All of us, February 2023
My wife and I reached an important milestone as parents to start the school year, when our twins, the youngest of our five children, started kindergarten. For nearly 18 years, we’ve consistently had younger children, not yet school age, at home. And like many parents, my wife, Sarah, and I had to figure out how the most precious people in our lives – our kids – would be cared for, while we worked to provide for our family.
I remember those early years together. I had landed my first “real” job, which required a move to an unfamiliar community away from our families. We were on our own – and we kind of liked it. Making friends. Meeting neighbors. While Sarah was applying for nearly every teaching job within reasonable driving distance, we lived on one meager income. We were still getting by, still living carefree. Until we found out in addition to Sarah’s job search, we also needed to begin a child care search, as our firstborn would be joining us in August.
One month before our baby’s arrival, I had to inform my emotional and expectant wife that my National Guard unit would deploy to Afghanistan at the end of the year. Our priority quickly shifted from Sarah finding the “right” teaching job to finding the “right” child care for our daughter. Our carefree life had turned on its head.
By the grace of God, we found both an available child care and an understanding school district, which knew its newly hired kindergarten teacher would spend the first two months of a new school year on maternity leave. A few short months later, I left for a 16-month deployment overseas. Sarah and our 4-month-old daughter were relatively on their own. My wife’s ability to work was dependent on whether the baby was sick or child care was available.
Fortunately, as our family grew and our stations in life changed, we always found quality, caring child care providers. Then, our twins were born, and our middle child was 3 years old. My wife was teaching at the time. Through a combination of math and collective reasoning, we decided she would take a hiatus from the classroom and stay home with our kids. Thankfully, this was an option for our family and, thankfully, my wife has the patience, empathy and thoughtfulness required to do the job well. It’s not a job for everyone. God bless those up for the challenge.
Although my family’s need for child care is over, the need is still there. It is felt by other families across the state, in both rural and urban areas, and by employers across industries desperate for workers.
In this issue of North Dakota Living, you will read, and may be aware, of the need for quality child care in our state. North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have been concerned about child care for more than a decade, which you can read about on page 8, because our commitment to members goes beyond electricity. Providers are scarce, child care businesses are difficult to cash flow and costs have risen dramatically. It’s been called a “crisis,” and it should be treated like one. By all of us.
Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.