For the third night this week, I’m awake at 3 a.m. How is it that my day can be so physically exhausting – lift baby, entertain baby, change baby, feed baby, put baby to sleep, and repeat – and yet my nights are spent in the tortuous search for rest? Tonight, Craig’s snoring, Elle’s teeth grinding, and the dog’s panting were no match for the incessant and annoying sound of my own thoughts. This week, they’ve really ganged up on me during the wee hours. My internal litany is as good as caffeine, as far as I can tell. Because here I am, at 2:59 a.m., unable to sleep.
My mother had the same problem when I was growing up. Except she wasn’t a writer, so she didn’t have a quiet activity (like tap-tapping away on a computer) to occupy herself when the swell of motherly concern washed over her and ejected her pajama-ed self from her bedroom in the middle of the night. So she cleaned the house. Vacuuming wasn’t out of the question at 3 a.m. when my mother couldn’t sleep.
As a teenager, I swore I would never vacuum in the middle of the night. I have so far kept that pledge. Except tonight, instead of attending to the cleanliness of the carpet, I am writing a manifesto that will be printed in the newspaper. Vacuuming is probably a safer option. But it’s 3 a.m., that mystical hour when a person’s nighttime anxieties win say-so over their better judgment. So here goes.
The root of my recent bout of insomnia lies in the fact that we still have no daycare for our daughter. So instead of counting sheep, I count the number of months Elle has been on waiting lists for nursery school. It’s around 17. And then I count the number of hours before I need to get up, so that I can actually get some writing done before the baby’s awake. It’s about three. Next, I calculate the hours I’ve slept. Tonight, it was approximately two-and-a-half.
When you have no daycare, you get to spend lots of time with your baby. And that is wonderful. You also get to spend lots of time telling your employer that you can’t work, or calling people to see if they can watch your kid so you can work, or lying awake in bed, contemplating ways for work to work out for your family.
There are hundreds of parents whose kids are on waiting lists for daycare in Telluride. They all must feel the same anxiety when considering their family’s future here. Because for an average young family to be able to live here, both parents likely need to be able to work. And to be able to work, they must be able to put their child in daycare.
I’ve done the working-from-home thing for seven months, since Elle was three months old. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had that option, although with the onset of baby-turning-toddler it’s getting more and more difficult to multitask (as in, work while caring for a child who loves to eat pennies, yank on power cords, and snatch knives out of open dishwashers. Baby-proofing, I’ve discovered, is a chore that has no end.) During the winter, however, I work another job on the ski area, which has traditionally helped us get through the lean months of the spring off-season before my husband can get to work landscaping in the summer. It’s a job I happen to love, and so far this winter, have been able to show up to exactly seven times.
Creativity is the key to uncovering solutions to the ski town lack-of-daycare dilemma, people tell me. Friends have offered to take care of Elodie, but they all have to pay their mortgages too, and like most people around here, have little actual free time outside of their work schedules to do good deeds for their daycare deficient friends.
I’ve received screaming deals from local babysitters, who have quoted me $12/hour to take Elodie. I’m not a mathematically brained person, but when I’m lying awake for hours at night, I can figure it out: My hourly wage at Telski ($13.50 before taxes) minus cost of babysitter ($12) equals no babysitter (and no work.)
Perhaps all of us needing childcare could create a cooperative, it has been suggested. While this is a good idea, I have not yet seen it take shape. That’s because many of the people who don’t currently have daycare for their kids also no longer have jobs, so their need for eight-hour-a-day childcare is limited. While I haven’t given up on this cooperative concept, the only childcare option that has come to fruition for us this winter has been in the form of Grandma, driving six hours one-way, to watch Elle. Hooray for grandmas. And while seeing my mom this often has been nice, she, too, has a life (outside of midnight vacuuming sessions and caring for Elle so I can go to work.)
This November, Telluride parents were teased with ballot question 1A, the Little Mill for Little People. It would have provided funding for more daycare centers, training for early childhood educators, and ultimately would have been a big step toward helping allay many regional parents’ daycare dilemmas – all for around $30 a year for a home valued at $500,000. I was a bit surprised that a community that had rallied so passionately behind purchasing a $50 million playground for its kids would then vote down a measure that would, for a lot less money, provide quality early childhood education for those kids – while giving their parents a fighting chance at continuing to live and work in Telluride.
It is indeed true that one must make some sacrifices if one is to live in a ski town. I highly prefer my sacrifices be in the form of a smaller house and older car, and not in the quality of care for my child. I hope my neighbors, parents or not, feel the same way. It truly does take a community to raise a child, and Telluride should be able to look back on the accomplishments of its progeny with pride. To do that, the future of this community needs to include kids. So, it must also include support for working parents.
I know that soon, the sun will peek over the ridge above our house, its brightness bringing with it the ability to silence the internal cacophony that seems so deafening at 3 a.m. Elle and I will go about our day, I will get some work done, and we’ll look forward to grandma’s arrival next week. And I will hold onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get the call: Elodie Prohaska has just won a spot in our local daycare center!