It’s 6.00 p.m. in the evening and you stare at the clocks in panic. All the 3 large clocks on the orange wall in front of you with its large colourful posters of ‘Values in Action’ and ‘Quality is our Focus’ tell you the same thing. In US time, UK time and India time, respectively, they all tell you that your time is up. You just have about an hour left to pick up your kid before the crèche (daycare) doors close shut and to reach there you have to brave the never ending Bangalore traffic and the never failing stares of a few colleagues who seem to be whispering ‘Look, she’s leaving at 6.00 again’.
If this is a familiar predicament in which a lot of us find ourselves, let me add to the scenario.
When you finally reach the crèche, the waiting maid glances at you reproachfully for spoiling an hour of her evening serial time, you have reached in the extended hours (beyond 7 p.m., you see; when the crèche normally closes) and she had to wait back specifically for you. To top it all you find your daughter, fuming, angry and in mutiny.
“Mummy, there’s no one my age here anymore”
“All my friends have left”
“They don’t have any activities for us to do. We are just asked to sit and play.”
“Why do I still have to come to the crèche?”
So, that is my question too.
Where do the children who go to daycare centers go once they turn 6?
Most daycare centers proudly show their statistics – a bunch of 2-6 year old kids that decorate their walls in their childish sprawls and add to their hefty bank balance.
But the same centers have very few children above the age of 6 and even the ones who are there are rarely treated separately with educational/sporting/cultural activities that are suitable for their age.
So what happens after a kid joins primary school? When he/she returns from school at 4 p.m. but still needs an hour or two at the daycare before parents can return from office and pick up?
And what do parents of such kids do?
They can’t start returning home at 4 p.m. suddenly. As if 6 p.m. wasn’t bad enough for the office gossips to constantly comment upon.
Do they give up their jobs? That is increasingly not an option in today’s world.
Shift to a 24 hour housemaid? Many people do it but unless extremely lucky, this might turn into a 24 hour disturbance with someone who is never a part of the family but always hovering around the periphery.
Grandparents? That might have been the solution earlier but nowadays many grandparents choose to have their own lives without taking the responsibility of being surrogate parents for their grandchildren.
As one stylish 55 year old grandmother put it very aptly “Been there, done that. Why should I manage my grandchildren; haven’t I raised 3 of my own?”
This brings me to 2 possible solutions, if anybody cares to listen.
- Kids between 6-10 should not be treated like small babies. Daycare centers should have educational and creative activities for them that mentally stimulate the children and add to the knowledge they are gaining from school. That would reduce the daycare dropout rates and make sure these older children also enjoy the hours they spend there.
- Why can’t we have teenage girls/boys babysitting or rather ‘child sitting’ for these kids? For a couple of hours, these teenagers could just play some sports with them or read their own books while helping these kids read their books (most of them can read by this age). They don’t need too much of handholding, they just need companionship and learning. Not only would this give the teenagers some much needed money for their personal use, it would help instil in them a sense of responsibility and caring.
But as I said, is anybody listening? Till then, our daily fight with the clocks will continue.