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[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: An adult with shoulder length dark hair holds a child; both look smiling at the camera.]
Billie Spears's picture

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I thought I had plenty of time to find childcare. I was lucky enough to be able to take 12 weeks off from work so I wouldn't need childcare right away after the baby was born. 

I was completely wrong. 

No one told me that I needed to start looking for infant care before I even thought about getting pregnant. 

I knew what to look for when it came to quality care because I work in the childcare field. I started calling around to different locations when I was 7 months along and this is where the panicking started to happen. Every place I called had a waitlist. Waitlists that people had been on for over 1 year! This was when I knew I shouldn't have waited, and I should have been calling a lot sooner than I had. 

As I started calling more and more places, the price of these places started getting higher and higher. I knew that I wouldn't be able to afford $280 a week for childcare. My entire paycheck plus some of my husband’s paycheck would be going to pay the monthly childcare fees. What was the point of continuing to work if in the end I wasn't going to be making money, but instead would be in the negative. Working in the childcare field, I knew that I could stay home with my baby and help her meet all the necessary developmental milestones, but, that for my own mental health, I also needed to go back to work. I knew my baby would need the social skills of interacting with other kids that I couldn't do on my own. 

I kept checking in weekly with all the places that I had put myself on a waiting list. In that time I found out that one center had closed, and two other centers continued to tell me there wouldn't be a spot available until August 2017. 

My daughter was born in January of 2017. I dropped all my standards of quality care and started calling anyone and everyone who might have an available spot. 

I continued looking every day while on maternity leave and visiting centers. Many centers that when I walked in I was terrified to leave my child there, but it was in our price range and they had immediate openings. I knew I needed to find something soon because my time off work was about to end. Luckily, I ended up finding childcare one week before having to return to work. I couldn't be happier with the place that I send my daughter. She is now 2 and her daycare provider is everything I wanted and needed in my daughter’s life. I got lucky in the end, but I know many mothers out there don't get as lucky. 

It shouldn’t come down to luck when it comes to the well-being of our kids and families. Parents like me shouldn’t have to get on the waitlist before they even get pregnant or spend months worrying and stressing about how to piece together care instead of enjoying those first sweet few months.

Our kids and families deserve better. 

Want to speak out by sharing your own experience, too? Click here to share your story (and tell us about it in the comments below) to help show our leaders that high-quality, affordable childcare is a priority for families across the nation:

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