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The Day Care Dilemma
April 15, 2013 9:30 AM   Subscribe

"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
posted by zarq (139 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Welcome to my second largest expenditure outside of my mortgage.
posted by Artw at 9:33 AM on April 15, 2013 [26 favorites]


What we need are standardized tests to ensure the qualifications of the daycare operators, employees and facilities.
posted by Renoroc at 9:34 AM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's a lot of different ways this story about the need for national daycare monitoring/credentialing could have been framed. Surely a detailed account of babies dying in a fire is more sensational than necessary. Not that the two aren't necessarily related, it just reeks of, YOUR BABY COULD DIE IN DAYCARE!!, DETAILS AT 11.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:37 AM on April 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


The only thing I really wish they had not combined in this article were the statistical differences between in-home nannies and home day cares. They lumped them together and then compared with formal, larger day care centers. I suspect there's a quality of care difference between having a caregiver in your own home and leaving your children with a home day care.
posted by zarq at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just dropped my kid off at the city-run program. And now I want to run back there in a panic, even though I know it's a safe room run by an experienced teacher because Goddammit why can't we be like Sweden and have civilization and society and all those other nice thing?
posted by RakDaddy at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


My wife's aunt is 80 and has been running an in home day care since her children went to college. Just 3-6 kids for 3-6 hours a day. Grandkids can stay longer. She makes her own Play-doh, has an EPIC collection of donated toys. The kids get apple juice and Ritz crackers and have to eat at the table and say please and thank you. She is closing down because she needs to use a computer to update her permit and she doesn't like computers.
posted by shothotbot at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Remember, for people who think America has been going downhill since the 50's when everyone lived Leave it to Beaver style, shitty child care options outside the home are a feature, not a bug.
posted by dry white toast at 9:44 AM on April 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is one of the many reasons I don't have children. I don't want someone else raising my child, but I would not be able to afford anything else.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


When my son graduated from Daycare to (full day) Kindergarten, it was like I got a pay raise. My net income basically doubled.

And that was ~15 years ago. I knew then that things weren't going to get any better.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:46 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I resisted the framing, too TPS, because I was expecting it to stop there and leave the impression that only Bad Parents put their kids in hellholes. But it was actually a good piece and had a lot to say about our priorities.

My kid was in two daycares that, looking back, I feel bad about; both looked ok at first glance but he did not learn there and the last one we took him out of because his overwhelmed teacher was not seeing it when older kids hit him; I witnessed this personally when I came in unexpectedly to bring him his coat. She was looking the other way, an older kid came up behind him and just whapped him on the head for no reason. And how many other times had it happened before then?

The owner was lavish in her reassurances, but then a kid in a different class aspirated a tiny rock from the playground and died. Accidents like that happen at home, too, but combined with the rest, it was just too much. We found a better place, and they took really good care of him. I stopped in unexpectedly quite a lot and never saw anything disturbing. And he learned a lot there. But I still think they needed more teachers, and I know they didn't have them because the money just wasn't there for it.

It would be easier to build a national system of daycare with subsidies than come up with yet another iteration of a supercool air force bomber, but I'll be lucky if my grandkids get to benefit from it.
posted by emjaybee at 9:46 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember, for people who think America has been going downhill since the 50's when everyone lived Leave it to Beaver style, shitty child care options outside the home are a feature, not a bug.

Yeah, things were so much better when women weren't allowed to have all those messy choices and careers and such.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:47 AM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: "Surely a detailed account of babies dying in a fire is more sensational than necessary."

It's an in-depth piece. From the article:
"The death rate for infants in home settings—whether in their own houses with a nanny or in home day cares—was seven times higher than in centers. The most common causes included drowning, violence—typically, caregivers shaking babies—and fire.... ChildCare Aware of America, an advocacy group, calculated that, proportionally, about 9 percent of all reported SIDS deaths should take place in child care. The actual number is twice that. And while overall SIDS fatalities declined after a nationwide education campaign, the death rate in child care held steady."
I think there's something to be said for using a real-life example to back up the statistics.
posted by zarq at 9:48 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


> why can't we be like Sweden and have civilization and society and all those other nice thing?

"The finger thing means the taxes!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, things were so much better when women weren't allowed to have all those messy choices and careers and such.

You're being sarcastic, but there honestly are people who lament that the family has become unstable because it is economically easier for women to get out of bad marriages -- or not to get into them -- than it used to be.
posted by KathrynT at 9:54 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our child care sucks, our health care sucks... I think America just sucks at caring.
posted by Foosnark at 9:55 AM on April 15, 2013 [47 favorites]


It's not that we SUCK at caring, it's that we are angry about having to pay for it because we think someone else* should be willing to do it for free.

*spoiler alert: usually a woman!
posted by KathrynT at 9:57 AM on April 15, 2013 [57 favorites]


I have no children, but living in Quebec where there is subsidized day care at $7/a day and watching my sister in the States' frustration w/juggling work and affording day care for my two nieces shows me just how much difference there is between the US and Canada (or at least my part of Canada). Daycare shouldn't be a humungous expense that stresses parents out, both in terms of cost and quality.
posted by Kitteh at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I suspect there's a quality of care difference between having a caregiver in your own home and leaving your children with a home day care.

My personal experience is to disagree (although of course I know the quality of home day care varies wildly). My son was in a home day care from the age of 12 weeks until he was four. He was with two other kids his own age (one the child of the caregiver), the caregiver had been an in-home nanny prior to her marriage, and my son really and truly became a part of her family. We still see them, he's still in contact with those kids, and because her home was more rural than our home is, he got to do all sorts of "running free" stuff that we want kids to do when they're little but there are precious few safe places to do it.

It is the quality and qualifications of the caregiver that matter, not the setting. The setting could be a hut in the woods, or a posh house, or my house, or anywhere else, but if the caregiver isn't up to the task then it doesn't really matter where the child is.
posted by anastasiav at 9:59 AM on April 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't want someone else raising my child

This isn't what childcare is, any more than regular school is someone else "raising your child." Even the most dedicated stay-at-home parent benefits from some shared caregiving (babysitter share, "mother's" day out, etc.), and turning parenthood into an all-or-nothing endeavor benefits no one.

Parenting is not just keeping kids from drinking Drano or even teaching colors and shapes, it is making choices, providing guidance and setting expectations. Good parents do this effectively (although not perfectly) regardless of how much assistance they get with the day-to-day caretaking.
posted by jeoc at 10:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [27 favorites]


It also occurs to me that the laws for home daycare are a little ridiculous. Not to pick on anyone in this thread, but an 80 year old woman watching six infants does not sound safe.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


This isn't what childcare is,

I was just accounting for my experience. All of the parents I know who have used daycare drop their children off at 7am or before, and pick them up when it's basically bedtime.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:01 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The benefits of great child care are beyond question. But who should pay for it? The parents, who are already burdened with living expenses for 18 years of the child's life? The government, which sees hardly any marginal benefit from one additional child's care?

No! I say it should be the child himself, for he will see the vast majority of the benefit of high quality early childhood education. Naturally, an infant is ill equipped to work at a job and pay a bill, but the government could implement a system of state-subsidized child care loans.

Here's how it would work. The government would issue a loan in the child's name, countersigned by the parents. The loan would accrue interest until he turns 18, at which point he'd be required to make monthly payments. Naturally, the loan would not be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

By my calculations, if an infant boy takes out a $60k loan at 4% interest, and makes a mere $500/month payment beginning at age 18, he should be able to pay it off just before retirement. The benefits of high quality early childhood education should more than offset this modest contribution. And he can rest easy knowing that this education didn't cost his parents, or society at large, a single extra dime.
posted by miyabo at 10:05 AM on April 15, 2013 [50 favorites]


All of the parents I know who have used daycare drop their children off at 7am or before, and pick them up when it's basically bedtime.

My daycare was open from 7:30 to 5:30, allowing my parents to drop me off, work a full day and then pick me up before going home. They didn't spend a lick of time at home without me- I was at daycare when they were at work.

The only reason I am a full five years older than my sister is because my parents couldn't afford to have two kids in daycare at the same time. Both parents working full-time, of course. Think about THAT.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:07 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


showbiz_liz, I’m not disagreeing with you. But I am saying that if you are spending all or very close to all of your waking hours in daycare, your parents aren’t having the same influence on your early childhood that they would otherwise.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:09 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not that we SUCK at caring, it's that we are angry about having to pay for it because we think someone else* should be willing to do it for free.

*spoiler alert: usually a woman!


It's not that we think someone else, even a woman, should be willing to do it for free, it's that we want to spend our money on other stuff. We like to spend our money on the military and paying for wars. It's a question of priorities. You can redirect funds or increase taxes. Education is not a priority but prisons are. We pick the people who decide how our money is spent. There are people who don't want to spend their money paying for your kid's daycare but do want to spend it on a stealth bomber.
posted by shoesietart at 10:11 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me just agree with the FPP. Day care in America is a mess. It's expensive, it's a big roulette wheel in terms of quality, and basically adds rather than relieves stress. I'm very envious of those living in countries where the state has provided a reasonable, accessible solution.
posted by newdaddy at 10:12 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


miyabo, I'm not sure whether to favorite that or beg you to delete it before someone from the American Enterprise Institute sees it
posted by theodolite at 10:13 AM on April 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


anastasiav: " It is the quality and qualifications of the caregiver that matter, not the setting. The setting could be a hut in the woods, or a posh house, or my house, or anywhere else, but if the caregiver isn't up to the task then it doesn't really matter where the child is."

I think the setting, level of experience and number of kids a particular caregiver is watching must all matter. I don't think the setting is necessarily crucial. One person caring for say, six children ages 1-4, would likely find it more difficult to give them all the same level of attention as one person caring for three children in the same age range. The nanny we eventually hired had extensive experience caring for newborn twins, which I know made a difference in her ability to handle two babies at once.
posted by zarq at 10:15 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife works for the military as a civilian, and while most of the perks of a government job have been steadily rolled back in the past 20 years (without an increase in pay vs. the private sector to compensate), access to the military base's daycare definitely makes a huge difference. Top notch facility, caring and highly trained professional staff, carefully monitored nutrition and well-organized and fun activities. The facilities and all of its utilities and upkeep are paid for by the base, but the staff and operational expenses are paid for by the parents on an ongoing basis - it's essentially self-funded. Despite this, it costs less than half of what a co-worker pays for a lower quality program, and a third of what other premium daycares charge.

Just a =little= bit of government help and oversight, and we get affordable, world class daycare... and even young, enlisted couples can afford it.

Modern conservatism needs to die. We're all being nickel-and-dimed to death for essential services, and educators have to worry about being a book-keeper and regulatory compliance expert instead of worry about what storybook will help teach this week's lesson. Economies of scale work, and it's not theft to apply them to essential social services by way of government.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:15 AM on April 15, 2013 [72 favorites]


"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
-Nelson Mandela
posted by TedW at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we allow our taxes to pay for things like family planning, child care, education and healthcare then how the fuck is the private prison industry going to make a return on their investment? The more poor, neglected, uneducated and sickly children we can bring into this world the more work and profit we will create in the prison sector down the road. It's about jobs people!
posted by any major dude at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's be clear. Lousy child care is lousy. But there is excellent child care out there for those who can afford it. My son is in a fantastic day care where he gets to socialize with other little ones and do activities that I would never think to do with him. They maintain a ratio of one teacher for every three kids and he is never neglected (I can drop in unexpectedly at any time and observe this for myself). I think it's great for him.

And roomthreeseventeen, you seem to have a ton of preconceived notions about day care. My son is not being raised by someone else at day care any more than a teacher at school raises older kids for their parents. He does not get dropped off at 7 am and picked up at bedtime (he is usually there from 8:30 to 3 pm).
posted by amro at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't want someone else raising my child

I hear this frequently, and it quite frankly baffles me. In most cultures, several people raise a child. I was raised by my parents, grandmother, aunts, and neighborhood women who I called "auntie." In fact, when my dad was under house arrest and my mom went back to work, it was primarily my grandmother.

Regardless of a woman's working choices (or lack thereof), the idea that the parents (and let's be honest, this usually means Mom) can or should be the sole provider of childcare is very, very strange. There is value to creating bonds with other adults and children, and being part of a community. And this sense that the community has a desire to care for the child reaps great benefits.

Nobody loves my daughter the same way I do (and there's no one she loves as much as she loves me). But watching her learn Vietnamese from Grandma, or catch from Grandpa, or songs from her babysitter, and how to say "hi" to doggies from my friends -- well, there's value in that, too. My kid wasn't born in isolation. She belongs to a family and community of people who love her, and they are a wonderful influence too. I wouldn't want to be the sole influence on her life -- there's a whole world that loves her beyond me and her daddy, and I want her to experience it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:19 AM on April 15, 2013 [82 favorites]


Yeah, things were so much better when women weren't allowed to have all those messy choices and careers and such.

Most women have always had to work. I think a lot of kids just started looking after themselves at a younger age or neighbors knew each other better. I'm pretty sure plenty of molestations, abuse, etc. occurred pretty often back then too.
posted by discopolo at 10:20 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And roomthreeseventeen, you seem to have a ton of preconceived notions about day care.

Again, like I said, I am just speaking from seeing my friends have kids. And spending time with a toddler is a lot different than a teacher spending time with an 8 year old, in terms of development.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:21 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


My child is in preschool (not daycare, I believe there is a difference, regardless of how interchangeably the terms are used). about 12 hours a week.
She started when she was 2 1/2 going 6 hours, and we recently bumped it up to 12 hours a week when she turned 3 1/2.

Mainly we did it for socialization. Being a stay at home parent in an area without a lot of them, there were many days where we'd go an entire day without her seeing another kid. Entire afternoons at a playground with no other kids just isn't as stimulating.

I had a surprisingly rough time finding a suitable place for a kid. There are many, many "at home" places to drop off a kid, but alarmingly few "professional" places. Places with a curriculum, with educational resources, with teachers that have degrees in childhood education. In short, places designed for kids and their needs.

It is expensive to be sure, less so because we only do it quarter time. And as a stay at home parent, a tax break sure would be nice.

At the same time though, I'm not sure I'm on board with a system that basically encourages parents to outsource some of the most crucial years of a kid's life. Rather than developing a state-run childcare system, shouldn't we be fighting for a system that doesn't require both parents to work?

I'm torn. I understand the reality of crappy day care, and clearly the lifelong benefits of a quality childhood go without saying. Every kid should have access to that.

I don't know, I suppose I'm just thankful to be in the situation I'm in, where it is a conscious choice between good options rather than a thankless choice between bad and worse.
posted by madajb at 10:23 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And spending time with a toddler is a lot different than a teacher spending time with an 8 year old, in terms of development.

That's absolutely true. A toddler who is relying on mom or dad for all his/her stimulation is a freaking nightmare. One who is spending time with other kids is much easier to deal with.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


> I have no children, but living in Quebec where there is subsidized day care at $7/a day and watching my sister in the States' frustration w/juggling work and affording day care for my two nieces shows me just how much difference there is between the US and Canada (or at least my part of Canada).

Daycare in (most of) Canada is a mess. When an unlicensed daycare pretty close to where I live in Toronto was shut down in 2007, most of the parents were angry.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Carer to child ratio is a huge factor in cost of care - with infants of course requiring more carers. That may actually be legally mandated, though I'm not sure if that's federal or state level.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on April 15, 2013


One who is spending time with other kids is much easier to deal with.

I think that's a massively unfair generalization. Plenty of stay at home parents socialize their children in a way that doesn't leave the child in a daycare room all day, and have the child and his/her parents constantly sick.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:26 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Virginia has much, much looser regulations on home day care than center day care.

The Washington Post had a great, and sad article recently about deaths in home day care that could have been prevented by, for example, mandated training (SIDS, put baby on back). After a baby’s death, a Virginia mother fights for stronger child-care standards
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:29 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


snickerdoodle: "I hear this frequently, and it quite frankly baffles me. In most cultures, several people raise a child. I was raised by my parents, grandmother, aunts, and neighborhood women who I called "auntie." In fact, when my dad was under house arrest and my mom went back to work, it was primarily my grandmother."

It's not just "another person", it's another person outside your social circle. Your auntie and mamie are more likely to share the same values you do. Would you trust me, A Dog On The Internet, to watch your child 5-9 hours a day? What if I were a Montessori Certified Dog On The Internet? Or a (differing religion) Daycare Dog On The Internet?
posted by boo_radley at 10:29 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


After a very scary incident for us with our first child at a home daycare we learned two very important things:
- Where we live (California) it is very easy to check on the status of a license, and you can get information about issues at a facility very quickly with a phone call. Unfortunately we found out the hard way that the home we were using had a lot of issues and hadn't been inspected in some time. The licensing agency had to prioritize larger facilities over smaller in home ones due to budget constraints.
- So called "fancy" centers like Montessori daycares only seem to cost a very nominally more amount of money over the home daycare places. And most are staffed by people with experience, and (at least ours) has several people with actual teaching credentials or child development education.

Welcome to my second largest expenditure outside of my mortgage.

Our daycare cost is the mortgage plus a car payment. Good times.
posted by Big_B at 10:29 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


The argument for increased regulation seems to be there, but I'm not sure where or how you jump from "increased regulation" to "national regulation" or "Federal regulation." If there's anything that I've learned from the last few decades it's that when you regulate something at the Federal level, and in particular when that regulation preempts state or local regulation, what you get is watered-down, pro-business-as-usual crap that prevents more local levels of government from finding better solutions.

I would be very, very wary of trying for top-down, Federally-imposed solutions on anything but the most basic problems related to childcare.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 AM on April 15, 2013


If we allow our taxes to pay for things like family planning, child care, education and healthcare then how the fuck is the private prison industry going to make a return on their investment?

They could open daycares?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:32 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Carer to child ratio is a huge factor in cost of care - with infants of course requiring more carers. That may actually be legally mandated, though I'm not sure if that's federal or state level.

It is state mandated. For example in California it is 4:1 until 18 months.
posted by Big_B at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2013


Kitteh: $7 a day?!

My husband quit his job to stay home with our son because it made no sense for him to continue to work at a job he did not like so we could turn more than half of his paycheck over to the (very inexpensive, not-being-pad-what-she-was-worth) sitter. Daycare is ridiculously expensive in the U.S.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not that we SUCK at caring, it's that we are angry about having to pay for it because we think someone else* should be willing to do it for free.

In many traditional communities, the local group of elders takes care of the infants, and each other, and some of the mentally ill and differently abled while the individuals who are physical and mentally healthy go out and gather whatever the community needs. This is somewhat replicated in modern democratic socialism by paid professionals, but American culture is based on consumption instead of compassion.

The fact that feminism is sometimes co-opted to denigrate the very rewarding experience of spending time with family is just another layer of irony on top of our many delusional cultural norms.
posted by tripping daisy at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, can I be blunt and say I'm not really sure what your agenda is in this thread? You've already pulled out, I don't want someone else raising my child, which is, frankly, a really offensive and troll-y thing to say that shows little understanding of the difficult choices people with children make. Please consider stepping back and letting this thread breathe.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:34 AM on April 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


I think that's a massively unfair generalization. Plenty of stay at home parents socialize their children in a way that doesn't leave the child in a daycare room all day, and have the child and his/her parents constantly sick.

It depends a whole lot on where you are.
I live in an area with a pretty decent City recreational department, with quite a few child music centers, gymnastics, play area, etc.
I also have the luxury of being able to not only afford them, but to arrange my entire schedule around them.
And even with all that, I found it difficult to find enough "stuff" to do with my (one) kid.

Now compare my situation with someone who lives in spread out suburban area, with a not so great recreation system, maybe a lower income or a less reliable schedule.
That kid is either going to play by herself, or maybe be plopped in front of a tv.
Even a completely average preschool is going to be better than that.

I'm not sure anyone is advocating for mandatory, state controlled birth to 5 schools, but giving parents better options can only be a net win for society.
posted by madajb at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


TPS, fair enough. My opinion is my own, not trolling. But I'm out.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:37 AM on April 15, 2013


Goddammit why can't we be like Sweden and have civilization and society and all those other nice thing?

Because you spend a trillion dollars a year on war.
posted by mhoye at 10:38 AM on April 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


I appreciate that, thank you, roomthreeseventeen.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2013


My wife just left the daycare industry. She was a center director for one of the big national brands until last week. Teachers in daycare today make the same money she made as a teacher in the mid 90s. Her staff hadn't had a raise (merit or COL) in five years. Parents who are otherwise happy with their child's care will pull the kids because the daycare center down the street is offering $20 a week less. Generally they came back within 90 days when they discovered why the competing daycare was so cheap.

If a commercial daycare is offering any sort of significant discount they are probably cheating on state ratios. You simply can't maintain ratios and be cheap. Your labor expense is too high. The math doesn't work.

I'm not unhappy at all that she is out of the childcare business.
posted by COD at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not just "another person", it's another person outside your social circle. Your auntie and mamie are more likely to share the same values you do. Would you trust me, A Dog On The Internet, to watch your child 5-9 hours a day? What if I were a Montessori Certified Dog On The Internet? Or a (differing religion) Daycare Dog On The Internet?

As it turns out, there are childcare professionals, with education and experience and references and everything. It's not a trivial matter -- I interviewed 8 candidates before finding my babysitter, and I pay her well and make sure she's happy. Hell, I trust her more than my well-meaning but relatively clueless sister when it comes to kids.

Plenty of stay at home parents socialize their children in a way that doesn't leave the child in a daycare room all day, and have the child and his/her parents constantly sick.

I know, because I do it. It's a ton of work (especially after everyone else goes back to work and the pool of mommies is much smaller). It's also expensive, since the easiest thing to do is take her to classes (at $15-$20 a pop), and it means I can't cook lunch at home or have much time for cleaning, so we eat out and hire people to clean the house. It's not an option many people have, and if you don't have it, being an American-style SAHM can be incredibly isolating and difficult.

As for the sickness... my toddler spent approximately 8 days from November-April without a fever, runny nose, or some other ailment. Kids are gonna get sick no matter what you do.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:42 AM on April 15, 2013


It turns out that, in my case at the very least, how I feel about childcare and it's many pros and cons (it's hardly a black and white issue, and 'all other things' are far from equal) is far different with my experience with actual children than it was when I didn't have kids.

Over the years we have done everything from an at-home parent, in home nanny/sitter, private in-home daycare, daycare/preschool centers, etc. In my experience there were pros and cons to each and none were 'the perfect answer'. Some were fantastic (like our current situation with an in-home daycare/preschool where our youngest daughter is thriving and loves her teacher and the other kids) and some were awful (like a Montessori school where our oldest was inadequately supervised/cared for).

I guess my only point is that, if there are no easy answers or obvious choices for my single family, certainly there will never be a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

There is nothing really all that good about ECE, except of course it exposes kids to viruses that will help boost their immune systems in the long term.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


My kids both went to the same daycare. It was a pretty well-run establishment, generally speaking. We were unhappy when we had to move to a private nanny for my daughter because she has severe handicaps and couldn't walk, therefore she couldn't move up to the toddler room. They checked with their underwriter and the state and the answer was no, unless she had a 1:1 aide, which we would have to pay for in addition to the day care fees. Which is really no choice at all.

My son went through there and we were definitely seeing the some cracks in the foundation so to speak, as the owners kids were getting older and she wasn't giving the facility as much attention.

Now here's the kicker - they had a janitor working there who came in after hours to clean. He got tied up on the wrong end of a grand jury case and as a result the daycare was investigated and shut down. I don't know the full reasons except for gossip, but when I heard it I couldn't help thinking that they audited on a day when some kid had taken out 1/4 of their staff with norovirus and they were short-handed. Good organization generally speaking, gone now. Go figure.
posted by plinth at 10:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This really surprised me when I first had a child a few years ago. I hadn't thought about childcare during my whole life and assumed it was all pretty well regulated and standardized, since heck, everyone had to do it with two working parents. I couldn't believe the mish-mash of options I found and the incredibly wide variety of care available even in a small town. Everything from dedicated nannies to a provider in a trailer filled with kids taken by the county due to drugged-out parents.

I really wish things were more standardized and that there was affordable care at some gov't level that was available to all.
posted by mathowie at 10:54 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I blame all those daycare workers' unions.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:01 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there's anything that I've learned from the last few decades it's that when you regulate something at the Federal level, and in particular when that regulation preempts state or local regulation, what you get is watered-down, pro-business-as-usual crap that prevents more local levels of government from finding better solutions.

Well, my experience tells me differently, FWIW. In my experience, letting the regulations be set at the local level opens up more attack vectors for those who'd like to corrupt the regulations for personal gain. Don't succeed in getting one state or county to adopt your ideas that just so happen to give you a sweet line on a competitive leg up over others seeking to make money in your industry? No problem--just move on to the next state or county over and set up shop there.

There's significantly more opportunity, just from a pure system-oriented perspective, to corrupt systems and regulations that are controlled at the local levels because there are more potentially corruptible humans with sweet, sweet corruptible authority in the mix. (Also, it's harder to standardize and end up with consistent results when there are hundreds or thousands of different entities in charge rather than a central standard-making authority.)

On the other hand, in the more centralized approach to regulation, if corruption gets a foothold at all, it effects everyone everywhere (but any potential fix for the corruption might too), so there's that on the other side.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2013


My family has been running an unplanned experiment on different formats for raising young kids.

When daughter #1 was born, I was making decent money, and my wife and I had always wanted to raise our kids without day care. She stayed home with the baby. That lasted about three years, during which we had a second child, a boy. Then my job disappeared. She went back to work and I was the stay-at-home parent for 18 months, from the time Daughter #1 was 3 1/2 to 5, and Son was 1 to 2 1/2. At the end of that era we had (oops!) Daughter #2. My wife lost her job, but I managed to get a full-time job again, so we moved towns, and my wife became the home parent for Son and D2 while D1 started Kindergarten.

That lasted for one year. Then--here's where things get really nuts--she was offered a position where she would work from 3 to 11 each night. We needed the money after our series of financial set-backs, but we didn't want to do day care (and day care would take away half of her net pay anyway). So I re-arranged my schedule to work mornings, early afternoons and weekends. She was morning parent, then went to work. I went to work and was then late afternoon/evening parent. We did that for an exhausting four months.

And then this past December she was offered an 8 to 5 gig that would more than double her salary. And after doing everything we could to avoid day care, we finally called around and put our kids in a learning-center type place.

So: D1 always had a parent at home. S had a parent at home until about age 3/12, and D2 went into day care at 18 months old. We'll see which of them graduates college and which does the most jail time.

I still drop the kids off as late as I can (8:00ish) and get them as early as I can (about 4:00) so we have an hour and a half together in the morning and about three and a half hours together each night. Wife and I are both teaching now, so we'll have about nine weeks this summer that we are home with the kids, which is nice. But I guess I'm writing all of this to say that after doing everything we could to avoid day care, (including both of us working full-time and still caring for the children without assistance!) it hasn't been so bad. The adult/kid ratio isn't wonderful, but the place is clean and bright, with lots of toys, and they do little lessons throughout the day. S has several good friends he talks about, and sometimes when I go to get him he isn't quite ready to leave yet. It's been a huge stress off of us. I always thought of day care as "someone else raising my kids," but it hasn't turned out that way. They are still looking to us for examples and advice about how to deal with their frustrations, and the culture of our home is still the primary force shaping them. Home is where they get one-on-one time, meaningful conversations, and lots of affection. Preschool is where they play and learn. That distinction seems clear to them. And honestly, even though we tried to have structured play and educational time at home, lots of days we were too exhausted for that to happen. Some of what they are getting now is superior to what we were providing. As it turns out the best day care in our town is at the college where I teach--child development majors working with kids under the supervision of instructors with at least master's degrees--and we're trying to get them in that program for the fall. The building is right beside mine. They would literally drive to work and come home with me, and that would be grand.

Even in my ardently anti-day-care days, I never judged other parents' choices. Your budget is your budget, and your tolerances are your tolerances. But having gone through a lot of upheaval and financial stress, it was nice to have a decent day care when we needed it. But I would love, love, love to have something like the French system, where you don't have to call and ask and research so hard to find a place you trust, and where there isn't a year's wait for the best ones. Not every family has the resources to do that, and for many, keeping the kids at home just isn't an option.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:07 AM on April 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


We had free, state-run childcare and preschool in the USSR, with free lunches, ABCs, 123s, song-and-dance programs, the whole shebang. Just saying.
posted by Nomyte at 11:08 AM on April 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so

I'm not sure how to square this with two loving parents who want to continue to work. Is it just a matter of picking either kids or the benefits of professional accomplishment? That seems really bleak to me, and neither my husband nor I would have wanted to stay home.

I guess there will always be some people who think childcare of any kind is bad, but that shouldn't keep us from providing safe, enriching and affordable care for everybody else.
posted by jeoc at 11:08 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

There is nothing really all that good about ECE, except of course it exposes kids to viruses that will help boost their immune systems in the long term.


I really, really, really disagree with this. If the choice is between bad daycare -- i.e., daycare where there is no curriculum or program -- and staying at home with a parent, I think it's probably true that staying at home with the parent is going to be the superior option. But if you also have the choice of an accredited daycare provider? It becomes a lot less straightforward.

My 16-month-old kid is at an in-home daycare (and so this article was REALLY hard for me to read), and she thrives there. She gets to socialize with children of varying ages, from older toddlers to younger babies, she's learning Spanish, she's learning her colors and shapes -- and not all of that learning is coming from direct interaction with the teachers. A lot of it is coming from the other children. This is the sort of thing that might have happened more organically in the past with stay-at-home parents who had multiple children very close together. But now? When people barely know their next-door neighbors, are much more likely to have one or, at most, two children (yes, yes, I know there are outliers, "three is the new two," all that -- but where I live "one and done" is much, much, more common)? Well, frankly, I'm delighted that I've found a solution that allows me to work (which I need to do financially but also for my own sanity), and that gives my child an opportunity to have that kind of childhood community.

And that's not even getting into the studies that have shown a measurable benefit to early childhood education.
posted by devinemissk at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


There is nothing really all that good about ECE, except of course it exposes kids to viruses that will help boost their immune systems in the long term.

... and, of course, the fact that a ton of early intervention is done through preschools, so kids with not only Autism but a wide variety of learning, sensory, and behavioral disorders get good treatment quicker because the preschools and caregivers pick up on things that the parents either don't see as unusual or just attribute to "quirkiness".
posted by anastasiav at 11:14 AM on April 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


The article references the federal daycare program established during wwii. There is absolutely no reason why it can't be brought back.
posted by brujita at 11:17 AM on April 15, 2013


The article references the federal daycare program established during wwii. There is absolutely no reason why it can't be brought back.

Other than the Congress of the United States which would never pass such a law.
posted by shothotbot at 11:19 AM on April 15, 2013


Other than the Congress of the United States which would never pass such a law.

Yeah, until Dems can retake the House and Reid actually gets rid of the filibuster, there's no way this would happen, even though it should. The RNC press releases about Dems taking over the American family just write themselves.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:21 AM on April 15, 2013


(Also, it's harder to standardize and end up with consistent results when there are hundreds or thousands of different entities in charge rather than a central standard-making authority.)

The thing is, though, with preschools, do you really want standardization?
Everyone is looking for something different for their young kids, and that's a good thing, I believe.

For example, my kid's preschool believes in going outside and playtime, which is a major reason we chose it.
It's raining? Outside. Snowing? Outside. Sunny days? Outside.
There is a lot of focus on cooperative play, and less on ABCs and 123s.
One of the other places we considered focuses a lot on Spanish learning, which is great, but not our thing.
There is an art school, a parent co-op, lots of different choices.

But with rigid standards, you know it's going to be 1 hour of play, 30 minutes of music, 45 minutes for lunch, etc.
Can you imagine textbook fights for preschools? Ugh.

Minimum competencies, yes, but standardization? No thanks.
posted by madajb at 11:22 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband quit his job to stay home with our son because it made no sense for him to continue to work at a job he did not like so we could turn more than half of his paycheck over to the (very inexpensive, not-being-pad-what-she-was-worth) sitter. Daycare is ridiculously expensive in the U.S.

This is how daycare currently works in Quebec, but lamentably, the current PQ government is looking to make changes that don't sit well with others.
posted by Kitteh at 11:26 AM on April 15, 2013


ThePinkSuperhero: "Not that the two aren't necessarily related, it just reeks of, YOUR BABY COULD DIE IN DAYCARE!!, DETAILS AT 11."

Just to follow up on my comment to you upthread, I didn't get that sense at all from the posted article. Then I read the link in this comment and had to walk away from the computer for a few minutes to regain my composure.

So... I can see where you're coming from.
posted by zarq at 11:30 AM on April 15, 2013


He does not get dropped off at 7 am and picked up at bedtime (he is usually there from 8:30 to 3 pm).

Well, that's great, except for those of us who can't do that. If I had a kid, myself, I'd have to drop him off at, say, 8 and pick him up at 6 or 7, when I get out of work. This may not literally be "7am to bedtime" but the whole point of daycare is that it allows parents to work, and few jobs are flexible in a way that allows picking a kid up at 3pm.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:36 AM on April 15, 2013


Anecdata and all that (plus TW).

We recently mourned the death of a 7mo baby in a less privileged branch of our family. The parents could not afford to stay home, nor could they afford an accredited caregiver, so the baby went to an in-home daycare. Turned out one woman (with no childcare credentials) was watching something like fifteen kids including three of her own.

The death was ruled to be SIDS so perhaps there is no true blame nor moral to the story, but I can't help but feel like our society as a whole could have prevented this situation from happening, for that baby and countless others.
posted by annekate at 11:41 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


//We had free, state-run childcare and preschool in the USSR, with free lunches, ABCs, 123s, song-and-dance programs, the whole shebang. Just saying.//

And we all know how well that worked out for the USSR ;)
posted by COD at 11:43 AM on April 15, 2013


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

We had this in the U.S. for quite a while (if you were of a certain class, of course). Didn't work out that great for a big chunk of the population that maybe didn't want to have to stay home and not work for seven years (or five, as the case may be).

And "nothing good" is an awfully hyperbolic statement. Sure you want to stick with that?
posted by rtha at 11:48 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's be clear. Lousy child care is lousy. But there is excellent child care out there for those who can afford it.

That "for those who can afford it" is a not-insignificant qualifier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


annekate, i'm sorry for your loss. :(
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ugh. UUUUGH.

My first baby is due in a week. I've been on daycare waiting lists since last August (ie, the day after my positive pregnancy test I called up my first-choice daycare). They are insanely expensive, and they can give me absolutely no word on whether they'll have a spot for my little girl when I need it. A new daycare center just opened up last month a few miles from me and it's already entirely full. We have our fingers crossed, our company has "priority enrollment" with a few national chains, but when people ask what we're going to do with the baby once I go back to work I'm still stuck shrugging and saying, "Well, we're hoping for the best."

I don't know what the hell I'm going to do if I don't get a spot in a daycare. I am in a position to throw resources at this problem but you can't buy a space in a reputable center for love or money, and frankly, the in-home care places around here are shady and my coworker just had a nightmare scenario go down with her nanny that I would really rather not contend with.

I would vote for a candidate who supported a lot of really creepy other stuff if that candidate also supported getting it together and getting the US a daycare system that wasn't a complete clusterfuck. I think a lot of working parents would.
posted by town of cats at 11:57 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

This was my idea, I was going to stay home until the kid got into kindergarten and then go back to work. Unfortunately, by the time the kid got into kindergarten, the bottom had dropped out of the economy and my carefully-laid plans to get back into the workforce came to naught. Now the kid's 10, and with ten years out of work I am de facto unemployable.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:05 PM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


All of the parents I know who have used daycare drop their children off at 7am or before, and pick them up when it's basically bedtime.

Where the heck is daycare like that? Everywhere that my son was in daycare (and then after school care when he was older), had a strict 6:00 pm deadline for you to pick up your kid. And if you weren't there at 6, they'd start charging you late fees by the minute.
posted by octothorpe at 12:15 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

Ideal for who? My mother stayed home with me (in the mid 70s) and by the time I was 3 months old, she said to my father, "Either she goes to daycare and I go back to work or we will both be crying all afternoon." When I had my son, I felt the exact same way. I love him (and his sister who arrived last year) more than I can begin to express but damn if I don't also genuinely enjoy working as does my husband. My son loves his school and his friends and I know hands down they give him much more intellectual stimulation than I would be able to in a day. He is a fabulous kid and I know some of that is because of the people who have taken care of him at daycare.
posted by Leezie at 12:22 PM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


octothorpe: " Where the heck is daycare like that? Everywhere that my son was in daycare (and then after school care when he was older), had a strict 6:00 pm deadline for you to pick up your kid. And if you weren't there at 6, they'd start charging you late fees by the minute."

Our kids' preschool (which takes kids from 6 months and up, so it's really a combination day care and school) offers aftercare up until 7pm. Their day ends at 6pm, so if you make arrangements in advance there's a fee that's added to your regular bill each month. In an emergency they usually let a couple of instances slide, and then will begin to charge a flat fee by the half hour.
posted by zarq at 12:29 PM on April 15, 2013


This is how daycare currently works in Quebec, but lamentably, the current PQ government is looking to make changes that don't sit well with others.

Unfortunately, that is how it is supposed to work in Quebec, but the reality, at least in Montreal, is not so rosy. The standards of the at home daycare providers vary widely, and the waiting list for the CPEs are exceedingly long (we joined the waiting list for a number of them in our neighbourhood when my partner was 3 months pregnant -- our son is two and we still haven't been called for our slot).

There are private day cares that tend to go for around $40 a day (but there are serious tax subsidies) but again the workers there do not have be trained in early childhood education or have anything more than a basic certification.

It is much better than the situation in the US but nowhere near as great as France.

(and the new PQ government is looking to slash funding -- it's almost as if Marois is looking for new ways for people to hate her)
posted by jpwhite at 12:36 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And we all know how well that worked out for the USSR ;)

You too could be the homeland of Google's software engineers!
posted by Nomyte at 12:36 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

Yeah, I don't know. We had a part-time nanny for a couple of years and then we were in Quaker day care/preschool and it was really phenomenal. Lots of activities, lots of people, lots of languages and so forth. I loved school. My mother mainly worked as a freelance lawyer while we were growing up, and I'm pretty sure she hated it and would have been much happier in a full-time job instead of isolated and alone most of the day, when she wasn't driving us places. The neighborhood where I grew up had almost no other children and so there were few play dates and no kinds of rosy memories of running around in the Rockwellian manner.

Different things work better for different families-- an ideal society would have options that encompass all manners of families.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


The ideal situation is to have a society where one parent can afford to stay home until the child is aged seven or so, and even then, send the kids to school for maybe 3 hours a day tops.

So: D1 always had a parent at home. S had a parent at home until about age 3/12, and D2 went into day care at 18 months old. We'll see which of them graduates college and which does the most jail time.


Comments like these build on each other and make it much, much more difficult to talk about child care in a rational way. When you presume that parents automatically give the best possible care to a child, you stack the deck against solutions that may involve child care by non-parental figures.

It's hard for me, someone who grew up in daycare, with babysitters who worked out of their homes, and in pre-schools, to come at the discussion with a level head when everyone assumes that the care I got in those situations was sub-standard and my parents were less than awesome for putting me in those situations.

The truth of it was that some of my babysitters were awesome, one was really quite boring, and one I'm still close with her family even in my late-thirties.

My mother did the SAHM gig for one year when I was in second grade. It took until I was in my late twenties for our relationship to recover. She was miserable, bored, and resentful and I was bored, frustrated, and resentful. She wanted to go back to work after the first month, but societal pressures made her feel like a bad Mom for wanting to work. I wanted to be left alone and have the hands-off approach to child care I'd enjoyed for the previous years under the slightly boring babysitter, but I felt guilty and miserable because I didn't want to spend time with my Mom like all the other kids.

There's a metric shit-ton of factors that go into making a child turn into a healthly, happy, and productive adult and day-care choices are just one peice of the puzzle. Deciding that ALL children are ALWAY better off being cared for by their parents makes a really tricky discussion even trickier and just devolves into blaming and finger pointing about who is making better parenting decisions.
posted by teleri025 at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Just thinking about child care makes my stomach churn.

We have a seven month old son, and my husband and I were lucky enough to be able to adjust our work schedules so that he isn't in care - I work part-time in the mornings, and my husband works full-time swing shift. We hardly spend any time together (we only have one day off together), my husband doesn't get a lot of sleep, and money is tight since I cut my hours. The current situation works okay, but I don't think it will last for the next 5 years, especially as my son gets older and will benefit from more socialization. I am constantly worrying about the future and juggling options and questions in my head, and honestly, there doesn't seem to be a great solution for a middle class family without a financial cushion or family close by.
posted by Safiya at 12:45 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Around here we have daycares with saturday hours and overnight hours (parents work the late shift). Of course we've also had a few fatal incidents.
posted by tilde at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: I have no desire to *not* work, even though obviously I love my son better than my job, and the belief that I should be a full-time parent and nothing more if I want to raise a healthy, happy child is so disheartening and frustrating.
posted by Safiya at 12:50 PM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Worth noting, too, that this is in some sense a no-win: increasing the standards in day care will increase its cost in the absence of huge subsidies that are not going to happen in the US. That will be painted politically as an attack on working women. In the UK, for example, the conservative government has just moved to up the permissible ratio of even small children to caregivers, and this is being promoted as a solution to the cost of care "pricing women out of work" and supported by many advocates for gender equality in the workplace.

Teleri025 - As with any discussion of childrearing, this thread covers all sides of the Mommy Wars. We've had people assuming that daycare is always a bad option and also had people assuming that families where a parent is the main caregiver are under-stimulated in the absence of daily classes, plopped in front of the TV, and bored, We;ve also heard that their (totally antifeminist, because of course all care-giving is REALLY done by women, be honest) parents are bored, crazy, and dooming themselves to lifetime unemployment.
posted by Wylla at 12:52 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not that we SUCK at caring, it's that we are angry about having to pay for it because we think someone else* should be willing to do it for free.

I think we'd be willing to pay for it so long as we don't have to pay for those freeloaders over there to have childcare.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:13 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


My wife and I (both teachers) happened upon a gem of a daycare for our two children. Some key things that we value:

Low staff turnover. Our son has the same caregivers that my daughter did.

Non-Profit. It's run by a parent-volunteer board and a director. Lots of oversight.

Professional development. One day every year is dedicated to staff professional development.

We didn't realize how great our childcare provider was until being there for a while. One thing that we realized later on is that a daycare has multiple levels of accountability: there are several people in each room, there is a director and another administrator who check in on the rooms regularly. A day home has little of that accountability.
posted by Amity at 1:19 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was a really hard article to read, and our current government makes it seem like the possibility of anything changing for the better is pretty much helpless.

I would have loved to put our son in a day care, but I literally couldn't find one with any openings that didn't either look very sketchy or cost as much as a private school. We ended up using a nanny with no experience who I still regret having hired, but at the time she was the only option both that we could afford and who was always available based around my sporadic work schedule. And now we have a part-time nanny for after school whom we adore, but it means keeping her even when I'm not working and can't really afford it, because I can't bear the idea of having to find someone new and risking being making a bad choice. There was a loving and trusted nanny in our neighborhood who recently killed two of the three children in her care (while their stay at home mom was out with the third), and it's so hard not to always be terrified about what could go wrong. I look at my friends in Israel who have gan (like the French creche), and how they can pick and choose among options as if they're schools, and it makes me so jealous.
posted by Mchelly at 1:21 PM on April 15, 2013


But with rigid standards, you know it's going to be 1 hour of play, 30 minutes of music, 45 minutes for lunch, etc.

That's not the kind of standards people are talking about. What people are mulling over is standards like minimum carer to children ratios (1:3 for under 1s, 1:4 for 2 year olds, etc.)

But those standards are going to come at a cost - let us not imagine that the the people who put their kids into daycares where 1 adult is looking after 15 infants is doing so because they have other fabulous options in their budget. If you are even a two parent family working minimum wage, moving from a 1:6 ratio to a 1:3 legal ratio is going to double your daycare costs and that's not just a big chunk of your budget: without subsidised childcare, that's driving poor working families into homelessness.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:28 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate that I live in a country that never runs out of ways to punish people for having the nerve to not be rich.

Clean, safe, enriching child care should not be a luxury item in the budget. It should be a national priority, because we should be a nation that recognizes that "equal opportunity" should begin at birth with the kind of social safety net that gives parents and children the sense that, indeed, their society does value families in all permutations. Good childcare and quality preschool for all should be a point of national pride.
posted by sobell at 1:45 PM on April 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


As others have pointed out, daycare in Canada is mostly a mess too. I'm interested to hear about real-life experiences in Quebec as many of us here in BC would really like to see such a system implemented.

We live in North Vancouver and are very fortunate to have been able to get both of our kids into a non-profit daycare run by the Lonsdale Creek Daycare Society, who run three sites in North Van. It's still not cheap but very competitive compared to privately run daycares, the facilities are fantastic and the staff are awesome, well trained and there's not much turnover. Our first was in a home daycare for a while and while it wasn't awful, but the comparison to Lonsdale Creek is like night and day. You do have to put in some time for fundraising and there are two mandatory work parties per year, but it's totally worth the effort. They've been running since the 70s - we know at least one family who are in the second generation there (i.e Mum went there too, back in the day.)

I have no idea how common this kind of arrangement is elsewhere, Lonsdale Creek seems to be a great model that works sustainably with good outcomes for the kids in the current funding environment. However, for us it's still the second biggest expense every month after housing and while we aren't hurting too bad, the strain on lower income families must be incredible - so I welcome more government support for this beyond the current tax credits.
posted by pascal at 1:57 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I work for a company the advertises a company-run daycare as a benefit. And it is, as far as I know, an amazing daycare with fantastic people working in it. Except that the waiting lists are long and the cost is... about $2500 a month, less for kids who are nearly in school.

That's more than my mortgage+property tax payments.

You have to make a lot of money before not having a parent stay home is less cost-effective.
posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have to make a lot of money before not having a parent stay home is less cost-effective.

Don't forget about the low probability of finding a comparable job after years out of the workforce, Social Security, company matching contributions to retirement accounts, raises,...

A lot of these discussions make it sound like parents (by which we really mean mothers) who have children in paid childcare while working outside jobs are doing the equivalent of shipping in heads of lettuce from 2000 miles away when perfectly good lettuce is being grown locally. This makes a lot of sense if you think that women are pretty much interchangeable units.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:37 PM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


My daughter is in an excellent Montessori, total cost per month once I factor in after school care is astronomical. Personally my wife and I can both afford it and feel like the cost is worthwhile but even then I can't really imagine having multiple children at school (even with multiple child discounts).

And then I see people with 2 working parents that together make about half of what my wife and I make and they have multiple children in daycare and I know that they simply have to accept lower price and generally lower quality childcare. Basically people seem to suffer through it until they can manage to get their children into public schools which like so much else are becoming increasingly strained.
posted by vuron at 2:49 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the national daycare in Japan. Like other nationalized benefits here, you can opt out for private or upgrade through job benefits, but the cost for the base govt. assisted version is calculated as a percentage of the previous year's salary(s). On my modest English teacher's salary, my daughter was going 35hrs/wk for about $120/month.
posted by p3t3 at 2:57 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have to make a lot of money before not having a parent stay home is less cost-effective.

Don't forget about the low probability of finding a comparable job after years out of the workforce, Social Security, company matching contributions to retirement accounts, raises,...


This, so much this. I think I might be willing to just stay home with my kids when they're young to avoid the whole daycare thing, except that I have strong doubts I'd ever find a job anywhere near as good as the job I have now with a multiple-years-long gap on my resume. The last several years of terrible economy have really driven this home for lots of people - I think basically at this point everyone knows a few people who are long-term unemployed and they see how those people are being treated if they have the gall to continue to look for work. Nobody wants to be there. I would go through a lot of contortions to avoid having a gap of more than a couple of months in my work history.
posted by town of cats at 3:17 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have strong doubts I'd ever find a job anywhere near as good as the job I have now with a multiple-years-long gap on my resume.

A reasonable set of laws for parental leave would certainly be a step in the right direction. Canadian maternal leave is a full year and in most provinces you get some pittance of cash from EI but the main benefit is knowing you can go back to your job. Getting care for a one year-old is pretty different from getting care for a newborn or 3 month-old.
posted by GuyZero at 3:25 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try being poor enough to live in a shelter, have to put in hours to keep your benefits, and be faced with state child care resources all summer for a special needs child. I will have an ulcer before I climb out of this hole.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a tax preparer in the US a couple years ago and one figure that stood out for me in particular was the deduction for daily food allowance for in-home daycare providers. It was somewhere around $1.75 per day per child. I can absolutely see how that would motivate an in-home provider to accept as many kids as they could to maximize their deductions.

On a semi-related note I've been building families in the Sims lately made up of three adults and five infants/toddlers. The adults are constantly falling asleep on the floor and peeing themselves and I can't even remember which kid is which.

I'm 100% in favor of increasing salaries and standards for those care for and teach our kids. Seriously, raise my taxes. (Single, no kids, no desire to have kids of my own.)
posted by bendy at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a society and a polity, you get what you pay for and you pay for what you care about so the American polity cares more about pro football than child care.
posted by SteveLaudig at 4:06 PM on April 15, 2013


We had free, state-run childcare and preschool in the USSR, with free lunches, ABCs, 123s, song-and-dance programs, the whole shebang. Just saying.

And now you understand why the US is so resistant to it.
posted by asterix at 4:10 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only minimal assistance is available to offset these expenses. The very poorest families receive a tax credit worth up to $1,050 a year per child.

Well, there's also an FSA available specifically for childcare. I figure it's around a 25 percent discount, but it's really intended to make up for the fact that you don't pay income tax on stay at home parenting. And it hardly compensates for the fact that, mathematically speaking, if the caregiver:infant ratio should be 1:3, you should expect about 30 percent of your income to go to infant care.
posted by pwnguin at 6:32 PM on April 15, 2013


Where the heck is daycare like that? Everywhere that my son was in daycare (and then after school care when he was older), had a strict 6:00 pm deadline for you to pick up your kid. And if you weren't there at 6, they'd start charging you late fees by the minute.

But isn't 6pm nearly bedtime for small children? I don't exactly know many people with kids, though.
posted by hoyland at 6:35 PM on April 15, 2013


But isn't 6pm nearly bedtime for small children?

Oh God... only if you're lucky.

WebMD on typical toddler sleep: "They typically go to bed between 7 and 9 p.m. and wake up between 6 and 8 a.m." As a group toddlers are typically sleep-deprived, getting less that the 14 hours per day they normally require.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:48 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You try getting my toddler to bed before 10PM... I've given up. Sometimes it's closer to midnight.

Honestly I think she sleeps longer during the day and then stays up late with us to maximize the parental attention. My infant does the same thing now... If it weren't for the fact that I'm exhausted by nine, I really wouldn't mind.

Anyway, having tried centers and nannies, and having spent at least my four months of maternity leave in the last two years as a stay-at-home mom, I'm not at all convinced that the nannies are better for my kids than the center that we liked. They got a lot more stimulation and structure from going to the center and interacting with other kids than hanging out in the same few rooms, with the same person, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I've signed the toddler up for ECFE classes now, but an hour a week still isn't much...

As for me, I do not have the patience to be a SAHM full time. Isn't it possible that it's a job some mothers just aren't great at? I get bored, I get lazy, I get crabby, after too many days in a rowat home. On the other hand, I am really good at the job that uses my PhD training.
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had a phase where the kid didn't go to bed till 10 or 11... And ours have always gotten up between 5 and 6, do the world shrank down to just work, looking after the kids, and sleep, which made for some cranky times. At least the kid got to have a daytime nap, we didn't...

All I can say is that at the you v ages everything changes every 6 months, *sometimes* for the better, so you just have to tough it out and see what's next.
posted by Artw at 8:12 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh God... only if you're lucky.

Ah, my friend's kids (most of my sample) are apparently the exception that proves the rule or whatever the idiom is.
posted by hoyland at 8:15 PM on April 15, 2013


Teleri025- I'm kind of amused that you took my comment that says, basically, our three kids have had three different experiences, let's see what happens next, and managed to interpret it as saying that stay-at-home parents are always better than day care. I think you may be reading through some significant filters.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:15 PM on April 15, 2013


I was a rotten little boy in every way. SO was kind of a hellian too. Daycare was uncommon back then. It all came back to us when we had one of our own.

When Yuck Jr. turned 2, his Mom and I switched roles until kindergarten. She was losing it and I didn't quite understand why she kept showing up at my work unwashed and looking frantic. I understood all of that very quickly.

During the two month-long periods when she had to work every day, my hair fell out. It was a mind-numbing and essential task that left me unable to converse with other adults. What I really craved was time by myself.

A woman brought her twins to the same park. One of them was asleep and I didn't notice until the second one woke up.

"OMG, Two! I can't imagine. Do they ever sleep at the same time?" "No." She looked at me like a zombie and I can not describe the way she said the word "No." It was kind of like she excreted an empty soul through her eyes.

It really sucked sometimes and I almost went nuts, but I now have a bond with my boy that you could break ships on. It was so worth it. Teachers and other parents notice the difference. We are sensitive with each other. He is MINE and I am HIS!

Raising a child is an investment in society and your own future. Parenting is too much aggro for most people to always be in control of themselves...so we hold the daycare people to impossible standards.

I'm not saying everyone who puts a kid in daycare is a bad parent. Nobody else is going to care like you do.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:50 PM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nobody else is going to care like you do.

You're right. No one else is going to care like I do, and that's ok. I turned myself into knots trying to do everything "right" when my baby was born, and all that gained me was exhaustion and resentment toward myself, my husband, and my kid. Once I realized that there were many ways to do things, and that my way was just that -- my way, not the way, life became much better. There is no perfect way; just what works for you and your family.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:35 PM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


just what works for you and your family.

That is the crux.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:01 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't worry guys, Free Market will evolve a self-regulatory mechanism soon.
posted by vidur at 11:12 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly the lesson here is that to become rich I need to open a daycare.
posted by Malice at 1:05 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, regulation compliance, licensing and insurance will suck most of the profit out. Privatized daycare is an unprofitable proposition for both parents and providers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:19 AM on April 16, 2013


Clearly the lesson here is that to become rich I need to open a daycare.

My best friend has been running a daycare for 10 years now and is barely making even. She pointed out that the economy going bust meant people were unemployed, and when you're unemployed you now have time at home to care for kids, so....so she's been losing a lot of clients.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on April 16, 2013


It would be a net loss if my children were in daycare. I have a feeling a lot of people lose money after factoring in the costs of daycare and working, but they feel they need to work.

I am glad my wife can stay home with the children, and she is doing a fantastic job raising them. I honestly cannot remember the last time they were sick. My 5 month old has never even had a cold. My 3 year old is more advanced then my nieces and friend's children that are older and in daycare.
posted by dayton2600 at 6:52 AM on April 16, 2013


I am glad my wife can stay home with the children, and she is doing a fantastic job raising them. I honestly cannot remember the last time they were sick. My 5 month old has never even had a cold. My 3 year old is more advanced then my nieces and friend's children that are older and in daycare.

My son's pediatrician's take on this is that going to day care helps kids build up their immunity early on, when missing a day of "school" isn't a big deal. Kids that don't go to day care end up sick constantly when they start kindergarten, and miss school then. It sucks that my son gets sick more now than kids his age who have stay at home parents, but every kid has to get sick and build their immunity eventually. It's just a question of when.
posted by amro at 7:20 AM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It amazes me to hear that kids who are cared for by stay-at-home parents don't get sick as much as daycare kids do. My kid is at home, but he has, on average, 2-3 playdates a week (often with daycare kids), and time at the playground, and at the store, and plays in the dirt, and goes to the library, and has music and swim classes, and is just generally out in the world quite a bit, and he gets sick a fair amount. Are all these SAH kids that don't get sick just always at home? Because there are germs everywhere, not just at daycare.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:44 AM on April 16, 2013


When I was pregnant, I read about women getting on waiting lists for daycares and planning out childcare before they even started setting up their baby's nursery at home. I just thought these were Tiger Moms in NYC (no offense, NYC). After my son was born, I was completely lost as to how to find a good day care. From age 12 weeks to 8 months, my son was watched by a woman who occasionally watched two other kids. She was loving, but I always had this fear that something bad would happen because she wasn't licensed, and the in-home thing did freak me out a bit. Thankfully, when I moved, I found a licensed preschool which was accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). They have structured days and play outside whenever they can. My son has been doing great there and enjoys going.
Yes, my son is in school from roughly 8 am - 5:30 pm everyday. It sucks. I wish I had more time with him, but that's the life of two working parents. Working from home while watching him is not an option. Neither he nor my work get quality attention from me that way. I'm not really happy that I pay ~20K a year for preschool, but I don't want to live everyday wondering whether my son is going to be neglected in a substandard daycare.
Don't get me started on how hard it is to find a decent babysitter too.

I wish I took those books seriously and got connected with Mommy groups early on to get a jump on daycare when I was pregnant.
posted by msladygrey at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, re: illness, I don't know why people thing that kids that aren't in daycare don't get sick. If they're socializing at all with other kids, or going to the grocery store, the park, the library, they're going to be exposed to germs and have colds/fevers/tummy bugs. And if they have older siblings who go to school/preschool, or on playdates, etc., they're going to get whatever those older kids bring home. Kids are going to get sick, period. Some kids get sick more than others, no matter what they're exposed to, but every kid is going to get sick.

And amro, my ped says the same thing about daycare vs. kinder. My kid was sick a lot in her first year of life -- nothing serious, just lots and lots of colds and minor fevers -- until she hit about 13 months, and since then, she's had exactly ONE cold. And when she brings home less illness, I get sick less often -- which, thank GOD. I had a neverending sinus infection for several months when she was very little.

Re: NAEYC, there are in-home providers that are accredited by similar organizations. Mine is. Caveat is that I live in a state where in-home providers are pretty tightly regulated -- there are regular inspections (at least one unannounced in a three-year period, and one scheduled in the same time-frame), mandatory trainings, and rigid ratios (1 provider to 6 children, with no more than 2 under 2; 2 providers to 8 children, with no more than 4 under 2). It means in-home care here is probably more expensive than in other states, but it's still less expensive than infant care in a daycare center -- largely because the ratios are even lower for centers, 1:3 for under 2s.
posted by devinemissk at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2013


I have no children. I have no hopes of having children.

Dear god... this is all so broken. All of you struggling parents have my most humble sympathy.

We have got the start doing this right. I went to an awesome Catholic school run pre-school as a kid... when I was finally old enough. My mother stayed at home with my brother and I when we were young... this being the eighties... it was still possible.

Lets find politicians that don't suck. Raise my taxes... rip down the stadiums and scrap the bombers.

Let's kick this pig.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


We do not try to willingly expose our children to sick people. In my experience with relatives and friends have said that they drop their children off at daycare when they are sick (unless they are vomiting). I don't understand why they would expose other children to illnesses like that. It really seems inconsiderate.

Every time I hear someone says that it is building their immunity it is in a tone that sounds like they are trying to justify it to themselves. I, personally, disagree that it is a good or normal thing for children to be sick often.
posted by dayton2600 at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2013


dayton2600: "In my experience with relatives and friends have said that they drop their children off at daycare when they are sick (unless they are vomiting). I don't understand why they would expose other children to illnesses like that. It really seems inconsiderate."

It is. On the other hand it may be difficult for some parents, especially if they have more than one child who has been sick multiple times throughout the school year, to take the required time off from work to tend to them at home. My wife and I have had a few heated discussions over the last couple of years, trying to figure out which one of us can manage to take the day off without getting in too much trouble at work.

Our kids' preschool has a policy: if your kid throws up in school, they're home for 24 hours. That's two days of work. Not everyone can take 2 days off at a moment's notice, or work from home, or has family and/or friends who can or are willing to drop everything and jump in to help.
posted by zarq at 8:34 AM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"In my experience with relatives and friends have said that they drop their children off at daycare when they are sick (unless they are vomiting). I don't understand why they would expose other children to illnesses like that. It really seems inconsiderate."

It is inconsiderate. But my day care, at least, will send a kid home if he's sick or has a fever. They also post notices on every classroom door when a child in the school has been diagnosed with strep, the flu, and a number of other illnesses (I think basically everything but colds and stomach bugs), and they specify what classrooms those kids are in. I get the impression that this is a state regulation (I'm in NJ). The notices that they post look kind of official.
posted by amro at 8:44 AM on April 16, 2013


Every time I hear someone says that it is building their immunity it is in a tone that sounds like they are trying to justify it to themselves. I, personally, disagree that it is a good or normal thing for children to be sick often.

I hate to see my son sick. But I trust the expertise of his pediatrician over the opinion of a stranger on the internet.
posted by amro at 8:46 AM on April 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I, personally, disagree that it is a good or normal thing for children to be sick often.

Kids are born only with what immunities they have acquired in the womb. It is totally normal for them to react to the various viruses and whatnot that they meet once they are out here in the world with everyone else. This is how immunity is built. Some kids get sick more often than others; some kids have stronger reactions than others.
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yesterday my boyfriend quit his job so he can stay home and care for our two sons.

This after a year spent trying to hire an in-home nanny in a rural area (the three who finally showed up to interview were each from towns even more remote then ours, and I couldn't pay them enough to cover the cost of gas), sending the babies to an unlicensed inhome daycare (that we loved) that ended when the caregiver went back to school, and pricing out all the nearest daycares to discover that having two in daycare will cost us 90% of Daddy's paycheck.

Being a single income family terrifies me. I've navigated social services and WIC, and I know firsthand that they are no kind of last resort. They are barely a stopgap measure. My friend in Sweden has a variety of daycare options for her 2 yr old, and it's free. I ended my freelance career primarily because the work that had been sufficient to support two adults and occasionally hire additional work help wouldn't even begin to touch the costs of raising an infant in this country.
posted by annathea at 9:04 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


"...and pricing out all the nearest daycares to discover that having two in daycare will cost us 90% of Daddy's paycheck."

The reason my wife originally stayed home after our second was the realization that after all the work expenses and taxes were considered, she was going to net $100 a week after paying for daycare with her employee discount.

She stayed home, I picked up a few shifts a week delivering pizza for Papa John at night and easily brought home more than the $100 a week should would have working 40 hours a week.
posted by COD at 10:14 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have to make a lot of money before not having a parent stay home is less cost-effective.

I think the effect of not working on a parent's salary trajectory and career opportunities can be totally unrecoverable. It may make sense in immediate dollars, but it will always be far more expensive in the long term.

I worry about the moms who end up staying home because daycare seems too expensive. If they end up getting a divorce, they're going to be vulnerable to never being able to recover the time and money and career opportunities lost being at home. They'll likely get shamed or tricked out of alimony as well since it is hard to measure the economic loss of staying at home.
posted by discopolo at 10:21 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the effect of not working on a parent's salary trajectory and career opportunities can be totally unrecoverable. It may make sense in immediate dollars, but it will always be far more expensive in the long term.

There are plenty of women out there who make plenty of money in their careers. Not everyone has a career vs a job, but for those who do, absolutely, long-term childcare from early on may indeed be the best decision.
posted by GuyZero at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2013


When it comes to the kids who won't go to bed before 10-11: sounds like me as a kid and I came out a night owl. My mom said I would never sleep through the night until she started putting me to bed at 11 when I was two. That...still hasn't really changed 30+ years later :P

I was grumbly about day care as a kid, but nowadays I am glad I went. My mom is freaking miserable being at home and we would have been going out of our freaking MINDS trapped at home together. And the ones I went to were okay. I thought the best of the lot was the one run on my elementary school campus in a couple of trailers--no transport issues to worry about, school supervision, and my friends went there too. Now it sounds like a fairy tale, right? I wonder if ESS still exists in my home district. Probably not due to budget cuts, I'd guess.

But you get charged for late pickups now? Oh my god, my mom would have been broke. She was always the dead last parent to pick me up, long after closing. That was my primary objection to day care as a kid, really: who the hell knew when I'd get to go home.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:36 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was a horrifying story in my local news today:
A West Allis woman charged Tuesday in connection with a fire that killed three of her children admitted locking her daughter and developmentally disabled sons in a bedroom of their home while she went to work, according to a criminal complaint.

According to the criminal complaint, Belen left her daughter, Nayeli Colon, 5, and 4-year-old twins Adrian and Alexis Colon locked in the bedroom alone for three hours while she went to work.

West Allis firefighters found the children's charred bodies huddled together under a dresser in the second floor bedroom when the fire, reported shortly before 5:30 p.m., was brought under control after about two hours.

West Allis police determined the bedroom door was locked with a dead bolt that kept the children from escaping without a key.

Belen told investigators that Adrian was autistic and epileptic, and Alexis had cerebral palsy.

Belen told police it was her first day of work and could not find a babysitter. [emphasis mine]
posted by desjardins at 4:37 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Today, one of our pre-schools' 3-year-olds was looking for a little "people cookie"—a little plastic thing that looks like a person—anyway, I did the thing where I found one and said "Wait, let me look in your ear... aha, here's one!"

A couple of hours later, her friend was looking for another "people cookie" and I told her truthfully that I looked all over the playground but couldn't find one.

The girl I worked with earlier suggested "Look in her ear". :)
posted by blueberry at 6:21 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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