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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2001 / 21 Shevat, 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

Sick -- IT seems that for my generation, when we were little, getting sick meant getting to crawl into Mom and Dad's bed for the day to watch TV. That was a common experience among my peers, who also remember our moms being there with lots of ginger ale and a gentle, worried hand regularly applied to our fevered foreheads, of course.

Such comfort and care almost made feeling sick feel good.

Flash forward to a weekday morning and a present day mom and dad in Nashville, Ten., who knew they ". . . had a problem when their feverish youngest daughter crawled into bed with them," the Associated Press recently reported. Was the problem what the fever might portend for her health? Who knows? The issue for these parents was what to do with the kid for the day since the first-grader was too sick to go to school.

You see, these parents are high-powered executives with important schedules to keep. But they didn't get where they are for nothing. They had a plan. They bundled their groggy, sick little girl into the car and dropped her off in a place she'd never been before with people she'd never met before - including a lot of other ill children. No, it wasn't a hospital, it was a Get Well Center in Nashville, a daycare program for sick kids. (At least when a hospital is called for, parents usually stay with their ill children as much as they possibly can.)

According to the mom in this story, who supposedly started out "guilt-ridden," the child "had a blast." In fact, mom said, ". . . her sister was jealous when she came home." Like all successful power-moms, this one apparently excels at rationalizations.

As the AP reported, this child's parents are not alone because "Sick-child care is a growing part of the multibillion-dollar child care industry." It seems to be a most welcome one, too. In the last ten years, the number of day care centers providing such care has more than tripled nationally.

That's sick. Literally. To deliberately introduce children with compromised immune systems to other ill children puts the health of all of them at greater risk than if they were at home, no matter how advanced the nursing staff or the precautions like "isolation rooms" (and don't those sound comforting?).

But worse is just not being at home. At the risk of pointing out the politically incorrect obvious, whether a kid skins his knee or is throwing up, he wants his mother. As wonderful as dad, or grandma, or a family friend is, it's still mom that almost every hurting young child yearns for most.

I know, I know, the world has changed since I was a kid, and not every mom can be there for her little ones. Some mothers just have to work, and many of them have bosses who aren't thrilled to hear "I have to stay home with my child because he's sick," though legally most have to allow it (without pay).

But it's hard to believe that the women using sick-child care are the moms holding down a job needed for survival at the local grocery store. Yes, some larger employers now subsidize the cost of such centers. But women who have access to these places through work or who can afford them on their own (at a cost of some $85 a day) are most likely to be the career moms who've freely a chosen a path that keep them from their children when their children want and need them most.

And that's what really makes me ill. Not that sick-child care might exist for those parents who are truly desperate and see it as an unhappy last resort if they want to keep food on the table. But that there are, apparently, a growing number of moms who would willingly turn their sick little ones over to a bunch of strangers so they can get to some meetings in their already overcrowded workweeks - and worst of all, would happily rationalize it instead of properly agonizing over it.

You know, one might hear "so-and-so wants a dog, but she's never at home so it just wouldn't be fair to the animal." Yet who hears "so-and-so wants a child, but she's never home so it just wouldn't be fair to the little one"?

The dramatic growth in sick-child daycare centers and worse, what appears in some quarters to be a wholesale warm embrace of them, may just be one more indication that our culture really is ill.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


02/06/01: Is nothing sacred?
01/30/01: Moral bankruptcy of the civil rights establishment
01/16/01: Who are the truly 'ugly' ones?
01/10/01: The extent to which our culture has been feminized
01/02/01: It's gettin' better all the time
12/20/00: Now that the head banging has stopped ....
12/13/00: TV keeps giving us the bad dad
12/01/00: Sorriest legacy of election has nothing to do with chads, 'aborted pregnancies' or the electoral college
12/01/00: Giving 'sleepovers' a new meaning
11/20/00: The Dems' pathetic craving for power
11/14/00: A potentially fateful indication of Gore's mindset
11/07/00: What do women really want?
10/24/00: Spare the rod ...
10/19/00: Gore is a liar --- period
10/12/00: Making the case for marriage
09/28/00: "Mommy, what's abortion?"
09/20/00: Gay righters no longer seek just tolerance but endorsement
09/14/00: The stupidity of smart growth
09/07/00: It takes more than a kiss
08/30/00: Helping out at school is more than an obligation
08/24/00: Family time comes far down the summer schedule
08/16/00: A tale of two wives
08/09/00: The Brady Bill isn't achieving its aim
08/01/00: Attention feminists: How to really keep our daughters safe
07/25/00: Everything is protective: the parents, the gear, the age
07/18/00: Say it ain't so, Ann
07/11/00: Limiting a child's choices
07/06/00: Accounting for your health
06/21/00: It's a bad time to be a boy in America
06/13/00: The state of our unions
06/02/00: Federalizing care of kids
05/17/00: The natural food threat
05/09/00: To stop gun violence, keep families intact
05/03/00: Pass the fat, please
04/25/00: Something just for boys
04/18/00: When toleration goes too far
04/10/00: Women warriors
04/05/00: Confessions of a soccer mom
03/30/00: Getting an education about schools
03/22/00: If you're a parent, act like one!
03/14/00: Not child advocates, but self-advocates
03/06/00: McCain not what he seemed at first
02/29/00: An effective answer to social problems
02/22/00: The feminists' newest target: Toys
02/06/00: Harassing the harassers
01/31/00: It doesn't take a village to raise a child --- it takes a scheduler
01/25/00: Psuedo science and global warming
01/18/00: Socially responsible nonsense
01/10/00: Monica may be onto something
12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
12/17/99: Teens have no inherent 'right to privacy'
12/10/99: Buying a minivan and tossing the SUV
12/03/99: On the mommy track
11/05/99:The waste of recycling
11/01/99: Welcome to Harvard pre-school
10/22/99: No disaster for women that Dole is out
10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service