Transcendentalist that I am, I suppose I should be writing a paean to the season, on this the first full day of spring. But I’m feeling crankier than usual today. I was reading the most recent issue of Christian Century at lunch today, and found more disturbing facts about child care. What really bugged me was hearing about the study that showed (no surprise) that very young children need good to excellent day care, yet only about 8% of day care centers qualify as good to excellent.
More annoying is the fact that Unitarian Universalist congregations are not setting a good example when it comes to child care. We’re all feminists, right? We all support the “7 Principles,” which grew out of the Women and Religion movement, right? One thing I learned from feminist theology — caring for our children cannot be dismissed as “mere women’s work” and therefore unimportant — instead, caring for and nurturing children must be at the center of what we do as human beings. Yet we are all too willing to pay our child care workers less than high school kids get for babysitting.
So let me throw down the gauntlet here. I believe that if Unitarian Universalist congregations truly valued child care, we would consistently pay our child care workers a starting wage of $20 an hour, going up to $30 an hour for experienced workers. (And spare me your budget woes — since most child care workers in our congregations work only 2 to 4 hours a week, this is really a small amount of money). We would pay them to get infant and child CPR training annually, and we would pay for additional in-service training opportunities at least twice a year.
I’d go further than that — all business meetings should provide child care, especially Board meetings and annual congregational meetings. Not to provide child care at such meetings effectively disenfranchises parents with babies and younger children. Which clearly violates our democratic principles.
Funny thing about providing decent child care. Most studies of church growth say that having excellent child care during worship services is one of the keys to congregational growth. When parents, and parents-to-be, first arrive they check out the nursery and the child care workers, and these parents make up a large percentage of newcomers. Want to keep your congregation small? — simply provide inadequate child care by poorly paid workers in a dingy room — and even people without babies will be turned off by your selfish attitude towards those without power. If you wonder why Unitarian Universalism isn’t growing, I contend part of the reason is the way we treat babies and their parents.
One last small rant-and-rave, and I’ll climb down off my soap box. One way you can find out how a congregation really feels about “the inherent worth and dignity of all persons” is to watch how the congregation treats persons who can’t advocate for themselves, people who don’t have any power or money — people like babies. Watch how your congregation treats babies, and you’ll know if your people walk the walk, or if they just talk the talk.
OK, done now. Spring is here — woo, hoo! Maybe the longer days will make me less cranky.