Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Beef With Cultural Expectations & Child Care

I read this article at the doctor's office and it really hit a nerve:

Finding Childcare for Sick Kids: A Working Mom's Guide To Sick Kids

Reading this article from Parents, I had remembered why I am so frazzled, and why I had canceled my subscription. Just read this snippet from the article:

Marijean Jaggers cringes when she thinks about the time she strapped her vomiting 4-year-old daughter into the backseat of their car, gave her a towel and a bowl, and then drove 45 minutes to her office to pick up work she had to turn in that day.
Halfway there, she came to her senses, called the office, and asked them to e-mail the files to her at home instead. The message from the boss? "He said I needed to find backup child care when my kids got sick -- and that I should get my 'a-- into work.'"

Yeah, I cringe too. My advice to this woman, after the steam had released from my ears, would be: Get that resume updated. In fact this is the kind of comment from a boss that would urge me to walk - economy be damned. I would figure out the finances somehow. But I'm not like most people and wouldn't recommend someone do that - I'm just trying to illustrate that the Mom's inability to come into work that particular day is not the real problem but rather the boss's inappropriate, unprofessional behavior, and that parents always have options. Sure the options may involve sacrifices, but there are options.

The article's advice to this poor Mom is to provide suggestions for backup childcare. Maybe some will read this and feel the article takes a more realistic approach to the situation than I do. The family needs the money - right? But what message are we giving our kids: that we are so desperate for money that we will bend over backwards and take such abuse from a boss?

The overall point of the article is summed up here:

Sound over the top? Yes. But these women's situations illustrate the lengths working parents must go to when their carefully calibrated child-care arrangements fall apart. Many use all of their resources to get through a typical day and have little flexibility and no Plan B -- no grandparent, friend, or neighbor to step in if a child is ill.

To me, there is a bigger problem here, besides a lack of a plan B, that the article is missing. The problem is, since when have we become a society that places a higher priority on our jobs than our sick kids - shuffling them off to whoever will take them while we tend to more pressing matters at work?

Compounding the problem is that daycares, paranoid about spreading illness, will send a kid home for even a minor ailment, which really leaves me steamed as well. Our employers expect us to be at work when we have the same ailment. How are we preparing our kids for this reality when we send them home from daycare or school with the sniffles?

What the daycares don't seem to realize is that most illnesses are contagious before the symptoms even appear, and by the time the kid has that 100 degree temperature, sending that kid home is too late - the kid probably already spread the ailment. At least the article acknowledges this.

But when a kid is truly seriously ill that kid needs her mother. And if a daycare won't watch the kid for fear of spreading illness, why should we expect our family, friends, and neighbors to expose themselves to that same illness?

One of the suggestions in this article for overcoming this objection is bartering with other Mom's by offering to pick-up kids from school or provide dessert for a child's birthday party. I'm reading this and thinking sarcastically, "Yeah. That's a fair trade."

And, since we live in such work obsessed transient culture, chances are most of our family live out of state or our local family, friends, and neighbors have their own jobs, and aren't available.

Luckily, according to the article, there is sick childcare, which sounds great, except, maybe I'm the sucker who agreed to this, but most of the daycares in my area, require payment even if your kid is sent home sick. Therefore, sending a sick kid to backup childcare, may result in paying for both regular childcare and backup childcare, at least doubling childcare expenses, possibly to the point where that day's wages are eaten up by childcare costs.

For some reason I'm struggling to sum up this post, and I feel a responsibility to tie all of my posts up in a nice pretty bow. Perhaps this comes across as a rant because just yesterday I was called to pick up my sick daughter and just last week I was called to pick up my sick son, and this has become my new normal the past three months.

I guess the best way to summarize this post is to say I feel this article is unintentionally encouraging parents to give the wrong message to our kids, which is:  Our kids are not our first priority, even when they are sick and need us most.

I also feel the article fails to place enough responsibility on the daycares. I would encourage parents to refuse payment to daycares on the days the they refuses to watch their kid - for any reason. I suspect if more parents did this, fewer daycares would send home a kid with a 99 or 100 temperature, which my pediatrician says isn't even technically a fever. Parents should not be expected to pay double-daycare costs - paying the primary daycare for NOT watching their kid AND paying backup daycare - when their kids are sick.

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