Let’s talk about how bad daycare is, shall we? Not all daycare, of course. Unless you’re me. Then, exactly all daycare is absolutely, discouragingly horrible, and all expecting mothers and fathers should be made aware of the situation they’re sleepwalking into.
When new parents go through Lamaze class, learning all the things they’re going to forget in the weeks and months leading up to childbirth, they should also be taught about daycare. Like lamaze, it wouldn’t really teach you anything you’ll need to remember. Instead, it’ll just prepare you for the ugly, sticky, bodily-fluid-rich experience. Lamaze helped me mentally prepare for the birth of my son. It would’ve been nice if someone had also prepared me for daycare, which is a far worse, exponentially prolonged nightmare compared to labor (from a strictly inept male’s perspective, that is).
During the last four weeks, my wife and I have gone through two daycares. One center, one in-home. The center was our first choice, and when we got in we celebrated like we had just been accepted to Harvard. It was by no means the best in town, but it had good ratings, good recommendations, was directly on the way to work for both me and my wife, and the price was in line with everywhere else. In other words, it seemed like the perfect fit for our family.
But about 12 complaints/infractions/issues and one child neglect report later… we were outta there. What happened? Oh, please, allow me to divulge.
Throughout week one, our son came home in the wrong diapers. They were a size too small for him, which meant he also came home in a different outfit than what he started the day in, as he would inevitably leak through said too-small diaper. That first week he also slept poorly and wouldn’t eat, probably because they kept ignoring our directions to feed him cold bottles. The daycare staff figured out the diaper situation, but it took several reminders over the next several weeks to get them to understand the cold bottle trick.
Sometime in the second week, my wife picked up our son and found him on the floor sucking on some other kid’s pacifier. Well folks, that’s how disease spreads. We’ve known about that for, I don’t know… a hundred years now? (More like 500 years.) Don’t take that lesson for granted, as you might have to play elementary school teacher to your daycare providers some day.
But wait, there’s more! My favorite story from daycare #1 is the one about a complete stranger kidnapping my baby. Okay, that didn’t happen, thank God. But no thanks to the daycare center staff who allowed my sister-in-law (who, mind you, had never once set foot inside the building nor met any of the staff) to walk in one afternoon, grab our son, show NO FORM OF ID, and walk right out.
She even offered to show her ID, but they said, “Oh, we’ve seen you here before.” Yes, that happened. Anyone could’ve walked in and claimed to be auntie or uncle and stolen our baby. That’s not the kind of assurance we were paying nearly $800 a month for.
To recap: our son wasn’t eating much and couldn’t sleep well… he was allowed to stuff his face with strange, snot-nosed kids’ germs and put down for naps in poop-filled diapers (oh yeah, almost forgot about that one)… and, for added convenience, he could hitch a ride home with any random adult who had a free hand to carry his carseat.
We were overreacting? Helicopter parents? Perhaps. But the last straw came the day my wife walked into daycare to see eight babies in one room with only one staff member present. That, ladies and gentlemen, is illegal and had to be reported.
So, our first nightmare daycare experience ended that day… and thus began our frantic search for new care. That was a nightmare in and of itself, because Fargo apparently has near zero availability when it comes to infant care. We found one in-home provider that was unlicensed, but seemed promising. My wife called the state licensing board just to investigate on the off-chance they knew anything about this place, and their reaction was priceless: “She’s still in business? Oh, we took her license away years ago!”
Apparently this in-home daycare had at one time been a licensed provider, but had had enough infractions and reports that the state started to conduct random drop-in inspections. One day, the inspector showed up and discovered a kid hidden in a closet. Not playing in the closet. Not hiding in the closet. Hidden in the closet because the daycare was over the legal kids-to-staff ratio and was trying to get away with it.
Finally, after hours of calling and getting on waiting lists, my wife found what we thought was going to be a great fit. It was an in-home daycare near our house. It was fully licensed and had been in business (and in compliance) since 2002. There were a few drawbacks, however. There had to be.
First off, this place had a nine-hour time limit per day. That’s just a giant middle finger to working parents who spend (at least) eight hours a day at work, not to mention the 20-minute commute to and fro. Or lunch. Forget lunch, you’re in daycare world now.
Second, this lady takes an inordinate amount of time off and has every imaginable loophole in place to all but guarantee even more time off due to illness, snowstorms, family emergencies, etc. Oh, “but all fees are still due” in each case. In other words, we’d be paying for year-round care, but for at least five weeks per year we’d also have to arrange (and pay) for other care for our son.
On their own, these two time-related issues wouldn’t be such a concern. Together, they were a bit much to bear, so we notified the provider on Monday that this would be our final week. We were following the rules outlined in the “contract” we signed that stated the first two weeks were a trial period. We went in hoping this could be a long-term solution, but we quickly realized our schedules wouldn’t work with her nine-hour rule. Plus, we were not at all happy about having to make other arrangements ten percent of the time.
Here’s where the story really gets good. Are you ready? So, Monday we put in our notice (keep in mind we have already paid for the full week). Then, last night at 9 PM, the daycare lady called and informed us that our son cannot come the rest of the week. She had filled his spot already, we are not entitled to any refund, and would we please make arrangements to come pick up all of his stuff.
For a woman whose chosen profession is to care and provide for the well-being of children, she completely screwed over our four-month old son. I’m sure she thought she was sticking it to us, which she very much did, but the only person who really loses in this situation is our son, who once again will have to get bounced around while we make yet more arrangements.
Don’t Have Kids, Kids… Daycare Sucks
The frustration we felt was visceral, making us physically sick to our stomachs. To say we are disillusioned by Fargo’s daycare scene is an understatement. (I didn’t even tell you about the time we got passed up by a third center—our top choice—even though we were next up on their supposed waiting list.)
The lesson here is don’t have kids, kids. Best case scenario, marry for money and then have kids so you can just stay home with them… and, you know, not hide them in closets or put them down for naps covered in their own fecal matter.
If you do find yourself with child, feel free to contact me for recommendations of where not to sign up for daycare. I’ve got plenty of hot tips, and I’m more than willing to share.
Featured image via Runar Pedersen Holkestad