Discussing what's right till there's nothing left.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Daycare Travesty Repeated Daily

I always found the concept of daycare repugnant. My mother was a stay at home saint, sacrificing career and increased wealth for the good of her children. She was always there for us, attending to our bumps and bruises, our triumphs and failures. Dad carried the wage earning load. He did fine.

When I was young, putting children in daycare was rare. Now it's a billion dollar industry and as commonplace as buying a new car.

So what goes on at daycare and how are today's children faring. I took a close look and what I found was troubling.

A female co-worker provided my first glimpse of some troubling trends. After giving birth she couldn't wait to get her son into daycare as quickly as 3 weeks after his birth. Then, when her next vacation came up, she continued to drop him off each day so she "could get more done". The idea left me cold. Now I know someone who works at daycare and says that is very common.

She says mothers routinely drop the kids off while they take a day off and go shopping. Likewise, when Dad shows up in plaid pants, a golf shirt and cap you know where he's headed. "If you need me call my cell, I'll be at the..."

Equally disturbing is the lack of warmth when picking children up at the end of the day. With the days workload still churning in their minds, it doesn't even occur to these people to ask the child how their day was or give them a hug. Nor do they inquire of the caregivers how the child did that day. They just lead them to the car and stick them in their seats with all the emotion of a delivery truck driver. That the revolving door of overstressed daycare workers means many different folks, many in training, watch the kids, seems to be of little concern.

Not all are like that. Some hire nannies to drop off and pick up the kids and watch them through the weekend as well. It's a wonder the kids even know who their parents are. One dad was repulsed when he realized his child was sucking on another's pacifier. The daycare workers kind of shrugged and thought "if he only knew what these kids pass around on a given day."

Then there's the illness deception trick. Since they know you shouldn't drop a child off with a fever, they stuff the little kids with Tylenol so as to avoid detection for a couple of hours until mom is safely at her desk. "What? Johnny has a fever? He was fine this morning!" But the daycare providers have seen the pattern enough to know the exact amount of time Tylenol holds off a fever. They ask the older kids "what color pill did mommy give you today? Was it pink?" Mom and Dad aren't fooling anyone. They're just hoping the call comes late enough that they can stall their way to the end of their workday.

Career women aren't quite as nurturing as they think sometimes. Nor as bright. One Ivy League professor type stopped to instruct a daycare worker how she wanted the child's clothes changed midway through the day so that the first half day's clothes could be preserved in case the child ever turned up missing or lost. The woman provided a plastic bag to deposit the clothing in. This isn't something that couldn't be handled at home? You don't routinely have such clothing articles around? What, do you do laundry every night?

Some stories are sadder. Like the premature boy who was sent off to daycare with an oxygen mask only 7 months after being born months premature. "It's OK to remove the mask when you change him," mother explained. But when the 20-something daycare worker tried that the boy began to turn blue. So they decided to leave it on. This is a daycare center, not a medical facility. What kind of parents drop a child off in that shape for the day at a totally unqualified facility?

Then there are the kids who show up with other suspicious conditions or injuries. It should be no surprise that some percentage of these kids aren't loved and suffer neglect.

There are truly hardship cases where professional daycare is needed. But in most cases daycare is the option for the upwardly mobile, those who value things and places over children. Could you do without a few things in order to spend time nurturing your own child? If you didn't want children, why'd you get married and have them?

My wife left her job when we had our first child and has been home for the birth and rearing of all 7. Has it been hard at times? Do we sacrifice some things? Sure. But isn't that what marriage and family are supposed to be about in the first place?

What kind of rude, self-centered drones are we thrusting on the world? Ones whose first memories are that their parents didn't love them enough to spend time raising them.

My mom passed away less than a year ago. her birthday was yesterday. Happy Birthday mom.


  1. I find it interesting that for someone who has zero experience with daycare would have these assumptions.

    I have twin boys who are five and two older children in their teens. I stayed at home with my older two and have had to work full time since my little guys were 8 weeks old. Not out of choice, out of necessity. I was lucky enough to be able to work very early in the day, rush home for my partner to go to his second shift job. This worked until my boys were 18 months old.

    Since then, they have been daycare kids. My sons are in an EXCELLENT family day care. They know how to share, take turns, they are exposed to other children and have had to learn how to function in a group setting. This small daycare has assisted us in so many ways I cannot begin to write it all here.

    You have an idealized version of what stay at home parents are and do. I know many, many moms and/or dad who don't have to work and have their kids plopped in front of the tv 90% of the time. These same kids cling and cry to mommy when she wants a breather or has to run an errand without them.

    There is a balance to be struck. Perhaps the real argument should be about why the cost of living has become what it is and our wages didn't rise with it necessitating a two-income household? What has changed that forces this decision on parents who would rather have one stay at home with their children?

    We live in a time where women are choosing career and kids. I wonder what it is about this empowerment that scares you though? The thought of staying home and raising seven kids is actually my version of hell! I jest, I jest. To each their own.

    We lucked out with excellent care while I am off 30 hours a week earning a paycheck and insuring that if anything were to happen to my partner, I could support us. I have a degree. I like my job. I love my kids. They love me right back too. They draw pictures of how much they love me every day at daycare even.

  2. I think I gave enough clues that I was talking abut an actual daycare and not hypothetical. And yes, I was talking about the idealized situation. Not the mess that society has created.

    And why is it do you think that wages have been so severely depressed for the last 40 years? Might it be because twice as many people are in the labor force? Might that also be a reason why unemployment fluctuates so wildly? Too much supply and not enough demand? You're a bright girl. Did you take economics?