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The parent trap

For too many families, finding childcare for more and lengthier holidays and Pro-D days is either too hard or too expensive

On a good day, trying to manage the family calendar is hard. Scrambling to cover care while at the mercy of the public school calendar is getting more painful by the day.

Luckily for my mom, we had very hands-on grandparents. Luckily for me, I was able to afford single-parent childcare. Not a single day passes where it’s not considered “what if” we hadn’t been so fortunate. What would have happened if we couldn’t?

The need for reliable, affordable, childcare is beyond urgent. It’s amplified with school holiday schedules — and in particular, Winter Break.

For every family struggling to juggle childcare, school vacation windows elevate the scramble to DEFCON 5. How can one possibly answer: “what to do with the kids” when so many work environments don’t allow for flexibility? Take a sick day? Lose a day’s wage? Both are bad options.

The Middle – and the answer – should be accessible and affordable childcare.

As many families prepare themselves for Winter Break, like ours, we find that the goal posts have moved. Gone are the days of traditional planning where you covered a couple of days before Christmas and then went back immediately following New Year’s Day.

At some point, that went the way of the Dodo.

Last year, I thought I had everything covered — then found out the second week of Winter Break was actually IN JANUARY!

It wasn’t an anomaly. Again this year, kids go back on January 7th.

What happened to manageable breaks? Why does it seem they’re extending to the absolute maximum? This puts a lot of stress on shift workers, the self-employed, and those who work 39.5 hours/week “part time” (read: no holidays).

Last year, after having a “what the hell!?” epiphany about that first week in January, it hit me: for the last few years, almost every stat long weekend was extended by a “Pro-D Day.” Extra Long Weekends for Everyone!

A serious pivot for parents on a budget; a nightmare for those who go it alone.

Perhaps the Middle here might be to offer $10/day childcare, for those for whom the struggle is real?

Let’s start with those Pro-D stats and extended breaks. Could we not find a way to make this happen now by offering credit to teaching students qualified to step in and work the Pro-Ds? Perhaps offer the same for the “extra” days added to “breaks?”

Parents need relief, they need support to cover the predictably unpredictable windows of “what am I gonna do???”

From gradual entry during the first “week” of school (the first day is an hour) and then early dismissals for what seems like forever, kids not having their actual teacher until week two, it’s all stress - stress - stress - stress.

Why can’t our system be ready for the incoming students? Schedule holidays with parents in mind. (Read: shorter!)

Something isn’t right with how our public school system is evolving and how government doesn’t lend a helping hand to parents who cannot afford childcare on the random days tossed in.

I say this will all due respect to those doing their level best to keep things organized. Teachers and administrators work incredibly hard within the parameters they are handed. It seems that somewhere there might be a disconnect with the powers that be (purse strings) and educators (boots on the ground) — lost in the middle of that disconnect: the taxpaying public.

The school buildings are there, literally built for kids.

Open them.

Staff them.

Create a system where parents can depend on their child’s safety during regular business hours.

Start somewhere. Start NOW.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.