My mother worked while I was growing up, back in the halcyon days of the 1980s. We lived in a small town located smack-dab in the geographic center of Maine, where I’m confident there weren’t all that many childcare options. Nonetheless, I managed to rack up a variety of caregivers by the time I entered kindergarten – including two nursery schools, several babysitters, and a few elderly family members. Once my school years began, I was periodically placed in the care of certain classmates’ mothers, who operated informal after-school programs and babysitting services out of their homes.

I’m sure some of these programs were more enriching than others, but the truth is that as the march of years rolls on, I retain fewer and fewer memories of anything that happened to me during my earliest years, back when the Berlin Wall stood and Ronald Reagan was president. Quite possibly, I watched cartoons of “Jem and the Holograms” and ate SpagettiOs all day. No matter, as I seem to have turned into a fairly functional adult.

I have thought a great deal about my mother’s childcare options in recent months, as we explore daycare options for our firstborn. Type A personality that I am, I dutifully followed the advice to register my growing belly on waitlists long before my daughter was formed, much less was ready for daycare. My husband and I thought it was ridiculous to fill out “TBD” to basic questions like “name” and “date of birth,” but nonetheless, we completed the necessary paperwork and congratulated ourselves on our preparation. Even the daycare operators we spoke to during my pregnancy assured us we had plenty of time.

Those parents reading already can sense the darkening skies on the horizon. My bouncing baby girl is 5 ½ months old now, and we are still playing a waiting game to see if she’ll be able to attend daycare as we had planned. Certainly, we are not the only ones. One daycare operator mentioned that she’d received dozens of inquiries — in just one week — regarding the waitlist for an infant slot. Another thanked me for my interest, but noted that she’d simply stopped taking additional names, as her roster was full for the next several years.

The economics behind the lack of supply are grim but understandable. A nanny for one or at most a couple of children can command $20 to $25 an hour in southern Maine. Meanwhile, daycare workers tasked with watching multiple children earn noticeably less. As available daycare slots become more and more elusive, the demand for private nannies and nanny shares grows, exacerbating the issue. At the same time, daycare is a near-necessity for many, and rising wages (however justifiable) for daycare workers will be passed along to families some of whom can ill-afford it.

We have a good support network and a fair amount of flexibility, so are more fortunate than many. I’m relatively confident that we will figure out the daycare situation. If not, however, I suppose there’s always  “Jem and the Holograms” and SpagettiOs.

— Special to the Telegram

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