24-Hour Daycares Accommodate the “Forever Clock”

The Toast’s daily Link Roundup is one of the very first things I read every morning, and today they highlighted a Pacific Standard article titled “The Rise of Extreme Daycare:”

The growth of this industry makes sense: We now have an expanded workweek, often composed of unpredictable hours. Nearly 40 percent of Americans have non-standard work lives. (The average American adult also now works one and a quarter jobs.) Working people who live below the poverty line are particularly afraid to say no to these unusual schedules. They may have no one to say no to, anyway — those schedules might have been created by computers, rather than human managers, in the hopes of saving a corporation money. Many companies now use data and algorithms to schedule employees so fewer hours will be spent sitting around. The software doesn’t care if a shift falls in the middle of the night, or that it might tear a big hole in an employee’s family life.

The daycare profiled in this piece is just one of the numerous 24-hour daycare options; in this case, a warm and welcoming space where children sleep on “thin mattresses laid over yoga mats” every night; where parents are welcome to drop off and pick up their children at any time except between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., during which the daycare owners and the children all get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

It is a natural and not-surprising solution to today’s varied and variable workplace schedules, which journalist Alissa Quart calls the “forever clock.” When businesses are open around the clock, adults must be ready to work at all hours, even if it means missing their own children’s bedtimes:

Of course, bathing or wrapping a blanket around a child is intimate and can seem like the most important moment in the day. Yet many Americans now can’t necessarily choose when to work and when to parent.

Quart notes that this forever clock is essentially in effect for parents in all industry sectors — the parent answering emails at 1 a.m. is only different from the parent stocking shelves at 1 a.m. in that the former parent can work from the family home — and that it means viewing every single day, and every minute of every day, as potential work time. The daycare Quart profiles is even open on Thanksgiving, because, to quote daycare owner Deloris Hogan, “The stores and the nurses are not off for Thanksgiving.”

It makes sense. Of course it makes sense. In some ways, it seems ideal: providing childcare options to people so they can keep their jobs and so their kids have somewhere safe to go while they’re working.

But it also, at its core, feels wrong, doesn’t it? Like it’s the type of compromise nobody really wants to make?

Read the article, and then let us know what you think.

Photo credit: Alex

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