I’ve read the conflicting research about child care’s long-term impact on America’s youth. Some say it causes anxiety and aggressiveness in children. Others say it boosts social skills and cognitive abilities.
I’ve heard the debate from scientists, therapists, conservatives and liberals. Some say to keep families stable, moms should stay home to cook, clean and color with their children 24/7. Others say children who live in homes where family members share child-rearing and bread-winning responsibilities learn wonderful life lessons.
I’ve suffered both the guilt and the rapture of leaving my children with others for six to eight hours a day. I’ve seen their faces crumble when we part and I’ve seen them march with pride – backpacks dwarfing their skinny shoulders, chests out like a puffer fish – into a school where they feel loved and welcomed.
But I’ve got a little, tiny secret to tell. The arguments pro and con are all moot. Because the real reason mothers (or any primary caregiver of children) can’t work has nothing to do brain development, impulse control or even child abuse.
It’s all about sick days.
My kids get sick. A lot. Just ask my co-workers. I’m sure when they see those early morning e-mails from me telling them “so-and-so has blah blah blah and I can’t make it in today” they groan with frustration. I would if I were them. But if my daughter goes to preschool with a runny nose or an upset tummy, they’ll send her home faster than you can say doctor’s note. Same goes for my son, and he’s in second grade.
These are the rules in our modern society.
And this week was a perfect example. My daughter got a nasty stomach bug on Friday. My son got it Sunday. This whole week – for them and for me – has been a loss. And we are all exhausted, emotionally as much as physically.
But let’s be honest here, I’m sure whatever my kid has got your kid either had already or is going to get tomorrow. So let’s cut out the pretense that quarantine works. We all know with kids it’s always far too late. By the time we know they’re sick, they’ve already licked the Legos and kissed 72 of their closets friends.
So I have a proposal: Sick School.
At Sick School, the ventilation system costs more than the PA system. At Sick School, kids snuggle in cozy cots to read and draw, rather than sitting at cold desks. At Sick School, lunch is chicken soup and ginger ale and the bathrooms are plentiful. At Sick School, kids are assigned to classrooms by diagnosis (colds in Room 122; vomiting in Room 138, etc.). And, best of all, at Sick School napping is encouraged and parents can go to work!
All we need now are a few haz-mat suits, some very kind grandmas and a good lawyer.
Are you with me?
(But seriously, if you're interested in quality child care, check out Children's Services Council's website - www.cscpbc.org. We've got loads of info for parents on what to look for and help in paying for it.)