Topic of the week: Daycare, daycare, daycare

STILL?? Isn’t this beating an old topic to death? Day care seems to be the issue that just won’t go away AND it’s really one of the primary concerns for many mothers (and fathers) who wish to maintain part-time or full-time work.

Personally and naively I’d never thought much about it in advance. But once our son was born – it became a necessity. While my husband was there to pick up blocks of time, as the self-designated part-timer, if I was to maintain any sort of science going (at the time I was basically working independent of any one institution, part-time, with colleagues running field and laboratory studies) I needed day-care. And I needed a day-care where I felt comfortable leaving my then six-month old – so that I could concentrate on the day’s work.

Beginning with the industrial-sized Long Island day care – where Sam was consistently sick – to the local family day cares we found once moving to rural Western MA (one of which I not so affectionately referred to as the Militia Day-Care, after finding a large pile of guns-and-ammo boxes set out curbside on recycling day) it quickly became a matter-of-fact that there just weren’t satisfactory options, although there were options we could live with, at least for a while.

While I recognize that for those of us on our own, day-care really is ours to figure out. But, for those working at large institutions, particularly government institutions, it seems that the situation ought to be much better. Unfortunately, and as many readers know, this isn’t the case at all. In some cases its worse (without all the home day-care options, and with tighter working hours.)

Below is an excerpt from a comment left on this blog by Andrea Kalfoglou one of the contributors to Motherhood:

“Adequate daycare is essential. In my chapter in the book, I discuss how stunned I was to find out that there was a 2 year waiting list for children to attend the NIH onsite daycare — and the largest facility wasn’t even onsite, but was 3 miles north in Rockville. There are currently 1100 children on the waiting list. What is NIH’s alternative? A list of local centers that you can visit and evaluate yourself. When I was doing my postdoc at NIH three years ago, that’s exactly what I had to do. All of the centers I visited in the Bethesda area that had openings were substandard. I’m not fussing about a lack of the latest educational toys. They smelled like urine, they had infants trying to sleep in the same room with 10 rowdy 4 yr olds (the daycare provider’s “solution” was to cover the faces of the infants with blankets!) They had broken playground equipment on postage stamp sized yards, and women who all spoke different languages. I’m all for raising bilingual kids, but you have to be able to actually talk to your child’s teacher to find out how his day went. And, it would seem that it would be a difficult work environment if you couldn’t even speak with your coworkers. I eventually found a decent center, not through the referral center at NIH, but through the NIH parent’s list serve — an essential resource for any parent working for NIH.”

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5 Responses to “Topic of the week: Daycare, daycare, daycare”


  1. 1 esamom June 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    My government laboratory has had discussions about on-site daycare for a couple of decades (longer than I’ve been here), but these discussions always hit the brick wall of liability (we are a secure facility with some radioactive contamination) or building cost. The last round seemed a bit more serious, with concerns about pending babyboomer retirement and little to entice young staff to work here or to stay. One talented female scientist left for greener pastures at a university, reportedly citing in her exit interview the limited daycare opportunities here.

    I find myself advising postdocs across campus on these issues because there is nobody else performing this service. The biggest problem here is infant care. We have a Montessori school and other daycare choices for the potty-trained, but no good infant care (in my opinion). We opted for a nanny when our son was young. We were lucky to find a good experienced person and to live in an area of the country where there is enough difference between scientist salaries and nanny salaries to make it worthwhile. But when my daughter was born, the cost of a nanny was rather prohibitive when combined with our son’s Montessori tuition. We considered sharing a nanny with another couple (as other scientists we know have done), but that raised scheduling issues and liability issues for whoever’s home the care would take place in.

    For my daughter I ended up (after two days of a poor home daycare choice) putting her in a home daycare with a smoker. As a toxicologist, I never thought I would have done that, and I viewed it as a temporary solution. But a month later, the smoker quit, and a year later, my daughter is the better for this care.

    My current quandary is deciding whether to take my toddler on a 2-day work trip to Mississippi or whether she is better left at home. I am still breastfeeding, so she and I would like to be together. But I am not sure about the daycare options there or if she will react well. Fortunately, folks at the government laboratory I am visiting have been very helpful in finding options for me. But they are quick to say that they have never run into this issue before (a scientist traveling with a child). Oh well, a new world.

  2. 2 Veronica June 19, 2008 at 3:24 am

    It really makes no sense at all…If the govt or university just rented out space to a for-profit daycare, wouldn’t they make money? OK, maybe if you needed to build a space…*sigh* I think once men start opting out of workplaces maybe something will get done.

  3. 3 Cece June 19, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Any daycare options seem so limited. I can fortuntely afford a nice place… but I can’t imagine being a single mom or someone on the edgeo fmiddle class being able to even afford day care in my area. The costs alone are INSANE.

  4. 4 Carol d June 26, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Childcare seems to be a never-ending issue. Many academic institutions have on-campus centers now, but they always seem to be too small to handle the demand and the waiting lists are long. One solution we used successfully for quite a few years, was to hire multiple students from our institution. We were careful to be sure they did not work for us while they were taking a class from one of us, but students have flexible schedules and lots of energy. We live close to campus so they could walk to our house. The downside of this arrangement is that sorting out their schedules and ours took some time each semester, and they often left town over breaks when we both really needed time to get research or writing done, but the positives were that our kids got good care in their own home, with lots of enrichment experiences like when we came home and our 5 year old explained all about the different branches of American government! And even paying somewhat above minimum wage is still pretty reasonable.

  5. 5 boniSabereito January 22, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.


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