Last week, after only two shifts, a new babysitter we had hired quit. She was an older woman, retired, and cited that she felt too much anxiety and could not keep up with our two year-old daughter.
A day later, I permanently cancelled a Thursday evening class I had been trying to offer out of my home for the last three months and for which I have given up another class elsewhere to pursue offering. I had no one to watch my daughter during that time when my husband has to travel, which is roughly once every month or two for an entire week. He is away this week, as I write.
We are incredibly fortunate to be able to afford childcare at all, to have such a luxury here in Switzerland. The cost of at-home childcare in Zürich BEGINS at 25 Francs an hour (roughly the same in US dollars) and goes up to 35 or more Francs, depending on the childcare provider. A daycare service, which we are also fortunate to afford, requires Miya attend at least two days a week and costs us over 12,000 Francs a year for those two days. My dear humans in the US who tend to confuse Switzerland with Sweden may be surprised to read this. This country is certainly nowhere near Scandinavia in geography or social policy.
My experience here is not unique. I know this is true with my friends and family in New York, Seattle, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other places, especially big cities, in the world. But! It should be noted... NOT Stockholm. NOT Berlin. NOT Oslo. A friend of mine in Berlin pays less than 100 Euro a month for her son’s childcare, five days a week. In Germany, where women also get a full paid year off from work after birth, childcare is subsidized.
My ability to do any work at all now depends entirely on other people. I teach when other people are not working because this is when my husband can be with our daughter (and often when other people can make time to practice yoga). I recognize that the trends of the world deeply affect how we raise our children. We move away from “home” to pursue our dreams and therefore leave the possibility to have our families and friends help with the care of our children. I do not regret the decisions I have made, but I struggle with the ramifications, as many women and families do. My language and cultural barriers provide an even greater challenge and I yearn for the familiarity of home on many occasions
This year I made the bold move of opening a studio in my home in an attempt to make the difficult and prohibitively expensive reality of WORK into a brighter possibility. In some ways this move has been successful. I have a warm, intimate space to offer transformative work, and my client base has grown considerably. However, my capacity to offer a varied public schedule has hit one roadblock after another.
I chose to open this space in my home so that I could be with my daughter more than if we paid for more days of daycare, and to be very close to her during the times I was working. I also wanted her to feel she could be integrated into what I do, to feel connected to me beyond home life. I wanted her to see that I am not only her “Mama”, but I am someone who loves what I do for work and that I contribute to the world through this process.
Since Miya was born less than three years ago, we have had over ten different people help us with in-home childcare. A few were amazing with her, but they all moved away (a sign, perhaps?). We had to let two of them go for various reasons (conflicts of personality, inability to show up on time, Miya would cry when she found out the person was coming, among other reasons) and the rest found full-time work or no longer had time when we needed it. I have posted signs at another studio where I teach and I have repeatedly asked students and other acquaintances for referrals or recommendations. I have stopped short of hiring anyone from an online service, based on my strong desire to have some kind of personal connection to whomever will be spending considerable time with my child.
More than ten people is an awful lot for a human being who has been on the planet for 30 months. It seems to me, actually, insane.
We now have one woman who is wonderful with Miya, and whom Miya seems to love. I feel that finally, maybe, we are in a place where I can relax and make some real plans to WORK. I look ahead at my calendar for January and think that perhaps there is a possibility to offer some public classes that I had hoped would be available beginning in May… then June… then September…
Of course, anything can happen… and when it does, my work will suffer.
I choose to be a mother who works. I choose to be a worker who mothers. It makes me feel whole and deeply purposeful to offer my talents to others, to help other people feel good in their bodies and hearts and minds. The exorbitant cost of childcare that we are able to afford is worth that to me, but the difficulties and the “either/or” scenario that this world gives me and other women like me is not fair or ok. It should not be this difficult for a mother, for a woman, for anyone, to mother and WORK.. so that she can build the HOME she so wishes for her family