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Child-Care Issues Haunt Society

SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 1995

Like horror stories? Forget Stephen King. Pick up the March 6 edition of The New Yorker and read Susan Cheever’s article on nannies.

You’ll meet monstrous men and women who work 16-hour days, pay their nannies dirt and treat them like dirt, too. You’ll meet rich children living in emotional poverty. One nanny says: “You shouldn’t have kids if you’re not ready to make adjustments.”

Amen. We witnessed another battle in the country’s child-care war recently when O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark battled with her ex-husband over custody of their two small boys. The Marcia supporters say she has a right to a brilliant career and her children, too. The ex-hubby camp says since Mom’s so busy, Dad should get them.

But what haunts us is this image: Two boys, ages 3 and 5, with a sitter 12 hours a day.

The children. If only everyone would focus first on them, maybe some workable solutions to this child-care crisis would emerge.

Start at the personal level. You are a two-career couple, devoted to your jobs, about to marry. Ask some tough questions. Can we have children and these consuming careers? Can we find creative ways to keep vital at our jobs but spend quality - and quantity time - with the children? They aren’t little that long.

Fathers have assumed a more active role in nurturing their children, but some suggest fathers would do more if women didn’t enable them to remain out of the child-care loop. One woman writer described recently how she refuses to help her friends with child-care stuff (such as picking up at school, driving to sports) unless the child’s father has first been asked, even if the father lives out of the home. Too often, the essay writer argued, women exclude men from child-care logistics, because they think men can’t do it as well, or that men’s work is too important to be interrupted.

Employers aren’t off the hook. Women are in the workplace to stay, but 55 percent of working women with children under 5 say child care is a serious problem. So employers shouldn’t be afraid of job-sharing, tele-commuting, flex hours. Find out how companies that offer on-site day care make it work. It can.

Finally, legislators of the states and the nation, if you insist on sending welfare recipients into the work force after two years, think of the children first. Who will watch them? If you don’t have a good answer to that question, you’ll soon have a crisis on your hands that will make the trillion-dollar national debt look like child’s play.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board



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