When Johnny Met Rosie--Women in EMS Part 3: Child Care & Shift Work

EMS providers face many challenges when juggling childcare and shift work.


By the time I was pregnant with my son, I had been a night person for the better part of a decade. I worked nights by choice, not necessity. My life was developed around my lack of any organized sleep schedule. You know (or are) the breed. Night people cannot usually tell you the accurate date, because their shifts straddle two sets of numbers. Factor in shift work, when you work every other set of days, even those lose significance. Weekends don't mean that much to many EMS people--they're just days with more traffic, or less. Unless they work to counteract it, night workers have that slight pallor that comes from a life under artificial light. They are startled by bright colors and have a hard time navigating their own primary area during the daytime because it is unfamiliar terrain to them in the sunlight.

I spent a total of 14 years on nights, 7 pm to 7 am, and it remains my preference. I just prefer the rhythm and dynamic that comes with it, even if it is murder on your health and family life. Fortunately, my husband was of the same mindset, and we prowled the nights together, a happy pair of nightcrawlers eager to go home each sunrise and sleep the day away. Our entire routine revolved around a schedule that was essentially opposite the rest of the world, and that was just fine with us.

And then I had to go and get pregnant…

After the realization of this impending major life change came the obvious question: What are we going to do for child care? My husband and I worked a matching schedule--12-hour shifts, at night. Relatives were not an option; his lived 6 hours away and mine…well, you've never met my relatives or you wouldn't be asking that question.

Good friends will always help when you need them, but what you're looking at here is long-term commitment. This is a significant task, especially if you're considering maintaining an alternative schedule. There are the additional logistics of overnight arrangements, getting the baby to and from where they need to go and contingency plans for when something goes haywire. Without a formal arrangement, I'm not sure it's something that should be considered (at least if you want to keep the friendship).

Plus, I don't know about where you work, but here in the Garden State you will be hard-pressed to find a paramedic with only one job--most work at least two and in some cases three. Keeping all the schedules and availabilities balanced can be a Herculean task. It's even more fun when both of you are in the same business (see last month's article).

So what's a girl to do? Well, it's time to investigate reliable options and look for viable solutions that will not cripple you financially in the process.

How Bad Is It?

According to "Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2010 Update" prepared by NACCRRA (National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies), since 2000, the cost of child care has increased twice as fast as the median income of families with children. In 36 states, the average cost of center-based infant care exceeded 10% of the state's median income for a two-parent family. That's 10% of BOTH your salaries.

How Much Are We Talking Here?

 

  • The average annual day care center cost for full-time care of an infant ranges from $4,550 (in Mississippi) to more than $18,750 (in Massachusetts).
  • The average annual cost for full-time care in a family child care home for an infant ranged from more than $3,550 in South Carolina to more than $11,450 in Massachusetts.
  • The average annual cost for PART-TIME care for a family child care home for a school-age child ranged from more than $1,800 in Mississippi to more than $9,400 in New York.

 

That's for one child.

How Does That Compare?

 

  • Regardless of region, the average center-based child care fees for an infant exceeded the average annual amount that families spend on food.
  • Center-based child care fees for an infant exceeded annual rent payments in 24 states.
  • Center-based child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year old) exceeded annual rent and mortgage payments in 18 states.
This content continues onto the next page...