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August 14, 2008

Preschool or Daycare? Not Enough of Either

Andrea"Our waiting list is currently about 2 years long," the preschool/daycare administrator informed me.

My mouth dropped open and I lost all sense of inner monologue. "You're kidding me!"

"No. We have over 400 families waiting for a spot, and we even have unborn infants on the waiting list."

Registering kids for daycare and preschool while in utero is probably not a new phenomenon, but it's new to me, not that anything regarding preschool or daycare registration should surprise me anymore. People camp out overnight to get a spot in a preschool or daycare, so registering kids before they are even born just seems to fall right in line with that.

Knowing all of the craziness involved in preschool registration and how anal I am about making sure we have a spot somewhere, one would think I would not be calling schools in August, but alas I am. The folks at the preschool where we are currently registered accidentally put our son on the wrong wait list.

We requested a five-day class, but the lottery left us with a spot in a two-day class and wait-listed for other classes with more days. They called me last Monday to say that had a spot for him in another two-day class with different hours, which we did not request or even want. I asked why he was on a two-day wait list because he wasn't supposed to be, but for some reason they had no record of our original class requests. I was mentally beating myself up for not photocopying the registration papers before submitting them, but you can bet that next time I will copy the whole packet before submitting. My frustration with the whole process was at boiling point and if it wasn't August already I would have been tempted to chuck the whole thing and start over.

I have to be pragmatic, so I'm trying to come up with alternate plans, just in case. I went back to work this summer, and though we do not want full-time daycare, preschool is essential. I called around and found a good school with a shorter wait list for a three-day class, so I filled out the forms and crossed my fingers. No news yet, but we'll have a good school for our son either way, just hopefully with more school days.   

The incident just proved to me once again that there isn't enough preschool and child care available in our country, affordable or not. If I could ask for just one thing from McCain and Obama and our political representatives, it would be this: Please find a way to fund more preschools and child care centers for families who want and need to work. We are just one of the millions of families in this country that made the decision to give up one parent's job because of the enormous cost or lack of options in childcare and early childhood education.

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