My partner and I both worked for the same employer and we were entitled to share 18 weeks at full pay. We took 36 weeks at half pay and split it between the two of us. We weren’t eligible for the Centrelink ‘Parental Leave Pay’ because of my income the previous financial year.
If we had been eligible my partner would have taken it; instead we were both back at work full time when our daughter was about seven months. If our incomes were reversed, I would have been able to take paid parental leave, but the system is not designed for the birth mother to be the primary earner. I struggled with being at home with a baby and was happy to go back to work, and my partner thrived in his role as a stay at home dad.
At the end of his paid employer leave, my partner took the two weeks of Dad and Partner Pay that he was eligible for. His employer tried to refuse his request but he pushed back and took the leave.
We have been lucky and have been able to access early learning with a big, new centre. I would have liked a centre closer to home but we took what we could get. We got the days we wanted and were able to start immediately. My daughter absolutely loves it there. We started off on four days a week childcare and each worked a nine-day fortnight, but it was hard to manage. She now loves the structure of full time daycare and it’s made everything easier for us at home.
We balance work and family life with great difficulty! Exclusions from daycare due to sickness throw a spanner in the works every time. My mum (who lives four hours away) is an amazing help. My partner and I both work from home semi frequently and use our home days to get little jobs done around the house (I do laundry, he does maintenance and we have a cleaner and someone to mow the lawn).
We pay $900 a fortnight in childcare. I could rant about this forever. The hardest thing financially was the increase from four to five days. As the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is calculated based on hours, and the centre is open eleven hours a day, when we added the fifth day we basically started paying full fees for the 10th day each fortnight.
This is because, whether we use eleven hours a day or not, they are counted as used up, so we don’t actually get a 50% discount.
I wish the CCS was less complex as it is hard to explain to people what makes childcare expensive. Labor’s promised changes to CCS should make a huge difference to our family, but I worry that centres will pocket the money and not pass it on to educators or parents.