax relief or benefits as its cash in hand. I have a well-paid job and it costs me over half my salary every month.

Most of my friends who work are in the same situation. Many have had to reduce hours or have their parents look after their children at least one day a week. I frequently get texts from people saying they have a friend looking for a minder, if I know anyone… there is crazy demand. I know someone who was due to return to work in September but got let down by a minder and is now frantically trying to find a replacement or cannot return to work.

We will hopefully have a third child, but at that stage I’ll have to work out a) if it’s financially viable for me to go back to work and b) if we can find childcare.

“It’s a constant juggle and huge expense.”

I’ve four children. Three need childcare, ages two, seven and eight. The childcare bill is €1,300 per month. We could not find an ECCE place for our youngest in any local playschool. We sourced somewhere after nearly one year trying.

We need two different childminders. It’s a constant juggle and huge expense. We both work full-time and have no family help with childcare. It’s so hard to get a childcare place and for us we receive no discount under the new childcare subsidy scheme.

“The cost of childcare for our two children comes to more than our monthly home repayments.”

I’m a mother to a seven-year-old and a 18-month-old. Returning to work and continuing to work is like walking a tightrope at times. It was very difficult after the birth of my toddler as a lot of crèches could not take babies younger than a year. With the support of my partner and family I took an additional five months unpaid leave.

The crèche set-up is amazing once you get in, however once children start attending school, working and childcare falls apart.

With regards to my seven-year-old, there is little if any after-school care, so for parents who work a regular nine to five it is a constant juggle trying to source somebody to bring and collect children attending school. In the end I had to source an unregistered lady to do pick-ups and collections which I am not entirely comfortable with but beggars cannot be choosers.

The cost of childcare for our two children comes to more than our monthly home repayments. The state should ensure that each school has a morning and afterschool facility so that parents can work and feel comfortable going to work. Not every parent works from 9am to 2.30pm. 

There are days that the childminder cannot do and this means that I have to seek time off. If there was a proper set-up in school this would not be the case and I could take my leave when I myself require it.

Also, in an afterschool setting, the children would be with their peers, so if they wanted to work together on their homework they could, however this is something we have to face after a day’s work and dinner time each evening. It is a constant struggle weighing up why I go out to work each day and it is exhausting!

shutterstock_1677847294 Source: Shutterstock/White bear studio

Sarah: “I’ve been told I’m wasting my time even trying because his name wasn’t down before he was born.”

My baby (six months) is and has been on every waiting list for crèches that take babies his age since he was three months old.

I have been laughed at by staff and told I’m wasting my time even trying because his name wasn’t down before he was born. I have called every crèche countywide (Wexford) and he is on lists from Rosslare to Enniscorthy. One crèche returned my call this week and asked me to call back in three to four months to see where he is on the list then.

The stress this has caused me for months has genuinely taken some of the joy out of a new baby and added to the guilt and worry of sending such a young child to crèche. We aren’t lucky enough to have family in a position to care for him full-time during the week.

We finally got a place and only by pure chance because someone else decided not to take their place. My husband will now have to drive 30km every morning and evening to drop and collect the baby, which might not seem too bad, but when there are three creches within 5km of us and at least 10 within 10km, it’s farcical.

We are very lucky to have gotten a place and such a lovely place that we are very happy to send our baby to but no way should it be this hard or stressful on top of the normal issues of going back to work and trusting someone else with your baby!

“We have chosen not to have more kids.”

With Covid, there’s two issues. Along with everyone else with kids of school going age and under, we were all at home last year. My job at the time was not supportive – I had to work regular hours and that was that.

I used to get up before 5am so that I could get some work done before my daughter got up. My husband and I took turns minding our then almost-two-year-old. After she went to bed at night, we worked on. At least we didn’t have to home school!

A lot of trust is needed with the crèche. With Covid rules, we haven’t been physically inside the crèche since March 2020. We take their word for it that everything is ok because we have no other choice.

The second issue is crèche opening hours used to be 7.40am to 6.15pm. It’s now eight to five or nine to six. There is no flexibility and you are expected to drop and collect at the designated times.

There has been no cost reduction given that the crèche hours are significantly reduced and there is no signs of any sort of extension of hours coming back. I’m sure if it happens it will correlate with a fee increase. I may have a rant or complain, but I’ll pay. Why? Because I have no other choice.

As we are both working we qualified for the universal subsidy. Our crèche fees were €1,173 per month before the subsidy. My base fee was reduced to €1,043 and I have been paying €868 with the subsidy, but everyone’s varies depending on when you signed a contract and when subsidies are applied.

Now starts the saga of the ‘free’ preschool year. It’s free for kids who are normally at home. I was under the impression that I would save €200 to €250 per month, but that decrease is off the base cost, not what we have been paying. I knew I’d have to pay for non-ECCE hours but at €795 a month it’s more than I expected. Again, I’ll pay because I don’t have a choice. Full-timers pay subsidies to cover mid-terms, Christmas and Easter. I will have to pay €1,043 for summer holidays as there’s no subsidy for that.

We have chosen not to have more kids. The financial impact of paying approx €2,000 a month was just too much. My husband and I have worked hard for our careers and to have a good standard of living. We would struggle to maintain that if one of us gave up work.

The (7)

“I had previously suffered a miscarriage so was reluctant to put a name down while I was in early pregnancy.”

I tried to get my baby into crèche last year for when he would have been six months old. I rang every creche in Limerick city and no one could take him. Several laughed at me for being so “disorganised”. He was six weeks old at the time.

Then, my sister-in-law stepped in and called the crèche her little boy is in that I had previously contacted and told there was no space. All of a sudden they could fit him in.

It was so stressful! I had previously suffered a miscarriage so was reluctant to put a name down while I was in early pregnancy. Then Covid hit and all the crèches were closed.

It didn’t matter in the end as I lost my job due to Covid. I’m heading back to college and my Mom has recently retired so is taking the now 15-month-old for a few months until we figure things out.

“I was trying to juggle looking after my son and working from home.”

We moved back to Ireland in March this year with a one-year-old. I started to look for childcare and was basically laughed at because we hadn’t put his name on a waiting list when I was pregnant.

When looking at the prices of crèches I was worried how we would be able to afford a full-time placement until he was entitled to free childcare.

I was really lucky – a friend let me know about a part-time opening in a local crèche. We were so relieved, but it meant I still had three days a week in which I was trying to juggle looking after my son and working from home. I also learned about the national childcare scheme and that we are entitled to a good discount – I’ve spoken to so many parents who aren’t aware of the scheme.

Our part-time placement is now turning to a full-time placement which I am so relieved about. I know many other people who move home from abroad really struggle.

The (5)

“The fees work out astronomical.”

I’m a mum of two girls, aged two and six, who doesn’t work normal hours. I have to find private childcare for two days and two days in a crèche.

Fees are crazy for a mum earning €20,000, but as their dad earns more, we don’t qualify for much on the child subsidiary. So because we have to have different care providers due to our shift work patterns – ie before 8am and after 6pm – the fees work out astronomical.

Private childcare is €220 a week and creche is €100 a week. We pay cash to the childminder so we can’t even prove these expenses to apply for a medical card for the eldest with lots of health issues. We pay €120 for her monthly meds. It’s forcing lots of people out of work who want to work.

shutterstock_544329508 Source: Shutterstock/goodmoments

Ann Marie: “I don’t know where my job will be as I could be placed anywhere in Ireland so I can’t plan ahead for childcare.”

I decided to return to work when she was eight months old. My husband had her two days and my mother had her one day. I squeezed a full-time job into three days when still breastfeeding. It was a nightmare and I decided to leave work and mind her full time myself in February 2020 just before the pandemic.

It was lonely at home during the pandemic at times with just the two of us. I’m grateful it was an option for us though.

I went back to work three months ago. I was unable to get a crèche in the town I live in, so I went back in a different role part-time two days a week. My husband moved to a four-day week so he minds her one day and and my mother minds her one day. Financially, we are fine, as childcare only costs us €200 a month.

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Next July, I am going back full-time (a doctor training scheme to be a consultant). I will have been out of full-time employment for over three years then. I worry about how we will manage with childcare. I don’t know where my job will be as I could be placed anywhere in Ireland so I can’t plan ahead for childcare. Worst-case scenario, my husband has said he could take time off and care for her if we don’t get childcare. We would then struggle financially as he earns considerably more than me.

“The level of nursing staff in Ireland is at a critical point, but I can’t go back and help with no childcare.”

I am currently on unpaid maternity leave with my second son. I hope to return to work as a nurse by Christmas time. My older son, two years old, is in a crèche in Ongar. This crèche, when fully staffed, doesn’t accept under children under one, like most crèches.

My youngest son does not turn one until next March. Somehow on my nurses’ salary I need to afford a childminder (who needs to be paid minimum wage ) on top of my crèche fees. My husband is a carpenter who earns a salary of approx €26,000 to €30,000 per year so we both have very small incomes. After crèche fees we have no expendable income left.

It is no secret that the level of nursing staff in Ireland is at a critical point, but I can’t go back and help with no childcare.

Our crèche has now had to close for the month of August due to low staffing levels and can only reopen part-time from eight to one as they cannot get staff .

Childcare workers do an amazing job – we entrust them to care, educate and socialise our children at such an important part of their life. Their pay needs to reflect this. People cannot be expected to do this job on the frontline for €12 per hour. How can anyone have an incentive to progress and stay in the sector with this pay? They have families to support too.

Their work lets doctors, nurses, politicians, everyone else who contributes to society go to their jobs and they are being completely disrespected with their pay. Parents need this to be addressed immediately so we can return to work knowing our children will be cared for in a safe environment.

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“We had to rule out crèches long-term as they would not have been able to cater for his needs.”

Myself and my husband have two children aged four and two and another on the way. When our four-year-old was born, we we found ourselves unable to find a crèche. In fact, one crèche was so popular they told us once you reached the top of their waiting list you went into a lottery with all other parents at the top for the place. We quickly realised we were not going to get a crèche for him and looked to family members to mind him.

As he grew and didn’t hit his milestones, we realised he had special needs caused by a rare underlying condition, so we had to rule out crèches long-term as they would not have been able to cater for his needs even if we managed to get him a place. There is little support available and he would be lost in a room with toddlers.

He continued to be minded by family until our second little one came along, and then it was too much to ask for them to mind a second one, so we had no choice but to look for a minder in our home. This is where we really struggle.

To go above board, we now have to register as an employer, ensure employees have all their statutory rights met, have the relevant insurances in place, and pay the relevant taxes. We have been quoted a minimum of €13 per hour and a maximum of €16 per hour by nannies regardless of experience or qualifications. Working nine to five, we need a minimum of 35 hours per week, which at the top rate works out at a salary of €29,000 a year for a nanny.

There is no issue in paying the nanny this. You want the best for your children and the person deserves to be paid well, but it becomes impossible to pay.

There is no support for parents with minders in their home. You have to act as an employer yet we are the only employers in the country that pay their staff out of their post-tax earnings. Any other employer pays employees pre-tax and then are taxed on their profits. Parents are not.

As someone who pays the high rate of tax, for me to hire someone at €29,000 a year, I have to earn approx €44,000. How is this sustainable for parents? I have since reduced my hours as I’ve had little choice to relieve the burden of childcare but when it comes to getting someone to mind three of them in the coming months, I don’t know what we will do as the price also goes up per child.

shutterstock_1888166326 Source: Shutterstock/DenisProduction.com

“Childcare for under-threes is non-existent and the only affordable choice with availability is unregistered childminders.”

Finding childcare for my two-year-old has been a nightmare. When first looking for childcare when he was three months old, there was no availability in crèches within a 10km radius in Dublin city.

After ringing 35 unregistered childminders, we eventually found a space for him. When he was 10 months old, he attended there for six weeks before the pandemic hit and we had to keep paying her throughout eight months of lockdowns, even though we couldn’t access the service, or risk losing the place.

We relocated to a Dublin commuter town in January this year. Again, no availability in any of the local crèches (20km radius), only five registered childminders and dozens of unregistered minders. We placed him with an unregistered minder initially but are back looking again after a safety issue arose.

There is still no availability in local crèches, so we are looking to hire a nanny four days a week and my partner is taking one day of parental leave a week. All in, the cost of that will be around €30,000 per year, which will be the equivalent of two extra mortgage payments per month.

Childcare for under-threes is non-existent and the only affordable choice with availability is unregistered childminders. This is a black market with no regulation and no safeguards. There is no choice and the modus operandi is take what you can get. I now understand why so many parents decide to take career breaks during the early years as it is an impossible situation.

Michelle: “I contacted 12 creches and only two of them got back to me.”

My daughter is nine months old. Both my husband and I both work full-time.

I started looking for childcare when my daughter was two months old. I contacted 12 crèches and only two of them got back to me. I eventually got my daughter into a wonderful local crèche.

I live in a small town in North Kildare and I was looking at places as far as 20km away! We are blessed as my neighbours are having a really hard time trying to get their babies into crèches locally.

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Renee: “I work 10-hour days over four days per week so I can have at least one day a week with my boys.”

I was still pregnant when I first started looking for crèche placements, anxious that we might have trouble finding two placements at the same time as we were expecting twins. Out of the 10 or so places I contacted, only one had availability in a year’s time.

All of these places in south county Dublin would cost us between €2,000 to €2,200 a month for full-time crèche, even with a sibling discount. We eventually tried our luck with a live-out nanny (we lived in a small, two-bed apartment at the time) as the only place with availability was too far for us to travel without a car.

After interviewing seven nannies we eventually found someone we both felt we could trust with good references. We paid her the most we could possibly afford for four days per week which was €2,000 a month and included 21 days paid annual leave and three days paid sick leave. We both still worked full-time and were very lucky to have my husband’s parents minding our boys one day a week.

In the third year of this arrangement, I negotiated with my work to maintain full-time hours working 10 hour days over four days per week so that I could have at least one day a week to spend with my boys, but also because our nanny had given her notice.

At this stage, the boys were close to three years old and we’d moved house and scrambled to find a crèche placement for them both, contacting again about 10 places in total.

We were lucky as the one crèche that had availability for two was nearby. We paid €2,200 per month until they were eligible for the ECCE scheme. Even though they were only going to crèche four days a week, we still had to pay the full-time rate. Now that they are ECCE-eligible, we pay around €1,600 per month during ECCE months and back to €2,200 during summer months.

We feel it is difficult for the majority of parents in Ireland to find available and affordable childcare, but also feel it is that much more difficult for parents of multiples, especially when both parents need or want to continue working full-time.

You get increased child benefit but you don’t get more maternity/paternity leave and obviously finding available/affordable childcare for two (or more!) placements at the same, especially in the Dublin area, can feel impossible.

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“Dublin is an animal when it comes to childcare.”

Being from a childcare background down the country, I wish someone had told me when I fell pregnant in March of 2019 that I should have started the search for childcare options in Dublin.

I stupidly waited until he was born to start looking as I thought my six-month maternity leave would be sufficient time to bag a space for him! Boy how wrong was I!

Dublin is an animal when it comes to childcare. It’s unrealistic and makes it near impossible for any mother to return to work.

I struggled to find a place for my son and was getting increasingly worried as my end date for maternity was fast approaching. With the pandemic hitting when it did, my job in hospitality didn’t reopen and so the pressure of finding a place eased a little. We eventually found a place in October and felt that we HAD to take this place, regardless of cost, distance or work status.

I am still out of work due to Covid – a whole year after I was due to go back. We’ve been sending our son to crèche and paying weekly even though I’m at home and jobless.

We can’t really afford to send him but my fear is that I would find another job and have no place for my son to go to crèche and therefore not be able to take the job. We’ve no family to take him and so crèche is the only option. It’s a vicious circle.

Aisling: “They told me it looked unlikely we would get a place.”

I found out I was pregnant with baby number three in May 2020 and in September 2020 I called the crèche my three-year-old son was in to put her on the wait list for a place in September 2021. I was informed that due to Covid the crèche has made the decision to only take children from 12 months onwards. My two older children started at 6 months in the same crèche.

I rang nine crèches in Tralee and not one could help. Two crèches put my unborn baby on their wait lists but told me that they were very long and it looked unlikely we would get a place. Another four or five either recently decided not to take small babies (under 12 months) due to the pandemic and the others stopped years previously. Most people have to go back [to work] after six or seven months, so when there is no crèche, what are families to do? I did not want a childminder as my two older ones have “school” five mornings a week.

I fortunately found out one month ago that they are able to accommodate me in a crèche close by. I have been so overwhelmed with stress – trying to sort childcare for my now seven-month-old daughter has been a nightmare. I’m due back in September and it just got sorted in the nick of time.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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