Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 8:48 PM on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Providing child care could go long way in helping parents make a difference

By Andrea Van Dinther

I was in a grove. I felt good. My husband left for two weeks to tag fish in Prince William Sound which left me solo with three kids and I was still on track. I admit some routines slipped away, but, others, like bedtime, I kept at all costs. While my husband was gone I managed to get three kids tucked in bed by 7 p.m. every night. I glowed a little bit with pride at this meager but oh so important accomplishment.

And then, WHAM! somebody said we had to change our clocks. Suddenly what was a cozy, feel-good-about-your-family time became an arguing, bumpy and terribly annoying time. Our bodies don't feel right, lunch-time sneaks up on us, and even with thick blinds the room feels too light. With this circadian challenge running amuck in my life and that of my children I am crabby.

We were on track.

Now I don't like complaining unless one is willing to role up one's sleeves and make a difference. I'd like to get involved and change our state's participation in this optional federal program. It makes no sense in the land of the midnight sun. However, I've realized there is a simple reason why children's and mother's needs are under-represented in our political landscape.


I am so bogged down with meeting our basic family needs that helping with politics feels overwhelming.

Thankfully, there is a group in town called Families First dedicated to helping with issues concerning young children. But if the emails that pass my way are telling of how things are going with this group I dare say they have one major challenge: parental involvement. As I dealt with our own family issues of three-against-one parenting a barrage of emails filled my box and opportunities to be heard and make a difference flew by my radar. Sorry I couldn't help, Lolita, (she is the powerhouse behind Families First). I do want to change the world. I want to be a good citizen and actually call Paul Seaton. But as any parent knows, mischief breaks out the second you answer the phone.

Legislators even came to town collecting input from parents, and if I could have made a 9 a.m. meeting with three sick kids, our voices could have been heard. The Department of Health and Social Services wanted parents' insight so badly they offered a $50 gift card for parents willing to attend a meeting. They still had a hard time drumming up participants.

There is no wonder mama's needs aren't met.

Did you know in France child care is provided just so mom can get out and relax? Seems like a waste of government money? Think about how much less depression and child abuse happens when mom's needs are met. In Georgia, a doctor wanted to study why the U.S. has the most advanced neo-natal care and yet a high infant mortality rate. It turns out we don't take good care of our moms compared to other "developed" nations. A basic nutrition program changed the numbers in that area. It wasn't rocket science and it didn't cost a bazillion dollars.

There are issues our area faces concerning mothers and children that I would love to help solve: affordable quality child care, safe sidewalks, safe playgrounds (my son spent our last trip to Karen Hornaday picking up used BB gun pellets and our favorite swings are surrounded on all sides by roads and not fences), and livable wage jobs with flexible hours for parents, just to name a few.

We need to organize child care to get parents together to help solve these problems (or maybe even to let parents out to relax every once and while). One friend told me the story of actually making it to a meeting (with three kids) to help improve a park. She found it impossible to share any insight, as she had to watch her kids at the said unsafe park.

Alas, another mother's voice not heard.

How do busy parents get a chance to be heard? How do we ensure our children no longer endure circadian upheaval every spring? How do we advocate for ourselves when we are so busy with the blessed daily grind?

Hats off to Families First for their efforts regarding children and, therefore, Homer's future. Thank you for caring about our youngest citizens. Plan a meeting with child care provided and I will call my friends to join in on the event.

In the meantime, I'll keep my ringer off and tend to those youngest citizens, mama-style. I'll be feeding my kids and dreaming of a spring when I have the time to call my representative, when I don't have to change my clock, when nigh-nigh time goes back to being a peaceful story time, and I go back to being a less grumpy mom.

Andrea Van Dinther has lived in Homer for six years. She writes of herself: "She has three talented children and one handsome husband. She is a stay-at-home mom with three jobs on the side. And, she adores this little community on the beach."