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Tag Archives: childcare

Candid (Granny) Camera

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As leaving small children in the care of others has grown in popularity so has the awareness that not all carers are caring. Depending on one’s social circles, it’s not unusual to hear a weekly childcare horror story. Whether the babysitting arrangement is posh or subsidized seems not to matter. Little ones watched in their own home by uniform clad nannies, babies clustered in a neighbor’s living room, or those in daycare centers are equally vulnerable. This reality is not meant to strike fear. There is a fine line between believing in the boogeyman and having some common sense. Quite simply vulnerable people are often vulnerable.

Many parents have addressed their concerns strategically; using hidden cameras or surprise visits. This might seem hovering to some but it most often is not. A small child by definition does not have sophisticated communication skills. A baby is completely helpless. Caring for small children is not easy and can be incredibly frustrating. When doing so is an actual job there is little emotional attachment to pull the carer through the darkness. This doesn’t excuse mistreatment; it only helps to explain it. It can happen, and every parent everywhere knows this. What we don’t often consider is what can happen to our parents if they too are dependent on care.

Elderly people are just as, if not even more susceptible to mistreatment. Often an adult child is arranging the care from a distance, relying upon agencies or institutions to do the right thing. Nursing homes are staffed with the same extreme variations of competency seen in hospitals. Supervision of aides is no more reliable than in any other business sector. People don’t necessarily go into the low-paying and often messy work of health aide due to some sort of calling. It’s a job. Some people are good at it and some people are not. It can be terribly overwhelming to arrange care for a parent. The mixture of relief and guilt of situating a parent can be all consuming. It often is only when there are signs of mistreatment that the concept even occurs to anyone.

Often, like small children, the parent is not a reliable narrator. The parent might not know that possessions are missing or meals have been missed. A person with memory loss may not be able to recall mistreatment. Some bruises or marks may in fact be the result of a combative parent and not abuse. Add to that muddle the fact that the parent might only receive occasional visits from family members, and how is anyone to know what’s really going on? Granny cams. Installing hidden cameras (on live feed to an adult child’s computer) in a parent’s home will tell most of the story. Having every care facility (including senior daycare) outfitted with surveillance will change things dramatically. Those institutions should post signs everywhere informing employees, residents and visitors that; “You Are Being Watched.” Is it an invasion of privacy? Of course. So is having a bevy of doctors and interns gaze upon one’s privates for the benefit of learning. (It’s interesting which invasions of privacy we notice and which we don’t.) The signage will not only deter some misdeeds it also will set a tone. An institution that puts the safety of its patients above all else will attract employees with a compatible ethos. The surveillance will have to be viewed of course, which is not inexpensive. But surely the diminished lawsuits will help to defray those costs.

It’s tempting to wring our hands and bemoan how things have changed for the worse. But it wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Eldercare has risen in popularity because people live longer. Childcare has risen in popularity partly due to more employment opportunity for women. As things grow they often become less wieldy and need to be formalized. There’s nothing graceful or lovely about spying on people but there’s nothing so terribly genteel about burying our heads in the sand either.

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Well-Being

 

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It’s Work After All

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So a book publicist and an agent walk into a bar (okay not a bar, a reception area of a media conglomerate) and discover they represent the same issue du jour. “Bring it on,” says one in a clumsy attempt to appear secure (if not woefully out of date with her slang.) “This will be fun” says the other in what can only be called utter insincerity. They were clearly uncomfortable with confrontation and/or competition and poetically the issue du jour with which they’d been charged was women in the workplace.

The issue of work/life balance is not new, it’s been bandied about since women were told they could “have it all” (cue Veruka Salt) which would’ve been somewhere around the mid-to-late 1990s. There has been a push by women (that has buy-in from some men) to tailor the workplace to the personal needs of employees. There have been talking heads and studies supporting the edict that ‘happy employees are productive employees.” For the record you can always find a study to support your own position (e.g., divorce? happy parents make happy children. drinking while pregnant? a glass of wine makes the woman happy & calms her uterus. childfree? people without children are happier…) The fact that workplace balance is almost always a veiled reference to ‘women in the workplace’ is not a coincidence. Not since the industrial revolution has the workplace changed as dramatically as it has with the inclusion of women in real numbers and positions. But to somehow suggest that these employees work differently or need allowances to be productive is offensive.

Women (particularly post 1970s) do not need to be told how to conduct themselves in the workplace or boardroom. We’ve been doing it for decades thank you. The fact that some women are doing it in software (or other male-dominated fields) doesn’t make it uncharted territory. There was a time when everything (save teaching and nursing) was a male dominated field. So please don’t tell me to lean in and/or work harder. It’s called ‘work’ after all isn’t it? It’s really not all that complicated to get to the top (which isn’t to say it’s easy to do.) Please don’t suggest that those women who’ve made it to the corporate top can sprinkle their success fairy dust on the cubicles below. I don’t need special dust or treatment; I just need for you to be a good boss/leader. And while we’re at it, please keep my personal life out of the workplace. What I choose to do outside of work is just that; outside of work. I will choose a job and/or career that suit my personal needs. These needs will change over my lifetime, as will my work choices. I do not need or want the world of work to alter its nature to honor my personal life. It’s called work after all.

What I would like is affordable childcare (not for women or for men but for children.) I’d like reasonable family and medical leave time (for maternity, parenting or other personal needs.) I’d like flexible working arrangements when they either do not impede the work or in fact advance the work. I would like equitable medical and dental benefits and have people pay for the amount of coverage they need. I would like a workplace free of harassment and hazard. I would like fair compensation for the work done not the position held. And if I may borrow some fairy dust for a moment; I would like hiring and promotion tactics to occur on merit alone.

A little advice to that anxious publicist and agent; relax there’s enough 15 minutes of fame to go around.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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And Pre-K For All

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“Pre-K for all!” As rallying cries go it’s a bit sweet and conjures up some pretty adorable images: Tiny people with finger painted signs toddling their way to Capitol Hill. It’s an expensive proposition but one that is difficult to argue. “It’s for the children!” “Children are our future!” You know the rest. But beyond the sentimentality and cynicism is the truth. The world has changed tremendously and we need to catch the hell up.

It is no longer the norm that small children spend their days with a parent, and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Childcare can be expensive and uneven in quality. Some toddlers are deposited in front of a television set for 8-10 hours and some are learning Dvorak on miniature violins. Of course these childcare discrepancies always existed. But there was a time when 5 year olds from every background arrived at kindergarten to start from zero together. Kindergarten (often held for 1/2 days) was for cutting, pasting, coloring, letter learning and learning to stand in line and raise one’s hand. There was story time and maybe some music and snack. Today’s Kindergarten is a bit more serious and most likely an all-day affair. The academics start much earlier than years past.

The day is spent learning letters, numbers, science, social studies, and yes, standing in line and hand raising. What was once an entire year consisting of an easing away from the home and into the world is now much more like the real thing. It’s understandable, there’s an awful lot to learn after all. In the past Kindergarten might have been the first time little people spent their day with other little people. (Socialization is serious business.) It makes a great deal of sense to beef up this precious year of public education. We know that early education makes an impact on life long learning (the good people of Sesame Street ran with that ball 40 years ago.) We also know that children come from vastly different backgrounds and opportunities. Those who can afford it or are fortunate to live in states with it, are already sending their tykes to pre-Kindergarten. Public education, despite its ideals, is not equal. Some schools are far superior to others. Some parents are far savvier than others. Any moves we can make to democratize education and prepare children for life long learning should be supported and applauded. I join those little people carrying the finger painted placards in setting down my juice box, and putting my hands together for universal pre-K.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Childhood, Education

 

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Kramer vs Kramer vs Consumerism

There are films that never lose their emotional wallop, despite how many times you’ve seen them. Steel Magnolias, The Color Purple, Stella Dallas and An Affair To Remember come to mind. There is no element of surprise in the viewing; in fact the memorized dialogue and outcome are part of the pleasure. But the way in which the stories are crafted pull the viewer in for the punch. Of course there are reasons to revisit a dramatic film besides an opportunity to use tissues and visine. Films can tell us an awful lot about how we lived or thought. A film is fantasy of course, but it is a reflection of a director, screenwriter or producer’s viewpoint. Attitudes portrayed about gender, race, sexuality and religion are often an accurate reflection of the time. A film shot in the early 1970s will not only look very early 1970s but sound it too. Women might be referred to as “girls” or “honey,” bottoms might be patted. Generally, if non-white actors appear it’s to make a point. The storyline probably has nothing to do with any of these details, but the details are telling nonetheless.

You might remember the film; Kramer vs Kramer. (For those who don’t; it was a cutting-edge tale of divorce and custody starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, set in New York City.) The emotional wallop of the film doesn’t diminish with time. Much of what will rip you to shreds is the incredible performance of (8 year-old) Justin Henry. You’d have to be made of stone to not crumble at the raw hurt and anger on his face. Meryl Streep’s eyes do most of her talking. She has perhaps twenty lines and expresses pages and pages of dialogue with her eyes. The viewer understands everything about these people and their anguish. But there is also (now) a story on the periphery of that story. The year is 1979 and times were decidedly different. The family is middle class (daddy works in advertising.) They are educated people living in a two-bedroom high-rise apartment uptown. The child attends a neighborhood school and they frequent Central Park. Sounds rather timeless, no? It’s what you don’t see that is so telling. The family (before they weren’t one) is living comfortably on one salary. There is no car, there is no private school and there is no luxury. The child’s bedroom has been hand-painted with clouds by the creatively frustrated mother. (In 1979 this was considered somewhat decadent.) However, there is no Pottery Barn kid’s furniture or matching bedding and window treatment. There are some books, some toys, and later a framed photo of mommy. The chaos that ensues with mommy’s departure is linked to the time period. There are no babysitters or nannies on call or even in existence. (Nannies were still for the posh or the British.) Daddy must master grocery shopping and food preparation as take-away was not ubiquitous and children did not dine out. Luckily for daddy there are no play-dates (there is only play) and there are no enrichment programs or team sports for a first-grader.

Now no one would suggest that the late 1970s were halcyon times. The demise of the marriage in question hinged on the fact that the wife felt marginalized. She left her husband and child to “find herself” (aka get some analysis and a job.) But had the marriage worked, and had she felt able to go out and get a job, their lifestyle wouldn’t be that much different. There’d be an after-school babysitter no doubt. But the minimalistic consumption wouldn’t alter. Sure, she might need some work clothes, but shopping wasn’t a legitimate hobby in the 1970s. New appliances would’ve only been purchased if every attempt at repair had been exhausted. There were no strollers being sold for the same price as a moped. In short, they would have had more money and more time (not running from expenditure to expenditure) than they would today. Something to contemplate while watching the film and choking back the tears

 

 

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