"It was just like the roof was going to cave in."
Ally Berthiaume's life path was a common one for native Vermonters: she moved out of state for college and grad school, but then returned home and started her family here.
She and her then-husband were proactive about finding child care as soon as they became pregnant. She remembers that “other parents and doctors were telling us right away, look for daycare early, start now.” Despite the fact that they started looking at the end of Ally's first trimester, they spent months looking for care with no leads and no hope.
Fortunately, an acquaintance knew of an opening, and Ally was able to secure a spot at an in-home child care facility for her son shortly before he was born. The location wasn’t ideal, but they were relieved to have found something. However, that relief was short-lived: within two months, her provider decided to close, giving them only two weeks’ notice to find a new spot.
Ally was devastated: “I was thinking, it just took us a majority of my pregnancy to find her, how on earth am I supposed to find care in two weeks? I knew what the shortages were like, I knew what it was like to get providers to call me back.” Once again, they scrambled, running to interviews and appointments on lunch breaks when they could, and once again they found a new child care spot.
But the cycle wasn’t over. In the first three years of her son’s life, he has been in four different child care facilities. Each time they received notice of a closure, Ally said, “it was just like the roof was gonna cave in.” They went through the stress of the search process again and again, later while Ally was also trying to establish herself in a new job.
Balancing work with this upheaval constantly put Ally in a difficult position. “I felt the stress of having two roles, both important. Obviously, being a mom will always trump the other, but you worry, what does that make you look like in the workplace?”
To add one final layer of complexity, Ally and her husband also recently divorced, and now she balances all of these stresses as a single mother. So far everything has worked out: her ex-husband is able to pay for child care, and they love their current child care provider, but Ally is constantly aware of how precarious her situation is. She says that sometimes the worry is too much: “You pray, you cross your fingers, you hold your breath nothing really horrible happens, but horrible things happen. That's a reality, so what's the plan? And I don't know that I have one.”