Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Balancing Act

Someone on the interview committee wore a suit. I fit in!

No one spiked their hair for the occasion, though.

I want the job, but I want it at a few thousand dollars over the baseline salary in order to take home money of any significance after deductions for child care.

I've spent the last 48 hours calling day care centers in the area. Apple Tree, the center a block away from my prospective work building, charges 140$ a week for half time care. That averages $606 a month for Evvy. This is the center where teachers receive benefits, and almost everyone has a degree in childhood education. They boast a state-of-the-art security system in a brand new building, and a peanut-free environment. The center is also attached to the city parking garage in which I would park every day for $60 a month. Everything about the center sounds perfect except for the money. The cost of day care plus preschool for the four-year-old amounts to three times what I will take home in actual cash at the baseline salary listed for this job.

But, there are other options for child care. There are our local neighborhood daycare centers that charge a much more reasonable rate. The people who answer the phone sound harsh, stressed out, busy. (At Apple Tree and "La Petite Academy" the women who answered the phones sound as if they've all the time in the world. They are slow and measured, with a sing-songy cadence to their speech.) The people who answer the phones at the cheaper centers are "not sure" what to charge for the hours I'm looking for, or if they can accomodate me. Their directors might not be there today to answer these queries. Their teachers do not hold degrees in higher education. They are not peanut free. They let the two-year-olds watch Baby Einstein while the teachers "clean up from lunch." Clearly, they are lower budget. Clearly, they are stretched for help.

Listening to the Apple Tree teacher made me imagine Evvy playing in a beautiful brick courtyard on fall mornings with her peers, and playing in a brightly lit classroom full of colorful pictures and books. I see her besmocked at Art Time, lavishing paint onto an easel and smiling with great satisfaction.

I picture her at "Enchanted Neighborhood" playing in a dark crowded room, on dirty carpet--peanut butter oil-stains smudged onto all the toys. I see her crying. I see tired, underpaid caregivers not noticing her--they're busy with emergencies: a potty accident, the "family-style" bowl of corn was overturned at the lunch table.

Obviously I'll visit the prospective centers. I may hate the vibe I get from the toddler teacher at Apple Tree. I may love "Kiddie Konnection." And if so, I'll be taking home pay that equals _almost_ as much as I'll pay in child care.

Now I wait. The search committee said it might be weeks till I hear from them, that the hiring process always "takes a week longer than expected." Here are my questions in order of occurrence:

Will they offer me the job?

If so, what salary will they offer?

If it's not enough, how do I negotiate for more without turning them down if they can't give me what I want? (Because at the end of the day, I'm the one who needs them more than they need me.)

No comments: