So, maybe you’ve read this article about the state of daycare in the US. Maybe you haven’t. Would you like to be incredibly depressed? You would? Awesome. I’ll wait while you take a few minutes to read it. [drums fingers] All done? Wonderful. Here’s a tissue. You’re welcome. It was that last bit, wasn’t it? And all of the other terrible things.
I’m lucky. Very lucky. When I decided to actually follow through with my pregnancy, I did so knowing that I had support. I had support from my friends, and from my family. My parents, while not wealthy, are certainly well-off enough, and kind enough, to help me out of a tight spot if necessary. My child’s father, while not a bastion of support, was (for better or for worse) (probably for worse) still around, and he worked nights, which allowed me to return to work after 6 really fucking short weeks and work 12-14 hour days (after being screwed out of my short-term disability pay and almost being screwed out of my health insurance…but that’s another post for another day). So I wasn’t concerned with the cost of childcare.
But as time wore on, I started noticing things at home. Like how the top shelf of my baking cabinet had been decimated. Or my new Urban Decay (bought on clearance, thankyouverymuch) eyeliner had been smeared on my bathroom wall. I knew my child’s father was not doing his job. Granted, he did work nights, but it was at a bar. And I really REALLY doubt he was forced to stay there til the 5 or 6am at which he normally came home. My then 2 year old son was busting out of the baby gate and having his way with my home. In my kitchen and in my bathroom. Cue heart attack. Finally I said FUCK IT, and managed to hire an old friend of mine to watch E 3 days a week hoping to assuage my fears. It was definitely helpful, and I trusted (and still trust!) her with the care of my child. After I gave E’s dad the boot, I had to find a place for him the remaining days because I knew his father was the most unreliable. After making half-assed arrangements with friends (god bless them) and being late to work more times than I could count, I finally sent him to a co-worker’s sister’s home daycare. It wasn’t a nightmare, but E wasn’t having a great time, and they gave preference to their own (horrible brat) granddaughter over ALL of the other children. I had to come up with a better solution.
E’s dad, as per usual, had quit paying child support, and while I was in the process of trying to get it out of him, it left me with no options in the meantime, save for my credit card that I had juuuuust finished paying off. I had become familiar with a local chain of daycare/preschools in the area, had met the staff, and been to visit numerous times. The only thing keeping me from sending E there was the $180 per week cost. There were no vouchers, I didn’t qualify for assistance of any sort (despite my salary being well below $30,000 a year), and I was solely responsible for everything from food to clothes to gas to insurance to car payments. When I finally broke down in tears to my parents, they graciously offered to help. And I gratefully accepted. Like I said, I was lucky. (I still maxed out my credit card sending him there. Twice.) (And paid my parents back for half, so far.)
I was also lucky because where I had sent E? Was awesome. Do I think they were perfect all the time? No. Did my child learn his letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and come home happy every day? Yes. Were they fastidious in calling me for bumps, bruises, and visits from his father? They were. I was fucking lucky.
These women in that article were not lucky. Their children were not lucky. The thousands of children in unlicensed and unsafe daycare situations are unlucky. But there is no other choice. Had I not been so lucky to be in a situation where it was an option to send E where I did, he would have had to have stayed in a situation where he was not happy. But $75 a week is a lot less than $180. But what are you getting for $75? Not as much as you will for $180. But you have to sacrifice when there are no other options.
I’m tired of the “every man for himself” shit that is poisoning this country. You wanna know why it’s important to have better access to daycare? So the adorable 2 year old down the street doesn’t cut you for $50 in 10 years. Oh, what, your taxes will be higher? So will mine, but you should still probably be mad about the CEO of the company who’s just taken home his second $2million bonus this year and didn’t pay any taxes on it because it’s gone through a money-laundering service, oops, sorry, I mean BANK! in the goddamn Caribbean somewhere. Unless you actually want today’s disadvantaged youth to be dealing drugs in the house next to yours.
People have the notion that other people’s children are not their responsibility. Before I became pregnant, I also had that notion. Guess what? I was dead fucking wrong. How is it fair that my child can go to a great place where the children are all treated well, but Kenya Mire was forced to choose a place where the caregiver, one who was LICENSED TO CARE FOR CHILDREN, would leave for hours on end? Who allowed her home to burn and children to die just because she could? Kenya Mire made $12.50 an hour at her job. Let’s do some math. That equates to $500 a week before taxes. After taxes, maybe $375 a week. That is roughly $1500 a month. Now, factor in $800 a month for childcare (good childcare where she didn’t worry about her daughter burning to death) (and that is with subsidies from her state). $700 left over for rent, food, transportation, and let’s not forget she has another, older child. This woman, like SO MANY OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY RIGHT NOW, is a working woman attempting to raise a family on her own. She is no mythical “welfare queen.” She is a woman who was making sacrifices to help her family because she had no. other. choice. I could have easily been her, were it not for my family’s willingness to help me out. Not everyone has a family like mine to count on.
There are a million solutions for this problem. All of them involve people doing more. President Obama has the right idea with his pre-K initiative, funded mostly by cigarette taxes. Of course, the asshole tobacco lobbyists will fight this, tooth and nail because their bottom line is being affected. Because the CEO of Philip-Morris (or, sorry, ALTRIA) might only be able to buy one luxury yacht instead of three. But this myth of poor people screwing the system isn’t only untrue, it’s literally killing people. Children, specifically. Anecdotes aren’t data. I don’t work harder than Kenya Mire, or my friends who are in her same shoes. All we want is to provide the best for our kids. I was just lucky enough not to be forced to make the same choices she did.
(I’m sorry if this piece is disjointed but I am just about DONE with this fucking week. There is basically no way for poor and lower middle class people to afford to send their kids to decent daycare, but it’s still just as easy for any ol’ crazy to walk into a shop and purchase a firearm. Thanks, senators! Assholes.)