Katherine Mangu-Ward on the Suckiness of American Day Care (And How More Government Won't Fix It)



Day care sucks. In most big cities, demand wildly outstrips supply. Waiting lists are comically long—parents regularly confess to putting their fetuses into the queues at several day care centers and preschools. And Jonathan Cohn's story in The New Republic, "The Hell of American Day Care," which opens with the grisly story of in-home day care proprietor Jessica Tata who left her young charges to die in a fire has been making the rounds, forwarded by anxious parents and policymakers.  

But I tell the story of another day care at Zocalo Public Square today:

A woman named Millie, whom I recall primarily as a blurry face surrounded by a wild mane of dark hair, ran the place out of her basement. One of her specialties was homemade Play-Doh and she had a sandbox in her backyard. Millie was a godsend for my mom, who was heading back to work part-time after staying home with her young kids for a few years, in part because Millie was willing to accommodate non-standard schedules. The only flies in the ointment were Millie's neighbors. Perhaps they didn't like the hustle and bustle of a house full of kids. Maybe early morning drop-off was disruptive on their quiet street. So they waited and they watched. On occasion, Millie would cut one of her maxed-out clients some slack, allowing a kid to come earlier or stay later than the formal schedule dictated. This meant that she was over her allowed quota of kids when an inspector, called in by the irate neighbors, showed up. Millie's day care was unceremoniously shut down, leaving my parents scrambling for coverage and (very likely) leaving Millie's family financially in the lurch.

Regulations, even the most well-intentioned, are not without cost. The same rules that try (and sometime fail) to keep unscrupulous players from storing stacks of babies in a utility closet can be used by grumpy neighbors (or competitors) to force a useful and beloved community institute to shut down without warning.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Don’t make a baby you can’t take care of.

  2. Clearly, the government needs to step in and make K-12 into Birth-12.

    1. cradle to grave . . .

      get with the program dude

      1. It’s a great scam, but who is going to pay for it, Episiarch?

        1. I already am.

          1. That fucking payroll deduction. You know, it would be a lot easier to have a tax rebellion if we had to write the damned checks out once a year.

            1. And that is why all the good that Milton Friedman did is irrelevant, as he created the most devious and evil scheme for stealing money ever devised.

              1. This this this this this….. ^

                It’s like if Jesus left Caesar with the moral authority to tax the hell out of the Jews, oh wait…..

              2. Yes, it’s a horror, but someone else would’ve come up with it.

                At least he knew it was a mistake. If it had been, say, Krugman, he’d still be patting himself on the back about it.

                1. Yeah, and he was much more statist when he invented it.

                2. Meh. Just because I could easily make an efficient baby-skinning machine doesn’t mean that I support baby-skinning. And if someone uses it to skin babies, that’s on them.

                  1. And if someone uses it to skin babies, that’s on them.

                    SF is the Edward Teller of our age.

                  2. You told me that you’d already invented a baby-skinning machine and sold it to Gerber.

                  3. Look, we were at war. With Nazis. Nazis. Come on, sometimes you do dumb things when fighting Nazis.

              3. I own a private daycare. Quebec has subsidized daycare. Stay away from subsidized daycare. The end.

              4. It was also supposed to be a temporary wartime measure. Yes it was immoral, but so is most things related to warfare. Why do we cast Friedman into a special hell but turn a blind eye to every soldier who volunteered to go fight in Europe and the Pacific?

  3. I don’t have tons of pity for people who decide to have children without being fully prepared to take care of them. Inevitably they will be sponging off me anyway unless they send their kid to private school.

    1. You will subsidize my kids, or I will bash your skull with this rock.

      1. Be careful, if you crack the rock on Episiarch’s head, it won’t repel tigers any longer.

        You may, of course, wind up with 2 domestic cat repelling rocks, but that’s a risk I wouldn’t take.

      2. That’s pretty much what it boils down to, ProL. It’s for the children you know.

        1. Feed my spawn bitch

          1. Here, hit Episiarch with this rock until he complies. No, hit him some more after that.

            1. My pleasure, and I mean that quite literally

  4. It’s just so hard to find reliable people who will raise my children for me.

    1. I will warp your children’s minds raise them for a moderate price.

      1. Dont tempt me.

        While cute, mine is stubborn and a little too smart for total compliance.



    This is why nannies are the answer. Pay a real person a real wage, get a tax break, and forget group day care.

    1. The proggies don’t even care that their elitism is showing anymore, do they?

      1. Did they ever? Anyone who wasn’t a fool could always see it.

      2. I remember the lede in a NYTs home and garden feature story:

        The au pair suite is the family room of the ’90s

        1. An au pair suite, complete with teddy cams.

      3. Lol actually if you have more than 2 kids in daycare a nanny is probably cheaper.

        3 kids in Full time daycare are going to cost you over $600 a month here, the daycare worker is going to make $8 per hour. You could hire a Nanny for $12.50 an hour and save yourself about $50 a week

        1. but if you get a hot nanny, the divorce will easily nullify the savings

        2. I’m not sure “full time daycare” means what you think. At $12.50 an hour (leave aside tax and liability issues) $600 buys you 48 hours of care. Less than 12 hours a week. About 2.5 hours per weekday.

          1. $600? Wow. That’s cheap!

        3. From personal experience, a decent nanny for two kids costs quite a bit more than 12.50 hour. Minimum $15 for someone legal in my city.

        4. And where the heck are you living that you can do 3 kids in full time care for $600 a month. My city its at least $1600 a month for each kid, more for infants under 12 months.

          1. Yeah I meant $600 a week, not month

            1. Ah, $2400 a month. More like it. Honestly, it costs me a certain amount to run this high over head business and so I have to charge what I charge. Alas, my sister and I have a heart and are always willing to work with parents on the price. There’s a low-income family who have three kids and it would cost them about $2500 to come to my daycare.

              I worked out a deal to pay less – around $2100. The mother is a carpenter so I also use her for work around the center.

              All that compassion and no bureaucrat told me to do it!

        5. $600 a month? Try $200/kid/week!

          1. Seriously, just marry another one and then you don’t have to pay her anything.

            1. Just one more reason why group marriages are the way of the future.

              A nice little 5 person family with a 2/3 gender split (either option works equally well) with 5 or 6 kids gives you 1 person staying home full time taking care of the home and kids and 4 full time incomes. In todays world that is a much more economically stable arrangement for child rearing than 1 man, 1 woman, and 2.1 kids

    2. I looked at Scandanavian and Latin au pairs, but the wife vetoed them all. It was all quite frustrating.

        1. This is something Tiger Woods should have done.

      1. Smart wife.

      2. Dreams shattered and ground to dust

    3. And by “tax break” does DorothyP mean ponying up the cash to cover Social Security, insurance, etc., whether you pay it directly or via an agency?

    4. Silly working class, can’t they just hire an au pair?

      1. Or Ms. Pcould be a nanny trying to drum up business for herself.

        Assume good faith, geez….

        1. HM, asking the H&R commentariat to not be assholes is like asking Warty to stop raping or asking SF to stop being a pervert.

          1. How did I get dragged into this?

            1. How did I get dragged into this?

              The same way you get dragged anywhere else: By the penis.

              1. Fair enough.

                1. You told me that that was your ovipositor, you bastard!

                  1. That’s what you get for trusting me.

                  2. If it was, would that really make it better?

                    1. It wouldn’t have been “gay”, dude.

          2. Are we, Banjos, like the proverbial scorpion, doomed to be slaves to our nature? Or can Warty be made to grasp the concept of “enthusiastic consent”? Could Lindy West ever understand the concept of gastronomic restraint? Or would that be inherently paradoxical?

          3. Or asking Banjos and sloopy to stop making babies.

            1. Nothing can stop sloopysperm. I hear it has razor blades all over it in order to destroy all forms of barrier contraception. And it ate a IUD, string and all.

    5. Shorter DerpyP:


  6. When I was a kid I’d go to the neighbors down the street who had a stay-at-home-mom when my parents were at work or whatever. She’d fix me some Tang and a PBJ, and I’d play in their yard until my folks came home. No money changed hands that I know of.

    Is that even legal anymore?

    1. Yeah, I’d come home, get some chocolate milk and a PB&J then go play until dinnertime and/or the street lights came on. I’m pretty sure that is now criminal child neglect.

      1. Last time my house was burglarized and I called the cops, they were like “What do you want us to do about it?”

        But if I called to report children playing outside, they’d probably send over CPS with a sheriff escort immediately.

      2. Remember the “latch key kid” panic of the late 70’s/early 80’s? I think that’s where all this shite started.

        1. I remember it well. Next to the weepy Indian, it was probably the most overrun governmental ad campaign.

          1. More overrun than “I LEARNED IT FROM YOU!”?

            1. Back off or I’ll sick McGruff on you

              1. sic (sic)

          2. It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your child is?

            (Homer Simpson: I told you last night, NO!)

        2. Like the Bothans, I don’t really know what that is. I mean, I got what the term described, but what the fuck is a latch key?

          1. I assume it had something to do with a key being hidden for the kid to get back into the house…

            1. Apparently I was correct. For some reason ‘latchkey’ means ‘key for a door’.

            2. Yeah, I was thinking something along those lines, but I don’t actually know that to be the case.

              Maybe that’s made up, like the Bothans? Because I was one of those kids, and there was no hidden key. There was the key my mom gave me that, you know, I carried around and stuff.

              1. latchkey kids

                They liked the cadence and alliteration.

                1. It scans with “Uptown Girl.”

              2. A latch key kid often was described as holding the key or wearing it around his or her neck. So, you were one. And lookit how that worked out!

          2. A latch is a kind of a lock on a door. A key is something that unlocks something else. A latch key is a key that unlocks a door. Jeepers creepers – you speaka da Eengleesh?

            1. The problem is that in English the thing you are calling a “latch” is a “lock”. And the thing you are calling a “latchkey” is a “key”, or maybe “house key”.

              1. Yeah, why not just key? Or, sure, house key? Who the fuck says latch key?

                1. According to the geniuses that edit WIkipedia, the term was made up in the olden days of WWII, so maybe it was a more common to use “latch” back then.

                  BTW, the Wikipedia article on the subject of latch key kids is hilarious It reads like it was written in 1980, talking about “psychological effects” and shit.

                  1. Okay, I take back the remark about the evil lesbian cop.

                2. The first known use of “latchkey” is in 1825. It was used specifically to denote the key to the front door of a house.

                  1. Yes, but in the 80s, who was using that term for a front-door house key?

                    1. If it did originate in the 1940s, that’s probably your answer, Fishbulb.

                    2. Have you heard it, ever, in the non-political context? Not counting today?

                    3. No, but I’m not as sensitive on the subject as you are. You get so angry over household semantics. It’s not good for your heart.

                    4. It’s a character flaw that I’m not proud of. I lived in suburban houses as a kid, you know. Tough upbringing, living outside of the urban paradise.

                    5. Folderol. Why, I used my latchkey this morning as I quit my domicile for a constitutional by way of the haberdashers. Exhilarating!

            2. That makes no fucking sense, Kristen. Maybe that bulldyke cop was right about you.

    2. Me, too, and it’s probably abuse now.

      1. You shouldn’t repress the memories, ProL. Let them out. Maybe the nightmares will stop, and the compulsive masturbation.

        1. Nothing can stop that now, my son.

      2. They had invented peanut butter when you were a kid?

        1. Not that part. I’m actually quite un-American in never having liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

          1. They strike you as too modern, huh?

            1. When it was invented, he was already so old that he was irretrievably set in his ways.

              1. I cannot abide PB&J. I never much cared for gum, either.

                1. I’m with you on gum. But PB&J is a damn fine thing. Especially if you grill them. You must be a closet European or something. They all seem to think that PB&J is a weird combination.

                  1. I like peanuts and went through a period where I was okay with crunchy peanut butter on crackers. And I like jelly on biscuits and toast. But the combination offends me.

                    1. You know what is a really good use for peanut butter? A good, all beef hot dog (Hebrew National is the best in my opinion) on a toasted roll with peanut butter and coarsely ground spicy mustard. Sounds a little weird, but amazingly good.

                    2. Dude, Elvis used to make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. You know, The King. So you are obviously seriously deranged.

                    3. No jelly. No fucking jelly.

                    4. I recently tried a peanut butter and banana cheeseburger. It was amazing.

                2. I see. Do you also abhor bronze tools?

                  1. It’s been downhill since we started smelting.

          2. The NSA has copied this posting and it will be noted in your permanent file

            1. I already confessed this to the FBI during my screening at the White House.

          3. I preferred liverwurst sandwiches, myself. Call me un-American, too.

            1. I preferred genoa salami and provolone sandwiches. That’s a-spicy meat-a-ball!

              1. Date-and-nut bread and cream cheese. That is all.

    3. Obviously, you left out the part where you were sexually molested for hours until you were picked up by your parents.

      1. This little girl survived longer than that with no weapons and no training.

        1. Well why don’t you put her in charge?!?

          1. Aliens needs a prequel. Called Newt. Just her and a bunch of aliens trying to kill her.

            1. Now, you know that would quickly turn into an awful Home Alone style trope. It would be worse than Alien Resurrection.

              1. Oh, yes, it would suck. But we should do it, anyway.

                1. Thankfully, no one in Hollywood reads this blog and won’t come across this most awful of ideas.

                2. I’ll agree to this only if SugarFree writes the screenplay.

                3. An alien getting bonked with a paint can would be pretty funny.

                  1. Just so long as it’s a really slutty paint can.

              2. Did you know that Resurrection was written by Joss Whedon? Everybody misses sometimes, I guess.

                1. I did not know that. But the problem with Resurrection had more to do with the awful direction than the shitty script.

                  1. They picked an inexperienced French (?) director, which was foolish and was part of the suckitude, but it was a really weak script too.

                    1. And the studio fucked with the script from the beginning. They were supposed to crash land early (and less catastrophically) and most of the movie was fighting the aliens on Earth.

                2. Was it just him or multiple evil hands of crapitude? I mean, Gore Vidal wrote Caligula, technically, sort of.

                  1. Hey Pro lib, maybe we should put the Alien franchise on our list of future projects.

                    1. Might as well, since no one else knows what to do with it.

                      I have another one: Alien mashed up with Caligula.

                    2. Aliens in Rome? I like it.

                      Though we have to be careful not to include the Doctor.

                    3. Not so much the Rome part. Just the aliens and the orgies. But with the suspense of the first film.

          2. Hey, I sure wouldn’t mind getting some more of that Arcturian poontang! Remember that time?

            1. Dude, I was so fucking drunk and high, I can barely remember any of it at all. Am I remembering correctly that they were all clones?

              1. Listen, you got a male one. But it doesn’t matter when it’s Arcturian.

    4. Growing up a farm meant that my dad was pretty much always home.

      If he wasn’t, I’d just wander into the woods or spend a couple hours playing Sega.

    5. I’m pretty sure it is legal. Or at least there is no law specifically against it. But the odds have become too good that some busy-body asshole will think it is and call the cops or CPS or something.

      This is one of several reasons I’m usually glad not to have kids.

      1. I remember reading something not too long ago about someone getting into big trouble for letting the neighborhood kids play in their yard.

        1. Aargh. I really need to avoid thinking about this shit lest I become a more sullen and unpleasant person.

    6. As long as no money changes hands, yes, 100% legal.

    7. Is that even legal anymore?


      Also, THAT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THAT LADIEZ KID!!!11!!!!! CALL THE POLEESE!!!!!!!1111!!! CHILD MOLESTER!!!!11!!!!1!

  7. My girlfriend has started talking about trying to get into the childcare business. Apparently that’s what she wanted to do anyway but her parents objected to her “wasting” her degree.

    1. More people should go into business for themselves. I’d like to think that having to deal directly with government regulations would make that at least slightly more libertarian.

    2. Probably a bad idea. My aunt owned a day care years ago. She barely made any money, and due to the ratio and worker education requirements that would kick in (along with all the other regulations) it was impossible to make any more by getting more clients. After a while she just closed it because she got tired of working for next to nothing. I doubt the situation has improved since then.

      1. If there actually is a supply and demand problem as the Reason article mentions, then it should be possible to make money.

        Unless the cost somehow makes a nanny more affordable.

        1. Exactly. I think it’s possible to make money. I’m managing to cover expenses and pay two exec salaries. Not six figures but once I pay back my loans, I’ll be able to reach those numbers (dividend payout will help) at some point – knock on wood.

      2. Fatty, how many kids did she have? It’s the number of kids that make the difference. I have 60.

  8. Fuck those neighbors.

    1. People thinking they are the only ones allowed to use their street piss me off. Yes, let’s make traffic worse for everyone because allowing people to use this side road to avoid a horribly designed intersection would inconvenience 4 people who live on it.

      Or the people who own the houses around my company’s office refusing to allow (because apparently they have the right to do that) us to put in an exit that feeds onto the nearby north-south road. It’s much better to have all 2000 employees leaving on the one way eastbound road instead.

      1. If we had private roads, these alternative routes could be used. . .for a price.

        1. I have found a workable solution: go to the onsite gym and workout until rush hour is over.

          1. The government is going to take over gyms once we have socialized medicine, you know. I mean 100% socialized, not mostly socialized like today.

            1. Oh good, then I won’t have to worry about having this free shampoo, conditioner, and body wash taking up precious space in the shower stall.

              1. Not free for you, no.

                1. Good, I can’t stand that stuff. I hope they get rid of the towels too.

                  1. You’ll be issued a standard towel. One.

                    1. Oh, they are going to raise the ration from the current 2 towels a day?

                    2. No, just one towel. For life.

      2. It’s the Tragedy of The Stuff a Lot of People Use!

  9. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the government’s own wee problems in running day cares:…
    And this day care took care of the kids of relatively influential people. Can you imagine what the rest of us would get?

    1. Yes. Like a VA hospital, but with kids.

      1. If you oppose Obamadaycare, you are racist, straight up.

        1. I hear New Zealand is nice.

    2. Next thing you know, the Kochs will be running a daycare!

  10. Shouldn’t we have like a minimum rule… like for a daycare to get shut down based on a complaint, the complaint has to come from one of the parents?

  11. Regulations, even the most well-intentioned, are not without cost.

    B-b-but… TEH CHILDRENZ!!!111!!!!

  12. parents regularly confess to putting their fetuses into the queues

    How can you put something on a waitlist that may or may not even be human? I mean, shouldn’t the fetus thingy be viable first?

    1. I suppose that would be up to the individual daycare.

    2. As long as they still get charged full price if they have a miscarriage, I’m fine with it.

  13. I think you mean *seesaw*.

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