When Evie took on an administration job 18 months ago, she was sure her childcare arrangements would work out fine.

 When Evie took on an administration job 18 months ago, she was sure her childcare arrangements would work out fine.

Her four-year-old daughter, Audrey, had been born with cerebral palsy, but the disability was fairly manageable and the local childcare centre were more than happy to enrol Audrey.

They had a young care worker with experience in working with children with disability, who was enthusiastic about being the primary support person for Audrey while she was at day care.

Initially, it was a dream come true. Evie was able to return to work in a low-pressured job she liked. Her work colleagues were pleasant, her boss was a dream, and the work was easy for her as she had held far more senior roles with far more responsibility in previous jobs.

She was back at work, enjoying her newfound friends, the occasional lunch out, and an interesting working day.

“I was happy to be back in the workforce earning very much needed income to help with the family finances, as my husband’s job was not enough to enable us to comfortably meet out mortgage repayments and other living expenses,” Evie said.

“Also, we needed to save for some upcoming home modifications, a car that would take Audrey’s wheelchair, and other mobility and learning equipment – all a big extra expenses requiring two incomes.”

A year went by fairly smoothly and then came the winter of 2016. “It was a shocker in the day care centre,” Evie said.

“Week after week there were sick children coming in, spreading their germs and making other children sick.

“Parents sent their kids in with colds, with fevers, with infectious diseases like whooping cough and chicken pox. It was extraordinarily selfish of them. They obviously needed to work, but sending sick children to day care and making everyone else sick is just not acceptable.

“The manager was fantastic and sent messages home outlining the centre’s policy about not sending sick children to day care. She spoke to the worst offenders. She phoned families when it was clear their children were not well and tried to make them come and immediately collect their child from the centre.

“Some did and some didn’t. Some of the worst offenders were told they were not welcome to come back. It was very stressful for everyone involved, but for our family, it was a disaster.

“Audrey caught every sickness that was going around. It meant I had to take countless days off. It meant I had to leave work at the drop of a hat on lots of days, as Audrey had suddenly become sick – usually picking up someone else’s infection.

“I felt terrible asking my boss for time off every few days. I could see it was impacting on the whole organisation as I wasn’t able to finish key tasks and scheduled jobs that were a high organisational priority just fell of the radar.

“My boss was fantastic and gave me all the time I needed, but it was clear that the situation was not sustainable.

“If Audrey did not have a disability, the impact would have been much less. But there are so many more complications when your child already needs extra support and care just to be mobile, to talk and to eat.

“It got to the stage where she just did not want to go to day care anymore – it was so traumatic for her. It was sad, as she had loved it so much initially, but by the end of 18 months, she did not even want to get out of the car in the morning and just shook her head and cried ‘no mama…no mama ... I no go…

“I just didn’t have the heart to force her to go, so I would just have to ring work and have another day off.

“On some days I tried taking my computer home and working from home, but it was very challenging with a small child with such high support needs.

“I tried to reduce my hours to three days a week, but my boss would not support it, as the organisation needed the role to be full-time and they didn’t think that job sharing was an option. My boss felt it would have a negative impact on the organisation and open the floodgates to allow other parents to do the same.

“So I have had to resign and I am back to being a stay-at-home mother, with all the financial stress that causes.

“I have been searching for stay-at-home work options, and would love to start some kind of internet-based business, but I have no idea what that might be.

“I have responded to quite a few ‘work from home’ ads and found every single one to be a scam of one kind or another, so I am very wary of these now.

“I have no idea what the next couple of years will be like or how we will manage financially. I hope to be able to work again at some point – maybe when Audrey goes to school, but it will be harder as I will not have had continuity of employment and that won’t look great on my CV, so I will probably have to go for an even lesser skilled job. Before I had Audrey I was a senior manager.

“I think there should be more effort made to accommodate mothers who need part-time work – whether or not their child has health issues. It is just so unfair, as we have to give up our careers, our career advancement, and lose our super, struggle financially, and put our whole life on hold because there is no mandated way we can force employers to let us work part-time.”