Wednesday, October 27, 2021

I grew up in the childcare system my son will soon take for granted

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Ever since I was a young kid, in fact — that is, the age my son is now — I used to spend a great deal of time stuck in a school. It was for me. I’m sorry it was so bad.

Now my son and wife work in childcare: In addition to parenthood, it seems the only way most parents have any hope of earning a steady living. Which means it would be a sad thing to have to spend most of my day standing in a little room, constantly breaking things to see what goes where.

Yet in most child care places across the United States, that’s exactly what I imagine it’s like — except, of course, I had none of the stress. Of course, I was still making money, working where I wanted. Of course, I was getting to spend time with my son. Yes, I had to leave early some days, but that wasn’t a problem; I was making money to pay for childcare.

For my parents, who didn’t have a choice, that was entirely different. They literally had nowhere else to work. As a result, my mother spent a lot of her working life cleaning offices and collecting aluminum cans.

In some places, the situation has gotten worse. Though not necessarily at the margins of poverty, a good place to start looking is New York’s so-called “Child Care Gap.” That is, since 2008, the income of a family with two children who are single, and working minimum-wage jobs, has declined steadily in New York City, which has one of the highest child care costs in the country. As a result, the number of parents who have no option but to work in day care has increased by 40 percent in the city.

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