Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m currently attending college, and to help pay for various expenses I got a summer job at a daycare. A few weeks ago, a parent accused me of making an inappropriate hand gesture at them during pick up. I didn’t do it; I’ve never had so much as a conversation with this woman. She brought the issue up to my boss, and I was told to be more careful. I thought that was the end of it. However, yesterday when attempting to redirect her 4-year-old, he looked at me and said, “My mommy is mad that you’re not fired, so if you get me in trouble, I’m gonna tell her you’re mean.” Ordinarily, I would just ignore this behavior, because caving to the demands of a toddler is bad form. But, if the kid tells his mom I did something, and she tells my boss, I think I will lose my job (my boss has a track record for believing parents over employees, and some of my coworkers say this mom has gotten people fired before). Should I proceed as normal, avoid this kid as much as possible, raise the issue to my boss and hope they listen, or find another job for the summer?
— The Nervous Employee
Dear Nervous Employee,
You must talk to your manager as soon as possible about what this kid told you. It is very strange that this parent has decided that she has an axe to grind with you, and she has put you in an incredibly difficult situation. Her child does not believe that he has to respect your authority and feels that he can dangle the possibility of you getting in trouble over your head; this is a hostile work environment. Don’t wait until this kid runs to his mom with a fable about you to defend yourself. Remind your boss that this parent has targeted you in the past and explain that you feel uncomfortable interacting with her child now because he has revealed that his mother was upset that you weren’t fired at her first complaint. Hopefully, your supervisor will take this allegation seriously and speak to the parent about the horribly inappropriate conversation she’s had with her kid and how she’s empowered him to harass an adult at work.
If your boss sides with the family or doesn’t seem concerned by what you reveal, I would suggest looking for other work for the remainder of the summer. Best of luck in having what may be a difficult conversation, but is also a necessary one.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My sister and her husband, who live seven hours away from me, are expecting a baby in October. We’ve remained close despite the distance, and I’m thrilled for them. I live in an area where my OB-GYN has flyers warning you to get your childcare deposit down in the first four months of pregnancy, but when I shared this with my sister, she laughed it off because “that’s just a city thing.” But it turns out there’s a daycare shortage in her area too, and she recently was shocked by how expensive the places with shorter waiting lists are now. She asked me to help them out with it financially, which I can’t afford. I know it took a lot for her to ask for help in this situation (our upbringing means she lives in fear of the “I-told-you-so”). Is there anything I can do that isn’t financial in a situation like this?
— Broke Auntie
Dear Broke Auntie,
There are a number of ways that you can be helpful to your sister and her family, even from a distance. You can volunteer to help her with researching daycare facilities in the area and support her with choosing an affordable option; there may be scholarships or voucher programs that she qualifies for that she might not know about. This can be a tedious process and having an additional set of hands (that aren’t busy with a new baby) may prove to be a godsend. Obviously, the childcare situation is looming heavily on your minds right now, but there are other ways that you can and should be a resource to your sister as she prepares to welcome a child. You can help with putting together her registry, if she’s planning to have one. You can call and check in on her frequently, keeping her encouraged and feeling supported. Perhaps you can come visit in the early weeks of her child’s life and provide a few days of assistance around the house. Don’t feel guilty about not being able to provide financial aid; instead, focus on being as useful to your sister and her family as you can in the ways that you can. I’m sure she will appreciate this approach. Best of luck to you.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I am the mother of a 14-year-old nonbinary high school sophomore in the deep South, where abortion just became illegal, and I am terrified that birth control is next. My child is not sexually active or interested right now, but I am concerned that when they do become active, it will be too late to get reliable birth control for them. We had planned to get an IUD on the way to college, but who knows if that will be an option? At 14, I hesitate to get an invasive procedure done on my kid (who has never even had an gynecological exam), but I’m having the feeling that it is now or never. What do I do?
— IUDs in the South
Dear IUDS in the South,
I understand your serious concerns about access to birth control, but I would not recommend urging such a young person, who isn’t yet sexually active, to undergo what can be a very painful, very complicated procedure. Just as a personal anecdote: When President Trump was elected, I rushed to get an IUD for fear that birth control access may become limited; I cannot adequately describe in words how terrible the side effects were, including depression, and it took me months to identify the device as the source of the consistent physical discomfort that I began to experience. It was devastating, and I am in my 30s. I can’t fathom such a young kid going through this without great reason. If your child was sexually active, perhaps this would be worth considering, but it seems entirely too much right now otherwise.
I think the best way to try and keep your child safe at this point is to talk to them about responsible sex and birth control. Make them aware of all the methods available, including abortion, talk about the barriers that exist to obtaining some of them, and be painfully honest about the attack on women and other marginalized genders that has erected those barriers.
Hopefully, birth control methods such as the pill, IUD, and Plan B will remain accessible in your area (speaking of which, you may want to take local reproductive rights into consideration when you start looking at colleges, if leaving the state is a possibility for your child). If they do not, and even if they do, proper condom usage is critical, and your child can and must know that it is a critical way to both prevent pregnancy and the transmission of some STIs.
As your child gets older, it may become necessary for you all to seek out birth control for them. Do not rush this, and consider all options. Anyone getting an IUD should be aware of the possible issues (including pain during insertion, which is very common, mood changes, irregular bleeding, headaches, acne, etc.) and prepared to deal with them. I don’t think a 14-year-old who hasn’t started having sex or getting gynecological exams is ready for that.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
Where do I even begin? My beloved daycare is going under new management soon, and I don’t know how to say goodbye. We’ve been there since my oldest was 12 weeks old, and I was planning on staying there another three years until my youngest started kindergarten. This place was amazing; there was an annual Mother’s Day brunch, a Father’s Day barbeque, and a Thanksgiving feast, and they took kids older than2 on field trips. For lots of reasons, I’m not staying on with the new owner, and I miraculously managed to find a place in town for my almost 2-year-old. This place was the only community I’ve really had since I became a mom, and the staff there are like family. How do I thank these wonderful people I’ve known for years for doing an incredibly hard job that society doesn’t value?
— Early Childhood Education Is Important
Dear Early Childhood,
I’m happy you had such a great experience with this daycare center thus far and so sorry that it won’t continue. I think it would mean a lot to the staff and soon-to-depart management to hear how much you have valued your time as part of this community; it may also be helpful for the new leaders to be aware of this too—even though you won’t be continuing on with the school, they should take into consideration what has worked well thus far and look to maintain some of those things. You should write your gratitude, either in a letter to be shared with the entire staff and/or in individual notes or cards shared with the folks whom have been a part of your experience. Talk about how much it meant to you to have this community, how great they have been to you and your family, and how thankful you are for their service. If you are willing and able, you may want to consider giving out some small gifts as well. They don’t have to be terribly expensive; coffee mugs and gift cards usually bring a smile to people’s faces. I am sure that the staff will be really moved to hear from you, and sharing your feelings will allow you to bring some closure to your experience with this school.