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.)

 

sthielen
01.27.09

What do you actually propose as a solution?

These babies are already here, and their Moms need an education. At least these girls are still able to go to school. Shouldn't daycare, school, and healthcare be easily available for all, whether you are a teenager with no money, a middle class working mom or whatever kind of mom you are?

You sound like a holier than though type of whiner. Do you think the lives of these girls will be any easier for them than it was for you without babies? You had fun through your teens and twenties, and ran through a couple husbands before you decided that you would have kids. They didn't get to make those choices. They already have their kids, and still need to grow through their teens and twenties.

Perhaps society is enabling, but perhaps society is trying to mitigate the damage that would be done should there be no other options for these kids with kids.

Why not use your literary skills, and vast support system to come up with a better solution for the women/girls that you are writing about. It might even help the other women as well, the ones that have kids who need daycare and health care.

leslie morgan s...
01.27.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I agree -- but somewhat paradoxically, I would never, ever trade places with someone who is taking advantage of the generosity of our system. Because it is just not worth it to be dependent upon anyone else (unless your situation is so dire that you need the help, and in that case I would welcome it gladly for myself and my children). I chose when to have kids, how many to have, where they would go to daycare, who I'd marry, who I'd divorce...to me, all these choices are priceless.

krivera
01.27.09

It doesn't stop with daycare. I feel as a working mom of two, who also tried to take the hard, responsible road of waiting, I work hard for everything my kids get. Healthcare, vaccinations, daycare, food, etc. My mom teaches sixth grade in an area where she sees many abuses of the free programs our state and government offer. She sees kids get free lunches and throw away the fruit and sandwich and only eat the cookie. She sees parents take advantage of the shot van and subject their kids to six to eight shots in one sitting. She also sees mothers who take advantage of free daycare when they don't even work ... and have all of the toys (boat, RV, etc.). I pay big when it comes to childcare ... and I wish by playing by the rules, I would see more benefits. I can only hope my children with benefit and learn the importance of hard work, patience and love.

am_hahn
01.26.09

I have become more and more aware that we have become a society of enablers. In general our culture enables irresponsibility. For example: Wanna have a baby? No husband, no job...no problem. Get knocked up... apply for assistance.. and the responsible tax payers struggling to pay daycare will foot the hospital bill, pay for food diapers, and even probably cigarettes. And if you don't want to go back to work thats ok we'll support you not to work. If you do want to work we'll pay for your daycare too!! It used to be embarrassing for people to admit that they were in a position where they needed assistance and they did anything they could to make themselves self sufficient. Now it's almost a bragging point for some people, that they got money out of the government.