My Daughter's Childcare Prison

By Nicole Hallengrogg
(Image is gratefully borrowed from Allan Ferguson on and IS NOT a picture of my child's daycare)

My three year-old daughter, Samantha, has this strange habit of hiding pieces of the playground in her pockets during outside time at school. I have the pleasure of finding these little treasures at about 12:00 am when I’m lying awake wondering what the hell I put in the dryer and why its making odd scratching sounds at each revolution. I get up to find sand and wood-chips scattered evenly on every piece of Hello Kitty underwear and Dora tee shirt. It happens way to frequently, since I, being the busy, absent-minded single mom that I am, I never remember to check her pockets before a wash.

This little quark of hers reminds me of a book I once read about a man who dug a hole inside his prison cell. Being the careful minded person that he was, he took the time to remove the debris, hiding it in his pockets, and dumping it in the yard when they were allowed to go outside. I imagine Samantha, hands dug deep in her pockets, finding an inconspicuous corner of the playground to unload her labors of the day. Looking around to make sure none of the teachers have caught her, she finds a place in the sandbox and settles in for play.

I would like to say that my childcare facility does not remind me of a prison, but in fact, there are some pretty close similarities.

Do I drop her off unwillingly? Yes. Does she beg and plead for me not to go? Yes. Do other children want to be there? Not Really. Must the children fall into line in order for the facility to run properly? Yes. Is it heavily gated and are there strict security policies? Yes. Well, you get the point. One major difference being that I pay for childcare out of pocket instead it coming out of my taxes.

Yet, I drop her off everyday. Tearing myself out of her tiny grasp and turning to complete my day at work…to pay for her being there, so I can support her, so we can survive. I work just down the steps in a two year-old room where my other daughter attends class. The truth is I can’t afford to work anywhere else. If I were to get paid eight dollars an hour (with a collage degree) at another job I would be paying the childcare facility five more dollars a day then my earned wages. The childcare facility gives me a break on my childcare monthly bill for working there - it’s the only reason I can afford it. This makes me think that correctional officers have it pretty good. They get salary, paid vacations, and benefits. I get the comfort of knowing I can probably swing my rent and electricity this month.

As it is, Samantha will continue to dig tunnels in the playground looking for some secret route to freedom. I will eventually have to buy a new dryer. And I hope to God that someday I won’t be smuggling a nail file to her in a birthday cake.

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