Mums On Bums

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.
eligibility requirements

If you embiggen that image you’ll see the government approved ways to spend my time:

  • working for pay
  • volunteering
  • 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
  • housecleaning
  • 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.

2 responses to “Mums On Bums

  1. Ah Australia. They love to give money to idiots but not to people who have reasons to need it or won’t mess it up. I’m a student who can no longer get my uni work registered as actual study so I get not even a weekly minimum wage amount for a whole month to live off and am required to find 40 hours work per week. Brilliant systems!
    I think childcare here in my town is about 80 a day, which is absolutely ridiculous. For the amount of money we pay for… everything…. here, it’s amazing that our education system and paying for it gets worse every year.

    Good luck with the forms, I’ve scoffed many a time at them.

    • Maybe the powers that be should mind less about what people are doing with their days while drawing upon minimum wage subsidies or whatever, and instead assume that given minimum living standards, the vast majority of people would be using money to good effect.