Daycare Hell

Just thinking about all the childcare arrangements I’ve made for my three kids over the years makes me break out in an icy sweat even today. The list reads like a daycare c.v. of modern American motherhood, no less important to my career than a resume.

 

From 1997 to 1998, I had a newborn in my employer’s subsidized corporate daycare in New Jersey. Then I had baby number two and my husband implored us to move to Minneapolis for his dream job, so from 1999 to 2001 I had two young kids in a Montessori daycare in the Twin Cities. Then we moved to DC for new jobs, and our youngest went to the Jewish Community Center. When our third baby was born, she went to a federal government daycare across from the White House - I had gotten her on the waitlist the day the pregnancy test turned positive, nearly nine months before she was born.

 

By this time, I had three kids ages five and under, all in different daycares and preschools. My husband, who has many other virtues, did almost nothing to help with childcare, almost never performed drop off or pickup, and not once stayed home with a sick child.  So, in order to keep working, I also needed a fulltime babysitter, in order to keep my crazy hours at a job I loved at The Washington Post. 


 

It was one of the toughest challenges of parenting - leaving my kids with other people.  But over time, I came to love daycare, and to value it as a critical piece of the working mom puzzle.  Daycare was far more professional, reliable and stimulating for my kids than being at home with me or a nanny. 
My New Jersey employer, Johnson & Johnson, offered babies as young as six weeks a gleaming white I.M. Pei designed 25,000 square foot palace with two nurses on staff fulltime.  Every teacher had a graduate degree in child development.

 

It would have been delusional to conclude that staying home with me, or a nanny, would have served my kids better than daycare.

 

Then one morning, after ten years riding the working mom rollercoaster, I had a mini-nervous breakdown.  No surprise there!  A few months later I negotiated part time work at the Post in order to save my sanity. My relationship with daycare ended, because I could no longer afford it.

 

It’s taken me longer to explain this daycare history than it would to go through my job qualifications.  Which is kind of the point in the recent, rational New Republic article, The Hell of American Daycare.

 

However, even though I consider my daycare experience hellish, it’s not the kind of hell most kids experience.  As reporter Jonathan Cohn explains, most American daycare is barely regulated, often unsafe, a kind of slipshod torture for kids, parents, and the underpaid daycare employees who earn, on average, $19,430 a year, less than American janitors and parking lot attendants.

 

The worst part is that so few people in our country seem to care one iota.

 

I will never forget my son's introduction to daycare. As I was fighting back tears, I noticed an ecstatic mom from another J&J division.  It was also her son’s first morning in the J&J facility.

 

littlekingdom
10.29.13

It is true that many child day care center are operating in US among which most of it are operated through inexperienced staff, who hardly got any knowledge on nurturing young kids due to which they use force to make the kid learn things on their own ways, sometimes news are being heard that kids are drugged to sleep. That is why it is better to go for licensed child care center,which should have a balanced equation of staff meant to help working parents who have no other option then day care centers.

jazacher
07.06.13

I don't think our government values the nuclear family. We are a capitalist country. unless you are willing to screw other people over, you will always be in the lower middle class. I wish that it wasn't so, but reality is what it is. While I have a sitter that is more qualified then I am (retired pediatric RN), I am still the best choice for my kids. I am MOM. I want to be there when they learn to talk and walk and discover why you don't stand on the back of the couch. I firmly believe that while we all want the best for our kids, we forget that, even with all our faults, we ARE mom and the one they truly want when their new world is tough and scary. They are so young they adapt to what ever we give them. Even being abused (strapped in fronted of a tv is abuse IMHO). I think families with 2 adults, raising kids should get a huge tax cut, making it worthwhile for a parent to stay home with the children. I also think that we should have to partially pay for school with that tax break once they reach preschool/elementary age. Then parents go back to work and only qualified people are teaching kiddos. So that's my "wild idea". Choose who raises your children carefully. You can't redo childhood.

jwarner67
05.21.13

We have found the aupair program to be a godsend. We used to think it was for wealthy families but most of us are just working families who need help.

sflawyermom
04.24.13

I think the problem is the lack of representation of women in all levels of government. It's not an issue for the men, so they don't legislate around it. Once more women get elected at all levels, maybe the issue will be raised and dealt with, but until then, it's not going to be fixed.