This morning Jezebel published an article called ‘It’s Not Just Children Who Need Preschool’, in which I learned that President Obama plans to work with American states to make “high-quality preschool available to every child in America”.
An excellent idea, for so many reasons.
In this part of Australia preschool is not free. It costs over $30 per day to send our four-year-old daughter to the local not-for-profit childcare center. This is cheap compared to many. Many approved childcare centers charge double that. Our local childcare center isn’t ‘approved’ — it is ‘registered’ — which means we only get a few dollars back, not half of it.
It’s all very confusing. It took me a very long time to work it all out. My inner conspiracy theorist thought at one point that this confusing system might be a deliberate ploy to avoid giving back money.
Since immigrating from New Zealand, I have eventually learned that this is how Australia works: you pay a bunch of money for your essential services. Then you claw some of that back by filling out a bunch of forms.
Yesterday I was busy filling out forms, and once again I’m reminded of how the job of housekeeping is undervalued at an institutional level. You see, we’re allowed to claw back a paltry amount of our daughter’s preschool fees, but only if I can prove I haven’t been watching Dr Phil all day while our kid is off my lazy-ass hands.
If you embiggen that image you’ll see the government approved ways to spend my time:
- working for pay
- looking for paid work
- studying/training in preparation for paid work
- caring for an adult or a child who has a disability
According to this form, the following is not considered an acceptable reason to get back your three dollars per day for registered childcare fees:
- caring for a child who doesn’t have a disability, unless you include ‘shitty pants’ and ‘inability to feed oneself due to the fact of being a baby’ a ‘disability’. I would encourage stay-at-home parents to expand the definition of ‘disabled’. Stay-at-home parents deserve some alone-time with their youngest children.
- vegetable gardening and small scale farming (eg chickens, a cow), since producing one’s own food does not contribute to the GDP and therefore does not help anyone at all
- washing, folding, sorting, ironing
- cooking, cleaning up after cooking
- shopping for groceries and other essential items
And for those stay-at-home parents who have a large brood of children, you’ll no doubt be doing something similar to the following on a daily basis, which does not actually count as work, just so you know:
- taking DS 8 to the dentist/speech therapy/doctor
- dropping DD 10’s PE gear/lunch/homework to the school because she forgot it
- a meeting with DS 6’s teacher
Let’s expand our definition of ‘volunteer work’, too, and hope that sometime soon, government institutions will start recognising on forms that housework and childcare is a worthy way to spend one’s day — as worthy as any other.