• Lack of spaces in child care has spurred alternative options for parents going back to work. (Getty Images)
More than 55,000 Australian kids have been turned away from day care. With wait lists and fees soaring, some families are seeking out alternative child care arrangements.
By
Mariam Digges

2 May 2016 - 3:28 PM  UPDATED 3 May 2016 - 7:37 AM

For parents looking to return to work, there can be what seems like an endless number of hurdles to jump. First, there’s the emotional impact of separating from your child after months of intimate one-on-one bonding. Then there’s the tug-of-war some face while negotiating more family-friendly hours with their employers. And when you’ve finally sorted all of that out, the chance of securing your child a place at your local day care at a time that suits you both is about as probable as reserving a table at the latest restaurant in town. Be prepared to wait – years, in some instances.

The ABS last year reported over 55,000 kids were turned away from child care in 2014. With demand this high, it’s only natural that fees jump accordingly.  A survey by parent advocacy group The Parenthood found that 60 per cent of child care centres in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Leichardt will also charge a waitlist fee of between $15 and $100 per child.

Over 55,000 kids were turned away from child care in 2014.

It’s an even more serious story in Perth, with a Committee for Perth-commissioned two-year study claiming it has the fewest child care places per capita of any capital city.

“The idea [of child care] is so popular in Perth because so many people aren’t from here,” tells working mum Meg Burrage. “We’ve all come over for mining and our parents aren’t here to help with kids and our husbands work.”

“And unless you ring the day care every single month and remind them you exist, you’ll never hear back from somewhere you’ve put your name down.

Frustration with the lack of options available spurred Burrage on to start up BubDesk in 2015.

“I went back to full-time work when my baby was six months old. I was ok for a few months, but it doesn’t take long for it to start to wear you down – trying to get bub to day care in the morning and then get into the office – and then the baby is sick. It was all getting too much and I remember thinking, ‘why can’t I just take my kid to work?’”

A co-working space with a dedicated on-site crèche, BubDesk offers a functional answer to the at-times romantic ‘working from home’ conundrum.  

“It’s just so much more productive working from an office space rather than at home where there’s so many distractions; there’s laundry to do and you end up eating your way through the fridge, plus there’s no one to talk to.”

Located two kilometres out of Perth’s city centre, BubDesk offers working parents desks, boardrooms and a relaxed workshop environment complete with armchairs, ottomans and beanbags. The crèche is run by an ex-childcare manager and follows the same early-learning framework as many day cares, but at a fraction of the price (all-day fees start from just $40). A new branch is set to open in the city centre in the coming months.

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BubDesk isn’t the only co-working space of its kind. Around the country, offices with crèche facilities are popping up in most capital cities to meet the growing demands of professional parents.

Melbourne’s Happy HubBub offers a similar model, but with the addition of a fully-fledged childcare license, meaning parents can leave the site to attend meetings and run errands.

In Sydney’s inner west, Bubs and Boardrooms was one of the first of its kind and is soon re-opening in the CBD, while also planning to expand north to Brisbane.

“Carly and I first met at mother’s group,” tells Elizabeth Graham, Bubs and Boardrooms’ owner/founder.

“We were desperately searching for a solution that allowed us to be there for our kids, but at the same time progress our careers as working professionals.”

For self-employed parents or those wishing to transition back to work, the co-working spaces are a welcome addition to the child care landscape. But for those who don’t have the option to work remotely, nanny-sharing is becoming a popular, cost-effective alternative when day cares don’t meet their needs.

“My son Lucas has multiple food allergies (egg, dairy, wheat) and he is still mouthing objects at 19 months,” tells Sydney mum Charlotte Goh.

“I think it would be difficult to keep him in a day care setting at this age. Our local centre also has a minimum age requirement of two years.”

Nanny-sharing is becoming a popular, cost-effective alternative when day cares don’t meet their needs.

Lucas currently spends up to three days a week with his grandparents, but Charlotte is exploring other options, too.

“I'm so fortunate to have my family's support but it has been overwhelming at times for everyone. Things don't always go as planned, but I take each day at a time and we manage. I think a babysitting co-op or a share nanny are both fantastic options and it would be wonderful for Lucas to interact and learn from other people.”

For parents like Charlotte, who are teaching their child a second language, nanny-sharing is an increasingly attractive option.

“Today, we had a call from a parent wanting a Mandarin-speaking nanny to teach their child,” tells Nikita Cosgrave, client manager at Lullaby Share Nanny Sydney.

“If a parent is going to pay a bit more for having a qualified nanny instead of putting their child in childcare, they do ask for those added extras. They want to get the most out of it, so why not ask for a nanny who speaks another language to teach their child and introduce a different culture into their home?”

French and Italian speaking nannies are also in high demand, according to Nikita. Unlike sole charge nannies, nanny sharing allows two families to split the costs. Some parents alternate between the two homes, while others decide on one.

“Nannies are still educators – just in a home setting, so the child gets stimulation in their own home.”

For more information on Lullaby Nanny Share, visit lullabynannyshare.com.au. For details on BubDesk, go to bubdesk.com.au. And for information on the re-opening of Bubs and Boardrooms visit bubsandboardrooms.com.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @mariamdigges

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