Friday, March 19, 2010

Signs of an Economic Depression: End of Daycare As We Know It

On the writer's forums at Suite101, an online magazine, the topic of the loss of availability of daycare (not just affordable daycare - but any daycare at all) came up today. As a mom who works at home writing, I'm not currently directly affected by this, but I have the utmost sympathy for the mothers and fathers who are.

I am, however, afraid that this is not a temporary thing. Daycare as we know it is being phased out before it ever really had a chance to get going. It never had the government sponsorship it should probably have had as women were compelled to enter the workforce and their kids were left out in the proverbial cold. And now it's too late.

Because I think the cause of daycare's downfall is the restructuring that's occurring as the world shifts to a new economic model (of which we work-at-home writers are a part - and anyone who makes money on the Internet). The economic shift is manifesting as a worldwide depression/recession.

As I stated in my post earlier today on Depression Economics, in the early part of the 20th century, it was the car. Today, it's the Internet. With the new "transportation" medium that changes where people spend their time, we find that fewer people are congregating together and working in centralized locations.

Instead, more people are working at home online - or are simply out of work and living at home as fallout from the depression itself.  And not even always in the same old home.  They're moving out of the cities and beyond the suburbs - because why not?  There's no work to which they must drive.  And it's certainly cheaper...

Or how about this scenario: With the lowered demand for daycare, and the correspondingly increased cost, and baby boomers retiring and having more time on their hands, more people may be teaming together to help each other out.  One of my family members is a single parent raising two children.  Two members of her family, one of them a retired baby boomer, help take care of the kids during the daycare gaps.  And I think this kind of pulling together is on the rise.

Ultimately, there's a lack of demand for daycare.  While some families are desperate for daycare, on a larger scale, people are moving and working farther and farther away from each other and daycare relies on people congregating together.

And so it steamrolls.  Without enough customers, businesses fail.  Daycare is a business.  As happened with the Great Depression, the worldwide recession/depression going on now is shaking things up, and daycare is one of the smaller, less visible casualties.

Extended families, and the unstructured but reliable daycare that occurred within them, seem to be a thing of the past.  On the distant horizon, though, may be other alternatives.  Neighborhood cooperatives, possibly.  Closer-knit communities.  Or the opposite - more isolated family units, but an infrastructure set in place to assure that kids are not left wanting.  I don't know what it will look like.

But I know something has to be done if we don't want to see our kids neglected.  A temporary solution to the daycare problem needs to happen during this transition time.  Unfortunately, it won't work if it's simply the same thing that already existed, because that's already no longer affordable for many families, even when it's still available.

Do you have any ideas?

Copyright Nerd Writer Mom

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