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Why We Shouldn’t Judge Parents Who Need Extreme Day Care

Photograph by ThinkStock

Why would anybody want to leave their child overnight at daycare? When I recently read the headline "The Rise of Extreme Daycare," my first thought was "What are those parents thinking?" I don't think any mom wants to wake up their toddler in the wee hours of the morning, after finishing the graveyard shift. The reality, as the article so eloquently points out, is that we are living in a society that never stops, and oftentimes those who are just trying to make ends meet and provide for their children are the ones who pay the biggest price.

The problem is that we forget that to be able to get the 24-hour services we have come to rely on at any given moment, somebody has to be working those odd hours. We never think about the people providing those services, and we often don't even contemplate whether that person might have a family. And those who are quick to criticize parents who utilize overnight daycare are, perhaps, missing the point.

Some might say a mom chose to be a single parent; that any hardships she encounters, she should just put up with because she brought this situation on herself. I disagree. For too many, poverty is not a choice. Too many women I have met throughout the years never imagined the father of their children would not be by their side — or at least help to support them. Too many have survived abuse, and managed to do so without a penny or with their credit history destroyed by their former partner.

Although I realize I have a luxury that many people don't, I still feel and understand the stress of figuring out who can help take care of your children while you work. I cannot even fathom the stress these mothers face by having to find a daycare that will accept their children in the middle of the night.

For many Latinas, living away from our families makes it even harder because we have no support system when we arrive in a new city. Traditionally, we rely on our families for emotional support, help raising our kids, and in some families, financial support as well. I am fortunate enough not only to be married, but I can also afford a nanny. However, there have been times in which my husband was traveling for work and my babysitter failed me.

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There were times I took my children with me to business meetings when they were infants. Other times, I simply canceled a meeting and faced the consequences, whatever they might be. When my travel schedule is particularly crazy for work, I've even had my mom fly in from Chile to help with the kids. Although I realize I have a luxury that many people don't, I still feel and understand the stress of figuring out who can help take care of your children while you work. When I'm away from my kids, I am always worried. I cannot even fathom the stress these mothers face by having to find a daycare that will accept their children in the middle of the night.

The fact that mothers are willing to make these sacrifices only shows the desperation in which they live, not their irresponsibility. They are working as hard as they can because they love their children, even if that means missing out on things other parents take for granted, such as tucking their kids into bed and kissing them goodnight.

Consider the fact that those working odd shifts usually have more than one job because some employers will hire workers for just the amount of hours below the threshold that would make them have to offer full benefits. Without benefits or enough hours working to make ends meet, most have no choice but to take on a second job. Taking any jobs you might be able to find is not an option, but a necessity, when you have little mouths to feed. The fact that mothers are willing to make these sacrifices only shows the desperation in which they live, not their irresponsibility. They are working as hard as they can because they love their children, even if that means missing out on things other parents take for granted, such as tucking their kids into bed and kissing them goodnight.

Shame on those pointing their fingers at these moms for not thinking about the consequences of having children. Shame on those judging instead of helping. Thank goodness for 24-hour caregivers who are helping working parents with crazy schedules and are also able to make a living to support their own families. You can be sure that next time I am at a 24-hour pharmacy, I will stop for a minute and ask myself what that store clerk is sacrificing to be able to keep her job.

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