It’s been a long time since I’ve written about parents’ preferences for young children, so I have forgotten how electric the question is. The response to last week’s part has been pouring in, mostly fast and a few furious. They have confirmed my feeling that as a country, we need to do better than what we are doing for children.
One reader suggested listing a private business as an ally:
“I wonder if it would be possible to alleviate some of the cost of doing business if the business subsidizes more child care centers (partially). The money is then sent to their employees in the form of better wages. Their turnover is lower and the children have more balance. Just a thought. “
That’s a great idea, when it works. But it only works when it makes financial sense for the business. I’ve seen multiple colleges shut down their day-care because they couldn’t work out the numbers.
Some readers have reminded me of the CCAMPIS grant, which can help Pell-eligible student parents spend some of their child care. How many community college students are also parents, it is a welcome resource. Like a personal business concept, though, it’s only great if you’re in a specific group that helps it.
Some other readers have mentioned that the problem of child care is actually a wage problem. If the wages available to most people in the 20’s and 30’s were maintained with productivity gains over the past few decades, the cost crisis for day-care would be nowhere near what it is now. Others have taken the opposite approach, arguing that “babysitting” does not require advanced training at all; By that argument, credential inflation is the real culprit.
Another day care center suggested sponsoring their staff for advanced training. That way, students won’t have to hook up to pay less. I don’t know the profit margins of many day care centers, but based on what I’ve seen on campus, I suspect that most of them are running close to the bone. I suspect most of them have budget relaxation to do it on a scale. That said, I agree that turnover is a huge challenge in the industry, and subsidized degrees can be a great employee retention tool.
Readers in different locations have reported different situations. A reader from Illinois pointed me to the ECACE program there, which could offer a full scholarship to Early Childhood Aid. New Jersey and Pennsylvania provide grants through the TEACH program, which can cover some of the cost of training if students meet multiple criteria. Multiple Canadian readers have noted that in (part?) Canada, the government subsidizes the salaries of day-care workers, pays them the same salaries as public school teachers, and pays parents প্রতিদিন 10 a day. Higher salaries help to find and retain qualified teachers, and lower advance costs for parents make it possible for even decent parents to ensure that their children have access to safe, high-quality care while their parents work. This sounds like a thoroughly nice idea to me, especially compared to what we’re doing here. I have yet to hear a coherent philosophical argument that five-year-olds should be eligible for free schooling but four-year-olds should be subject to the private market.
Finally, and of course, it is impossible to discuss childcare without addressing gender. Some argue that addressing day-care is at all part of an agenda of an underlying attack on traditional families and / or the transfer of parental authority by the nanny state. Family historians have done a fine job of dispelling the notion that “traditional” means “eternal” or “inevitable:” In fact, the situation for the white American middle class in the Middle Ages is historically, albeit somewhat fluke, but the ideology still holds strong cultural tensions. Puts, even if it is largely honored in case of violation.
I am further persuaded by the argument that we cannot find sustainable solutions to work / life balance – much like child care – until we stop defining it as a “female problem.” It’s everyone’s business. Men, and especially fathers, need both to act as parents and to contribute to structural solutions. The “Dean Dad” moniker I adopted so many years ago was a gesture toward that; These were the two roles that occupied most of my waking time. I wanted to write about work and parenting challenges from my own perspective, which means publicly acknowledging that it takes time to be an involved parent. It consumes bandwidth. It’s hard. Spending time with my kids over the years has helped me build great relationships with them, and has given me the context to see that when we start coming back from Covid, we can use the flexibility technology has given us. To make the life of working parents a little easier. The burden we place on two-career couples with young children is simply unreasonable. Worse, they volunteer. We could choose to make it easier.
Thanks to my wise and worldly readers for shedding light from all these angles. I know there are many more, and I am grateful for the grace of those who have the right to point out something else I am missing. And a special thank you to those Canadian readers who wrote that it really, honestly, in reality, doesn’t have to be this way.