''We would like to have another child but financially, at this stage, we probably couldn't afford to do it until he's at school.''
For Canberra mother of one Sophie Bhandari, the costs of childcare have created not just the standard modern dilemma of ''do I go back to work or not?'' but played a major part in family planning.
The finances of the system are also a burden in the life of Tim Cottrill, 26, who for seven years has worked as a carer at Nicholls Early Childhood Centre, where Mrs Bhandari's son Felix spends about 40 hours a week.
''Pay issues is a big factor because, at the moment, I live away from home but my parents help me out for rent, for bills, for food,'' he said. ''I'm looking to move back to Harden and commute for financial reasons.''
These are the contrasting needs to be balanced as the Productivity Commission begins its recently announced national review of the childcare and early education system.
But at the busy, not-for-profit centre at Nicholls, there is no dispute from Mrs Bhandari or the centre's long-time director, Avis Kerr, about the importance of the early education system and the need to fund the carers better. There is even agreement that Canberra has lower fees than other areas.
''We're lucky in Canberra because the fees are relatively a lot lower than in Melbourne and Sydney,'' Mrs Bhandari said. ''I know in Sydney you're basically paying private school fees to send your child to daycare.''
Mrs Bhandari and her public servant husband left relatives (and their childcare perks) on the central coast two years ago and pay a base fee of $386 a week for the care of Felix, minus a childcare benefit, and receive the maximum $7500 child rebate.
An ACT government survey found the average fee per day charged by centres in Canberra last year was about $85, a figure Children and Young People Minister Joy Burch said was lower than many suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne, where some parents pay well above $100 a day.
For Mrs Bhandari, the return to work after giving birth was something she needed ''to be a better mother''. But she said it had benefits for Felix, too.
''I sat down with his room leader and there is a clear structure, just like you'd have at school,'' Mrs Bhandari said. ''He's doing things that I couldn't do at home.''
Ms Kerr has spent 53 years in the industry - including time completing a teaching degree - and indicated the government needed to look at increasing funding to give carers improved wages.
''The people who sweep the roads, who empty the garbage bins, get paid more than the people here,'' Ms Kerr said. ''Pay them more, then they'll stay more and then we'll save more because we don't have to do more training.''
Mr Cottrill, who has a certificate III and diploma, said his take-home pay of $1300 per fortnight made living in Gungahlin tough.
The federal government's terms of reference have done nothing to encourage hopes for any future pay rises. They include no mention of pay levels for childcare staff and ask the Productivity Commission to '''consider options within current funding parameters''.