This Just Blind-Sided Me

As a professional in the field of women’s health, I felt fairly well-prepared for pregnancy and parenthood. I was enrolled in nursing school while working full-time, but my husband and I made the decision that I would quit my job after my maternity leave ended and then continue my studies while caring for my son. I was also waiting tables in the evening to make up for my lost income, and this situation quickly became unworkable for my family. My husband worked full-time days and we would just high-five on the way out the door. I'd be lucky if I could see him right before he went to bed. It was not great.

So when my son was four months old, we decided to look for child care. We got on waiting lists all over, from Brandon to Bridport to Bristol, but we soon realized that the spots simply weren’t available. I remember hearing whispers about the child care problem in Vermont, but I never worried too much about how it would affect me directly. I started to notice all the professional sacrifices that the moms around me made in order to find a workable child care situation. I had a couple of friends who were pregnant around the same time that I was, which was just fantastic, but I realized they had to either change their work schedules or change their jobs completely. They had to financially commit to something they couldn't necessarily financially commit to, but they had to do something to keep their professional path in place.

I also started to notice how often my friends and co-workers had to rely upon their extended families for child care because they couldn’t find it otherwise. I started to ask people, what do you guys do? A lot of people just say, “Oh I drop them off with my friend or my mom and I work part-time, then they drop them off with me, and everybody just trades kids.” I didn't realize how often that's the situation.

When I was at the office, I was so immersed in woman's health, but this just blind-sided me and I wondered, why isn't everybody talking about this?

The inability to find an open spot really limited my professional progress and placed a great strain on my family for quite a while. We’ve found reliable care now, and I’ve re-entered the workforce part time, but the stress surrounding child care affected us greatly during an otherwise joyous time of life. It's easy to talk about it now, but if you had talked to me about it when he was 8 months old, I probably would have cried.

 ~Shannon H., Middlebury

Has VT's child care crisis impacted your career?