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.)

 

leslie morgan s...
01.29.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I know I sound like a retro, reactionary conservative, and I'm horrifying myself, but I DO think free daycare (especially with a cutsey school-spirit name -- what's next, a pregnant Hello Kitty sticker?) does communicate to teenagers that is okay to have a baby. As I said before, I've got no problem with teenagers experimenting with sex. It's a normal, natural part of life, and the teen sex drive can be overwhelming. But we've got a responsibility to teenagers. Just as we as a society use laws, pressure and punishments to require teenagers to use seatbelts, we need to do the same to get them to use all forms of birth control, including post-sex methods such as abortion and the morning-after pill. Giving them free daycare without birth control is a complete setup, with predictable and awful consequences.

savannahzmomma1
01.29.09

This is a neat discussion, which has brought out strong feelings. My take away is this:

There is no teenager who thinks life will be great because there's a daycare she should now get pregnant. So I'm not sure the daycare is causative. It can help keep the babies above the poverty line later, and in any case, act as a "head start" program, which has been effective.

When we're talking about fairness, we can't consider ourselves and children (teens) to be competing for resources, I guess. Teens still fall under our care.

I'm discouraged, though, that nobody is picking up on the point that grownup mothers, too, are asked to pick up a disproportionate financial risk compared to society. I recommend this book: The Price of Motherhood, by Anne Crittenden.

angstmom
01.29.09

Well put. It seems like education and prevention should be a priority, before free daycare. I certainly agree that moms who do it the "right way", i.e. have kids responsibly, deserve the same benefits and programs as mothers whose pregnancies were the result of thoughtlessness.
Jennifer
http://angstmom.com

JR_Mom
01.29.09

Wow. I understand what you're saying about responsibility and making the right choices. But I completely disagree that teenager mothers just flat out don't deserve free daycare. What exactly do they deserve? To not be educated so that they cannot support their children ever -- wouldn't that just lead to further social assistance down the line (and probably on a grander scale, assuming most teenage mom's have some family support)? I agree with sthielen that the tone of this article is "holier than thou whiner" - aren't you the lucky one that your birth control didn't fail when you were having teenage sex. I wonder how you would feel about these issues if the opposite had happened and you were unfortunate enough to have to deal with motherhood before you were ready. Finally, to respond to am_hahn - why should it be embarrassing or shameful to admit that you need help. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is with the aid programs - there aren't enough strings attached (i.e. required education, skill building, etc) to help people stop relying on them and become more self sufficient. Heaven forbid any of you anti-help (for teenage mom's or anyone!) ever become unemployed or disabled to the point you have to rely on someone else or the government. All mom's deserve support no matter what.

leslie morgan s...
01.29.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I think there are a lot of good points here. All moms, regardless of age, education and income, should be supported. It is simply good for our country to do so!

But I think when you offer daycare at a high school something is screwed up. Very reliable birth control methods exist. Teenagers -- boys and girls -- who have sex should use some of the many forms of birth control every single time they have sex. That is the message our society should be sending teenagers. Getting pregnant as a teenager is a choice at some level, unless you are coerced into sex. You are making a terrible choice for yourself and your baby. The teenagers I know are smart enough to understand that.

roseherring
01.29.09

Wow! I appreciate the typically thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate content I am used to reading on Mommy Track'd... this is a bit of a departure. Ladies - OF COURSE it sucks to shell out the ridiculous $$$ we do for childcare and OF COURSE teenagers should not be getting pregnant. But really? Teach 'em a lesson by letting them drop out of school, go on welfare, be alone, and afraid with no support while they attempt to care for a little baby completely alone and unequipped? These young girls are going to be punished enough for their mistakes when they realize they have no friends anymore (who wants to hang at the mall with their exhausted, post-partum friend and her crying baby), no boyfriend (pretty sure the teenage baby daddies don't stick around long enough to enjoy the late night wake-ups and leaky boobs) and completely raped of their care-free, irresponsible late teenage years/early twenties. The baby is an innocent bystander in all this and deserves all the help we as a society can provide - even if at four years old she chooses to chuck the apple in her state provided lunch in lieu of the cookie.

harrierin
01.28.09

BRAVO!

melissmoor
01.28.09

I would just like to point out that many teen mom's do have access to birth control and they are STILL getting pregnant anyway. I'm sure this has something to do with trying to create a being who will love them unconditionally when adults in their lives or boyfriends don't come through. I think it is also about trying to define a goal for themselves when many of them don't have any sense of what they could accomplish. But lisetning to my own sixteen year old sister and her friends talk (none of whom are currently pregnant, but many of who are sexually active) I also think that they just don't think it will happen to them. They are impulsive, well..., teens.
So increasing birth control access, while sound and logical does not address some of the main problems of teen pregnancy.

Should they have childcare? Well they shouldn't have to drop out and decrease their chance of graduating and going to college and getting a job and if they don't receive support this is all too likely, which begins the cycle all over again. What we have to do is show them how INCREDIBLY difficult it is to be a full-time mom, student, and member of the workforce BEFORE pregnancy is an option. Sixth graders shadowing single Mom's for a week. Having a supervised day and night of caring for a real life squalling cholicy baby...

Lets start with these programs where teen Moms are dropping their babies off at daycare and have them exchange some community service by being shadowed by younger girls. Lets just help women protect their reproductive health and wellness and dream dreams from an early age so the idea of letting a boy have unprotected sex with them is just not an option.

savannahzmomma1
01.28.09

I'd like to synthesize the writer Steiner's point with the angrier posts: It is WRONG to leave mothers in the cold and on their own with resources. Being a good mother is supposedly so valuable, but it is not only not subsidized, but costs us more than it does the daddies (in lost wages, therefore lost social security, lost security and job advancement).

If an individual school community chooses to ensure all of its kids get through the schooling, this is neat. If it were federal law to give daycare to schoolage moms without also considering the deservingness of all mothers, that would be a problem. I guess the triage would have to be take care of the kids first, even if they are now mothers. Because mothers take care of kids first, even if the kids are mothers.

Again, though, the underlying problem is that all mothers are undervalued monetarily.

Oh, I pay a chunk of change for daycare here in central Ohio, 180/week. And I'm not fancy. That's just the best choice for me. It hurts a hell of a lot to pay that much. I'm a single mother, with an ex who has proved to be financially irresponsible, so it's all on me. MOST mothers paying an arm and a leg for daycare are not rich, just making one more sacrifice. Please stop picking on each other. Please stop being mean to each other. Jeez. Good night.

mlaru
01.28.09

You know what I just can't understand? Grown women, who are mothers, kicking other mothers when they are down. And if you don't think a 13 year old who is pregnant, or is a new mom, is down - then your head is not screwed on quite right. Come on! What alternative do these girls have? How would society be bettered if these women grew up un- or undereducated? How would these innocent babies have better lives if their mothers did not even have a high school level education? I do not think that a 13 year old should even be HAVINg sex. But, unfortunately, it is the reality. I waited to have children until my life was put together. I understand what it is to pay a mortgage payment to a quality daycare center. Get OVER it, Leslie. Women who can afford to pay for Gucci daycare should thank God that they are in a position to pay for it. Is it fair that I had to pay $1,000.00 a month for my baby in daycare while these teenage moms get free daycare? No way. But, these girls have obstacles ahead of them that will prove to be unsurmountable for some of them. THAT is what is so very unfair in this situation. So, for those of us who can afford great daycare - let's spend less time whining and trashing teen moms and more time trying to help them.
Cheers!
Mary Laru