A few years ago, I became pregnant, and it completely turned my life upside down. It happened by accident, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I was petrified. I was single, and I didn’t have a steady job. My husband had left me a few years prior and I had lost my home in the divorce. I was living with roommates. But I was already thirty-two and couldn’t live with the idea of abortion.
I had been doing temp work in a factory off and on, and when I started to get uncomfortable standing on concrete floors all day I decided it was time to stop. I got a job doing data entry when I was five months pregnant and moved in with a friend’s mother. Seeing that I was miserable with my situation, another friend offered me a room in her place in St. Catharines, so I left my old life behind and had my baby in a new city, far from family and all my other friends. My friend left to go to school in another city, and I found a place of my own. By this time, my unemployment had run out, and my only income came from welfare. I had some help from the local food bank, and the United Church. But there were nights when my son had a fever and I had to borrow $10 to get medicine for him. I did not want him to get stuck in the cycle of poverty. I had been thinking about going back to school for many years, but when I was married I had no motivation. Now I was determined to become self-reliant so that I could set a good example for my son, and never have to depend on someone else for my livelihood.
My original plan was to become a Veterinary Technician, but although I had a university degree, I didn’t have the grade twelve science courses that were prerequisites. The Lifetime Learning Centre had academic upgrading courses, and because I was on Ontario Works, the fees were waived. The bonus was, right there on campus, they had the Sven Dohnberg Centre, a daycare for my son, who was now still only seven months old. I signed up for Chemistry, Biology, and Math, and put my son on the waiting list for the daycare. They called me with an opening for him just in time for me to start classes two weeks late.
I managed to catch up in record time, however, and while I was there, I changed my mind several times about where I wanted to go to college. I found out that I was still very smart and did well in school. The teachers were wonderful as well, and encouraged me daily. All this gave me the confidence I needed to get to where I am today.
It was my son’s progress at Sven Dohnberg that finally gave me the direction I needed. The caregivers there were really amazing, with the children and their parents. I was able to stop feeling guilty about stopping breastfeeding so that I could go back to school, because he really enjoyed being there and was learning so much himself.
I was so impressed with the work they did, and how much they seemed to enjoy it, that I decided that I wanted to be an ECE. I stayed at the LLC for another semester, and took a parenting course and a co-op with an Elementary School. The next fall I entered college and I have now completed the ECE program at Mohawk.
I am certain that if I hadn’t been able to get daycare I would not have been able to return to school and would not now be working full time. I would likely still be on OW, depressed and without hope. My son would not be the bright and striving young man that he is, and I fear he would be stuck in the cycle of poverty. I have also learned that quality affordable child care is extremely important to child development, families (especially those below the poverty level), and the economy. Canada is lagging far behind other western countries. It’s time to change this!!
Story submitted by Robin Rintoul