By Danielle Kent
Fifty-one phone calls. That’s how many phone calls I made within two weeks when I was just shy of three months pregnant and trying to find infant care for Troy, my second child.
At the time my daughter, Maddy, was 3 1/2 and I remember driving home the night our amazing care provider told me that she would be moving. I was crying and shaking, because I knew how hard it was going to be to find someone for our children. Our roller coaster of joy and gratitude at becoming pregnant (minus the wavering morning sickness and fatigue) took a sharp turn downhill as my husband and I went into months of unsuccessfully trying to secure child care. My husband and I are both business owners, so on top of working full time, having a 3-year-old and growing businesses, finding consistent and nurturing child care was yet another stressor. And so, began the overwhelming, and at times isolating, mental workload that today’s parents carry.
I was unable to find child care in The Valley. After months of waitlists, visiting locations and an honest debate about staying home for a year, I was fortunate to find a wonderful provider in Waterbury. They provided care for my son for years, right up until the pandemic started. I am acutely aware that despite the lengthy commute to and from the day care every day, I was lucky to find a spot anywhere.
I was not alone. A fellow parent told me, “Eventually we were lucky enough to find a provider who opened space for our infant on a timeline that allowed us to maintain our jobs, despite our needing to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction to access this care. We considered ourselves lucky and not all parents are this fortunate.”
Challenges in securing consistent and nurturing child care go beyond the infant season. My profession is one that deeply fulfills me. I am a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in executive function skill development and supporting students with complex communication needs. My being able to work and serve my community and families has a ripple effect on the economy and the education system. Having my kids be cared for and loved while I am doing this work is necessary for me to feel connected to my work. It is hard for me to focus on my responsibilities when, emotionally, I am not at peace in knowing my children are being nurtured or cared for. I can feel connected and at peace while we are separated, knowing that when I pick my kids up, they will be laughing and eager to share about their day. Consistent and nurturing child care builds trust; this trust supports me to do the work I do professionally.
Losing access to or having difficulty with securing consistent and nurturing child care has ripple effects that are felt far and wide. As a parent, I feel them personally, professionally, socially and economically. In this season of my life, I am wearing many hats and juggling many responsibilities. I am trying to find harmony in celebrating my children while they are little, AND also growing a business that I believe can change the world. Even though my children are now 7 and 3, the importance of consistent and nurturing care remains the same. If I am unable to secure child care for a day, this could mean at least eight to 10 students would not get SLP services for the day. Then their families would not have access to consultation to support communication and skill development at home.
Our child care centers are a place for our parenthood village to gather. I cannot tell you how many times I have connected to other parents at day care: at pick up, drop off, or in the little moments between. During that incredibly precious time from birth to age 5, before our children are school-age, we need community the most. This is even more true in small communities such as The Valley. We have a greater capacity to build meaningful relationships with a hub to support that network. Neck of the Woods (NOW) and the programs they run have become an invaluable hub. Here we can network and find support, building our own village that can walk with us through the journey of parenthood. It is a place where we can ask questions, both small and big, that grow our parental insights. NOW is a place that celebrates our kids and also gives parents time for themselves by hosting events like movie nights. I believe that NOW values the entire family in all they do.
I do not believe we were made to parent in isolation. We were meant to parent in villages and find community with other parents so that we can learn from each other. There is no manual for parenthood: We all find our own way. I feel so fortunate to have secured a spot at NOW and found a place to create these connections as we find our way. These connections are essential to our personal and professional well-being and they are integral to our society. But NOW is currently at capacity and cannot accept more children. Having been through the experience of seeking child care all too recently, it breaks my heart to know that other parents are just beginning their 51 phone calls.
Kent lives in Moretown