by Alicia Mayberry

How has affordable access to childcare impacted my life? The easy answer is that childcare allows me to go to work and to contribute to society in a way that is meaningful to me. The more complicated answer is that access to child care gives me the freedom to be exactly who I am, without guilt. The hard truth is that no can be their best when they are war with themselves. You have to be happy to raise happy children. For me, this means impacting the community outside my home, it means reading books, it means giving myself space to be creative.

When I decided to become a mother, I thought I was 100% ready. I had whole Pinterest boards dedicated to “Mommy and Me” craft projects and tutorials on how to make instruments out of paper towel rolls. What else was there to parenthood? As my belly grew, and my body became slow and cumbersome, I came to the realization that my life would never be wholly mine again. It was a stark truth that I was in no way prepared for. Like many people, it had taken me a very long time to find “me” and to be happy with who I was, instead of who I had the potential to be. I was ready for a child, but I terrified of losing that freedom.

Turns out, I didn’t have that much to be worried about. Having a child is both easier and more difficult than you can image, but it doesn’t fundamentally change who you are. It does, however, change almost everything about your life very quickly. The big things I had prepared for. I’d obviously be turning down invitations to go clubbing for a while, but I hadn’t anticipated the impact a child would have on the tiny things in my routine that I didn’t even have to think about before. Things like picking up milk from the grocery store, grabbing a morning coffee, or going to the gym. All of these things become instantly more complicated when juggling a baby carrier, a diaper bag, and a breast pump. It’s exhausting.

Daycare creates space in my life that is just for me. To me, affordable access to childcare means being the best mother I can be because I’m not drained and because I get to keep doing the things that make me “me.”