Friday, December 7, 2012

The Mommy Wars: What we really should be asking ourselves

This is not a post to call child care workers "evil"  or parents who choose child care "negligent."  Really it's a post defending the notion that daycares in particular are not good for children.  Because ultimately the question that should be asked is whether or not a parent being around more is the best for their child.  And the answer of course is yes.

Prior to the sexual revolution, we wouldn't really be having this conversation.  Most children were cared for completely by their families.  It was rare that a child had to be cared for by someone else at any point.  It was the same for homeschooling.  Prior to the industrial age, most children were educated at home.  Yet to homeschool now or to stay-at-home at great expense to one's pocket book is called into question more and more.

Full disclosure:  I was in day care age age 6 and then in home child care, which is different.  At the daycare my brother who had hearing problems and therefore had speech issues shut down.  He resorted to biting when he was frustrated.  Additionally, the daycare was a franchise.  My daycare swindled my mother and several other parents.  The franchisee ended up in jail.  I don't think my mother ever got her money back.  It was then that my mother switched us over to in home child care.  My babysitter would load us on the public school bus at her home (which is not legal) and during the time we were at her home she mostly sent us outside into her backyard to play.  She was a nice person but she had her own three children, myself and my brother, my friend and her two sisters, my other friend and her sister, and various other infants and children.  She was swamped.  Most summers she sent us outside with cups and large water bottle, and turned on tv for the little children. 

I also worked in child care.  I cared for children both within my own home and at a daycare facility, preschool, and summer camp.  I've been caring for children since 12 and have a degree in education.  So when I say that I don't think daycare workers are evil I am talking about myself.  I also still maintain that daycares should be last resorts.  I've seen childcare workers loose their cool, forget to do things that they should be doing, talk about there weekend escapades in great detail around children, cuss, etc etc. 

I also sent my child to daycare for a month where he 1) had a bleach stain on his pants which meant they didn't wipe down the diaper changing table completely dry and they used a bleach/water concentration that was too high 2) was extremely exhausted and I've never seen my child that way before or since 3) and my child came home for several days with inexplicable red eyes.  He does not have any allergies that I'm aware of despite what the director told me.  And the daycare worker who used to be my co-worker told me he was simply tired as the excuse for him constantly rubbing his eyes.  Nobody called me.  I worked there and knew some of his "teachers."

I've also sent my child to preschool with extra clothes and diapers.  He's come home never changed after four hours completely soaked including leaking through his shorts. The child to adult ratios are extremely high there with about 3 children to adults.  Yet nobody noticed.  Most of the adults are students in college.  And the girls to my annoyance fawn way too much over him and the other children.  I imagine a rude awakening when they have their own classroom or children.

I wish childcare was perfect.  I wish that I could talk about more positive experiences.  But the truth is most of the time childcare and even school isn't pretty.  The reality is that parents are given the responsibility for caring for their children and no person can completely replace that.  The point is not to bash childcare.  Certainly there are providers who are awesome.  The point is to open up the dialogue that childcare does have problems.  This is manifestly worse when your child cannot communicate that their childcare provider scared them (intentionally or not) or they had their diaper on too long today etc etc.

Are parents perfect?  No.  But since God gave us these children we are more perfect for them than anyone else.  You simply cannot replace bonding time with a parent with someone who is not a family member.  Even if you have a friend who watches your child (as I have done) people move away and children don't necessarily remember them.  So it's not really true bonding like that of a parent.

The other point of this post is to point out that we really need more family-friendly laws on the books like extended maternity leave with pay, more job flexibility so more moms can work from home and perhaps have a nanny help out....  I could go on. 

We need to cool our heads a little bit about childcare and to be completely honest with ourselves about why this is even an issue.  And I think the finger pointing needs to stop.  You may disagree because you've had a great experience, did your homework, etc.  But so have I and so have others.  Plus I have provided childcare yet still maintain that I don't want my children looked after by a non-family member.  At least acknowledge that there is definitely some room for improvement.

6 comments:

  1. "The point is to open up the dialogue that childcare does have problems."

    I don't think anyone disputes this point. My issue is when a person (not you, just in general) makes the claim that ALL daycare is bad. To me, that's like saying that ALL parents are abusive. Sure, some are, but not all.

    My older two have attended daycare centers before. I had a negative experience with one (at which time we pulled our daughter out and found a different center) but we never had a problem with the other two we used.

    And there are (in theory) systems in place to report poor daycares and shut down the bad ones. Like CPS, it's not a perfect system and can be improved.

    If the "Daycare is Evil" brigade (tongue-in-cheek) wants to take up a collection to pay off our student loan debt (and find my husband a better-paying job while they're at it) so that I can stay home with my kids, I'll gladly provide my PayPal information.

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    1. It certainly isn't all bad in the sense that they are doing something wrong but it isn't necessarily good for a child's well-being for a variety of reasons either.

      As for the infractions, the state regulators get reports from parents which they will immediately investigate. But they write down every small infraction so 1) it's hard to tell if something was immediately remedied like an employee being immediately fired when it was discovered that they faked their diploma (which happened to us) or when a child smears poop in the bathroom and the investigator notices it immediately after the child leaves and so they have to write it up too 2) sometimes it's a parents word over the facility 3) and if we knew the investigator was in the building we would immediately scramble to make sure every t was crossed even if it wasn't.

      The regulations on daycares are strict so even if you research a childcare facility they will always have something on record. That's from the inspectors themselves. They are required to write something so they will nit pick everything. They even check the level of sand underneath swings to not allowing wading pools used as sand pits at in home child care. I can send you the link to the state rules if you're interested.

      But that is of course if the state is regulating the child care provider at all. When I was watching the two girls I never had to report anything because the law allows you to watch up to four children for pay. And of the people I worked for..one of them never had their child in childcare so had no idea if I was doing anything subpar (I'm too honest so I educated them about everything from having to post lessons plans and menus to baby proofing).

      The problem isn't that you choose to use childcare; it's that you are sorta being forced to. If we had better post partum legislation in the US like they have in Germany (a whole year) then we wouldn't have small newborns in facilities in the first place. Really that's the outcry we should all be having. We can only improve and regulate the hell out of the system so much before we need to be thinking of alternatives.

      I'm sorry you haven't been given much of a choice. I am glad that you've found someone who is good. And I pray that in the future you or your husband can stay home if you want to.

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  2. I think I find it hardest (having spent most of my working life in a day nursery) when the parents truly don't seem to care that much that they're away for most of their child's waking week. Or when they prioritise the having of material things over building up their own children, so go to work to get the stuff and need to put their kids into care. And no, it's not all of them. And yes some people do have very legitimate reasons for using childcare. And yes, some childcare facilities are excellent.

    Perhaps there's more of a root cause - I saw a lot of consumerism, 'keeping up with the Joneses' syndrome and too many of the 'kids as accessories' crowd.

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    1. Abigail's post was about how she spent 12 hours in childcare when she was an infant so her mother could further her career. It was heartbreaking.

      I've known children in the situation that you describe. One 1 year old's grandmother would drop her off when we opened because her mother was already taking the early morning shift (we opened at 6:30 and closed at 6pm). Then her mother would pick her up at 6. It wouldn't have bothered me had her mother not worked maybe 10 miles from the daycare at Target which gives 8 hour shifts. If her mother indeed started her shift at say 6am, then why was the daughter still there at 6pm?

      I only met the mother once. She was young, not with the father, and from what I could tell got off of work and did whatever she wanted until it was time to get her daughter.

      By the way, I worked in a poor section of town. Most of the parents were on welfare or terrible with money. Most of the families were single mothers. Some siblings did not have the same fathers.

      I don't mean to sound judgmental. But only to point out that children are accessories or burdens to some people as you pointed out. Really what needs to happen is to hold people to a higher standard. The highschool drop out rate in that area was very high and people were having babies in highschool. There's something very wrong with that and it has a trickle down affect.

      I've unfortunately had to report cases of neglect and abuse.

      Children are people. They need to bond with their parents and receive love from them. It's horrible to think that some children got more from their child care workers.

      The problem stems not necessarily from child care itself, but twofold 1) giving loving parents more of an opportunity to stay home and 2) educating people about children. As I pointed out the child workers at my son's preschool think my children are adorable when they say good-bye to one another or that HB is a "genius". If they had only known that I've known many children HB's age who are also "geniuses." HB is smart academic wise but he's not a prodigy by any means. He just happens to excel in the area he likes most: letters. But I digress. I just think people aren't very realistic about children unless they've been exposed to them. And that's the saddest part of people no longer having large families. For some parents I met, the first time they ever changed a diaper was their child's.

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    2. quick question: What's the maternity leave like in Britain? I could google but I'm being lazy...

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    3. As far as I'm aware you can take 6 months (or is it 9 now) with full statutory maternity pay (not sure how much that is) and if your employer wants they can top that up (they invariably don't) and your job is protected whilst you're away. You can then take a further period of time up to a year (including the original leave) but the latter block will be unpaid.

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