Daycare Disconnect.

Lately I’ve been haunted by Adult Education, a plea published in the Washington Post by a male teacher of 30 years. His request: for the Virginia public high school where he teaches to stop supporting teen moms with daycare centers, tutors and baby showers.

 

Visions of 8th graders with baby bumps trying to learn algebra and reach into their lockers at nine months pregnant have dogged me since reading his story. I can’t imagine their reality, particularly since I barely survived pregnancy and motherhood even after waiting until I was in my 30s and in a strong career until I had children. But for me the worst part was the image of the teen moms’ dropping their cute little bundles at the Tiny Titans daycare center in a new $100 million building at T.C. Williams High School. In case you were wondering about the cute name for the daycare facility, “Titans” is T.C. Williams’ mascot.

 

First , I’ve gotta say there is something wrong with a world where pregnant teenagers have easy access to daycare and I don’t. Now I’m in favor of public daycare as widespread as neighborhood fire departments – and yes, supported by our tax dollars. But I waited to have kids. That took decades of self-restraint, boyfriend restraint, and thousands of dollars of birth control. I was careful -- I can count with one finger the time I had unprotected sex (and to be clear here, I started having sex soon after 8th grade and got plenty).

 

I waited with husband number two until we were ready to have children (okay, until I was ready). Then with all three pregnancies, the nanosecond the pee stick turned positive I rushed to get my baby’s name on the waitlist of good daycare. Finding good daycare in the United States made me feel like I lived in Communist Russia. So much for the chorus of “being a mom is the most important thing you’ll do in your life” I’d been hearing since I was three years old. Once I actually was a mom, our society offered me essentially zero support for being a good mom, especially one who put her children in affordable, quality daycare so that I COULD return to work.

 

In other words, being a good mom, particularly a responsible working mother, involves a lot of hard, lonely work, self-restraint and good judgment – long before you actually become a mom. Call me crazy, but I think responsible adult moms should get the reward of taxpayer-subsidized daycare long before teen moms do.

 

I don’t judge teenagers who have babies – at least not in a moralistic, “you bad girl” way. Wait –let me clarify – I don’t judge teenagers who have sex. But using birth control is as mandatory as wearing a seat belt. Any school that offers daycare better offer free birth control and pregnancy counseling. Plus, the school should inflict the real-life punishment of being a parent while you still need a parent equally on boys and girls who make babies while they are still babies themselves. (I can see it now – a science fair project that puts new DNA technology to good use finding the teen dads -- and quickly.)

 

godiva
03.28.09

hm. I am not I think in agreement with this. I find that as a minority, there are nuances to how this sort of thing works based on where it occurs.

In my own experience (and yes I waited too), I know of several girls that had a child in HS, then with the help of reduced or free childcare went on to become Drs. Without that help they would have ended up on welfare or worse. Another example is the one who got pregnant by her stepdad, but once she had the baby was able to apply as an emancipated minor and get out of the situation. She now -- with the help of free childcare -- has completed a nurse training program and is nicely employed in the $40K a year range. Without this sort of program most of the girls I know in this situation would not have completed school.

Few of the girls had a good enough understanding of sexual behavior to prevent pregnancy, and most of the fathers were in their young 20s -- old enough to know better. Most did not have access to low cost birth control even if they understood it. And more than half of the girls that I have worked with WERE using birth control at the time they got pregnant.

Its very easy from a more well-off and educated perspective not to see all the issues facing some of these girls. I do agree with the perspective that we have a responsibility to educate educate educate.As well as offer access to affordable birth control and after sex options (since so many are non-consensual). However, it seems far more controversial to offer birth control and abortion (at least to the morality police).

A combined approach would probably work best, catching those that fall through the cracks, as well as ensuring a range of opportunities for those affected.

leslie morgan s...
02.04.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

ML -- Your comments are exactly right on. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Our culture has come a long (and very good) way since the 1960s when unmarried pregnant moms were shunned, not allowed to graduate and even forced to leave their jobs (what was the logic behind THAT?)

But encouraging teen moms does no one any good!

ML
02.03.09

The post is not just about daycare, but mentions daycare, tutors, and baby showers, symptoms of the larger problem, which is that so much of this attention can (and does) encourage pregnancy. I remember teachers at my high school oo-ing and aw-ing over students' new babies, and, even then, I thought it sent a bad message. The problem isn't so much how easy or hard it is once the baby is here; by then, the teen mom will have had her fantasy shattered. The problem is before a pregnancy, when a girl sees a pregnant classmate or new mom getting lots of attention and "goodies."

Think about baby showers for those of us who waited and were careful to have good jobs and stable relationships before having kids. No matter who the mom-to-be is, you have a room full of women rhapsodizing over tiny socks and Diaper Genies. This is no different when the mom is a teen, and it may even be worse. Receiving all of those gifts is thrilling, even when you're 30! Imagine how it feels to a girl half that age. At that point, all she knows is that she got a lot of cool stuff, that people she respects laughed and talked and had a great time at her party, and that everybody is fascinated by babies. It's not just the showers, as I said earlier; it's the fussing over a newborn, the cute daycare name, and so much more, and it can all glamorize pregnancy to a young girl.

I don't think teen parents should be shunned or berated - far from it, and I wish teen dads would be treated just like moms - it burns me up to see a pregnant girl being treated like a pariah, when you know the dad is, if anything, congratulated and treated in a wink-wink, boys-will-be-boys manner. I've seen the long-term impact a teen pregnancy has, whether it was when I was in high school or seeing the continued impact of pregnancies from the 1960s. I have a family member who got pregnant at age 15 in 1962 and was not allowed to go through graduation ceremonies, even though her baby was over a year old by her graduation AND the baby's father was right there on stage with his diploma. That was just plain wrong, and today's teen parents need their educations as much or even more. However, we need to focus on what happens before pregnancy in order to have an impact. The ideas about shadowing parents and actually taking care of babies and small children are sound. Replacing the fantasy of the Gerber baby and luminescent mother with the reality of parenting would be a service to all of us.

leslie morgan s...
02.03.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

There is a big distinction between providing birth control and offering free daycare.

Teens want to have sex, it's normal and natural. Giving them (or not giving them) birth control doesn't change the desire to have sex -- it only increases the possibility of safe sex.

However, offering free daycare encourages teens to actually give birth to babies and keep them (vs. using birth control, having an abortion, or giving a baby up for adoption). I do not think teenagers have a strong natural drive to have a baby or raise a baby that is analogous to the human sex drive. Free daycare gives teen parents the mistaken impression that caring for a baby is easy and that our society supports teen moms. This encourages teens to have babies and raise them as teen parents.

It doesn't have anything to do with sex, per se -- or at least I think it is helpful to distinguish between the powerful, overwhelming drive to have sex vs. the desire to have a child.

JR_Mom
01.31.09

The argument that providing support to teenage mom's (via free daycare at school or anything else) encourages teen pregnancy is as flawed as the argument that providing teens with sex education & knowledge of contraception encourages teen sex. Providing tools to deal with sexuality and the natural consequence of having sex shouldn't be seen as the cause of teen sex & pregnancy. Efforts to prevent teen motherhood (& sex, if the parent so desire) must come the teen's parents. Several posters have talked about how their parents would have "killed" them if they had gotten pregnant as a teenager & how that caused them to make sure they never got pregnant. I think it way over simplifies things for these posters to look back now and say, "but if my school had provided free daycare it would have been different." Why would your parents' disapproval of getting pregnant as a teen suddenly be less important just because there was support provided to teen moms? I don't think any of these posters would make that argument about any other form of social programs - for example, most parents teach their children it is important to be productive, self sufficient people (work for a living & take care of yourself) & would be dead set against their teens becoming "bums" relying on welfare -- its nonsensical to say that a teen would ignore their parents' teachings & values just because they know welfare is out there. I think it is always the parents responsibility to teach values & good decision making to teens and that its a total cop-out to blame social programs for encouraging less than desireable actions.

JR_Mom
01.31.09

I do see what Leslie is saying in most recent post that school daycare may cause unrealist expectations about the challenge of motherhood. But again even if this support was available to a teen mom, it is still that teen's parents to teach them reality of life beyond high school. And if that parent feels that allowing the teen to take advantage of the free daycare would encourage that teen to think they'll always "have it easy", then the parent shouldn't allow them to use the free daycare. It is important to remember teen mom's are still kids themselves and will still need their parents' guidance. (Or should parents not provide guidance to teen moms because afterall once the teen is an adult its up to them & not their parents? Obviously not.)

leslie morgan s...
01.31.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I think it is helpful to separate the issue into two pieces:

1) How to help teen moms and their babies
2) How to prevent future teen moms

On-school daycare helps current teenaged mothers. But unfortunately it also encourages future teen moms by suggesting that it is okay to have a baby as a teenager, and implying you will get enough support that motherhood will be easy. And those babies are so darn cute...

It is hard, if not impossible, to find solutions that accomplish 1) and 2).

Like one of the posters I too lived in terror of getting pregnant -- because of the condemnation of my parents and teachers, and also because I knew it would destroy many of my dreams for my future. ALL of my sexually active girlfriends felt the exact same way. We had too much to lose. So we didn't get pregnant, for the most part. One friend did and she had an abortion. Absolutely the right choice, and we all supported her. I know if we had on-site daycare at my high school, the outcome would have been far different. And maybe finishing high school would have been possible, with daycare support -- but what about the rest of our lives? Our society is not so kind to teen moms, or any moms. Providing free daycare to teenagers sets up a completely unrealistic expectation.

sthielen
01.30.09

Everybody seems to be missing the real point here..
Shouldn't DayCare for everyone be as convenient and as affordable as it is for these teenaged moms? Aren't the children pretty much worth it? As they are the next generation, we should be doing everything we can to nurture them now that they are here?

Providing DayCare and Health Care for all mothers and their children is just something that really should be the way it is, instead of the way it is? The payoff is so worth it. The more that is spent on proper pre-natal health care, infant wellness, breast feeding support, and nutritional programs for mothers and children, the less the cost of health care during the lifetimes of these children.

Honestly.. What is the point of not providing these sorts of basic needs?

nabbie
01.30.09

Me again...
I reada little further down,and I think the whole point of this matter is being missed. We are discussing a funded building more so than the whole baby issue. I can see EVERYONE'S point. I think, like Leslie says, making it sooo easy and convenient to drop your baby off at the same school you go to is asking for trouble and making the consequences very easy. I think the problem needs to be rooted much further than the daycare. Like educating these boys and girls on what being a parent really feels like. Make it madatory during school to do a seminar on parenting. Make them pack a kid around 24/7 for about one semester and try to make a point instead of demanding that no one have sex until they are in their twenties! Every child/teenager is different. Me? I KNEW to be careful and WANTED to make my parents proud...where did we lose perspective? Maybe I was just so blessed to have such great parents.

nabbie
01.30.09

My view on the matter;
I agree totally with Leslie's post. Thinking back to my 8th grade year 1983-84), my parents would have dis-owned me if I pulled some crap like that. These kids are getting way too much "gratitude" for popping kiddos out onlya few years after learning to tie shoes. My question is; who in the hell is giving the okay to fund for these buildings? It is obsurd and ridiculous. I would be sovery disappointed if my daughter got pregnant at this age and couldn't imagine myself raising a child at that age...I can barely handle two now and I am near 40!!!!!!!!!!