Growing up on the cafe floor - how an absence of ECEC is impacting Mt Gambier
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Growing up on the cafe floor – how an absence of ECEC is impacting Mt Gambier

Growing up on the cafe floor – how an absence of ECEC is impacting Mt Gambier

by Freya Lucas

July 22, 2022

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) availability pressures in the regional South Australian community is impacting many in the community, including small business owner Chelsea Dunning, who has had to bring her daughter with her to work every day for the past year. 


With no available places for Aaliyah, despite joining all available wait when she was 16 weeks pregnant, Ms Dunning is “still not anywhere near getting a spot,” and has little other choice than to bring her along to work. 


Ms Dunning opened her cafe and became pregnant within months, and found herself “calling people between contractions” to get them to open the shop. 


Juggling a baby with a new business — also her first — has been an ongoing reality, one that shows little signs of changing for Aaliyah, who recently turned one, or her mum.


Ms Dunning got through the challenging early days with the support of her mother, who used a combination of annual and long service leave to allow her to return to work in her first six months of motherhood. 


“I was here but I was only helping with the orders and making sure the till and the book work was all done. So it wasn’t that full-on but it was still full-on,” Ms Dunning told the ABC.


Despite being grateful to have additional time with her daughter, there are times when the reality of having a baby at work comes crashing down, she continued.


“Being busy is normally a really good thing when you’ve got a business, but sometimes those busy periods line up when your baby needs you the most and that’s when it’s hard.”


Peak cafe times often coincide with Aaliyah needing a nappy change, a breastfeed or when she’s “crying and just wants to be on your hip”.


Ms Dunning often feels torn between making a choice that serves her child, or a choice that serves her business. With the help of her two sisters and her mother, she makes the best of the situation, supporting by either taking care of the baby, or taking care of the business, so that Ms Dunning can have time to “just be Mum.”


Her business has now grown to the point where she can employ two others, one of whom is a fellow young mother. 


To read Ms Dunning’s story in the ABC please see here

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