The problem with an overscaled, anti-natalist society, Oklahoma infant death edition

The title is gruesome because the situation is gruesome.  But it is also an example of how gigantic and numerous the obstacles are to a society where it’s less terrible to try to have children.

Recently in Oklahoma, a young couple where both parents worked full time had an 11 week old infant in full-time daycare.  In this daycare the infant was swaddled and put to sleep in a different infant’s unused carseat.  The little child’s head tipped against its chest and the poor child suffocated.  The daycare employee was away from the infant for two hours before coming back to check, finding out something terrible had happened and calling 911.

The story is sad, and most of the news about it weirdly focuses on “unsafeness of car seats”.  But let’s list the many problems leading to the collateral damage of one little infant’s life.

  • Mom has to return to work while less than three months postpartum
  • But she lacks the class status or income to pay for a one-on-one caregiver or split the costs with other families to have a one-on-two or three infants caregiver (nanny or nanny share)
  • And she also lacks the close-knit neighborhood or extended family that would provide free childcare so she could work
  • So she uses a daycare that is very cheap
  • And because it’s so cheap, the daycare has a financial incentive to NOT follow the rules about staff to infant ratios, despite being licensed and “legit”
  • Which leads to a caregiver who walks away from a child with newborn sleep patterns for far longer than is appropriate at that infant age.
  • Then there’s the state of Oklahoma, which has a “bad daycare employee blacklist”, but the list is worse than useless, since if they can’t find the daycare employee, the person disappears from the list.  This is the kind of weird bureaucratic goof that happens when more and more regulations to deal with the original regulations are larded on top of each other
  • And of course the daycare employee couldn’t be found after the infant’s death because it’s easy to hide when you aren’t “over the table” in your pay, which is very common even in “licensed” daycares.

I see a lot of talk in the right wing, from the mainstream part to the dissident weird part, that assumes there is no real obstacle to getting (white) women to have more kids, it’s just their silly refusal to marry a (white) man and start having kids.  Well, this woman did just marry a man and start a family, but the job her husband has doesn’t pay enough for her to work part time or stay home full time and the breakdown of community meant that she was stuck with a sorry list of options when she had to go back to work almost immediately after having her baby.  And the lack of relationships means not just relying on regulations, but not being able to enforce violations of those regulations.  Rule of law is only as strong as the people willing to uphold it.  And in an environment where nearly every American child is a chosen birth, natalism means doing extra for women to increase their desire to have additional children, start relatively young and minimize outside the home work so they can have the close-knit neighborhood relationships that allow for free ranging children of all ages.

And that extra doesn’t consist of tax credits or restoring father custody as a default.  It doesn’t in fact consist of much policy or political prescription to begin with (those things would follow).  It consists of giving women social status for being married mothers and then helping them directly to prove they have the status.  That’s something one could formalize eventually in social policy, but what is pretty easy is to start doing it now.  And who knows, maybe a few infants could be spared the tragedy this one suffered.

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2 thoughts on “The problem with an overscaled, anti-natalist society, Oklahoma infant death edition”

  1. Amen to this post! I too have read some appalling nonsense about how (white) women just need to have more kids, as if women are shirking their duty and descending into rebellion. That’s not rebellion, it’s just biological truth. In the forest when an animal become pregnant and conditions are not favorable, it will either reabsorb the pregnancy or actually eat it’s young. That’s horrible and graphic, but even farmers, horse breeders, understand that the mother must have support, nutrition, favorable conditions in order to have successful offspring. Some of the men making these bizarre statements don’t even have enough horse sense to be speaking of such things. What we are seeing all over our culture in way of tragedies, abortion, declining birth rates, is a biological reaction to conditions unfavorable to having children.

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  2. Thank you for being so unabashedly blunt about the reality a lot of women (and families) experience. In my state, there was a related incident where an infant died suddenly while sleeping in a daycare. Both parents worked full-time, and this was in a rural community. So far, no one was charged but it sounded like everyone involved was shocked and grieving.

    A lot of people look down on my generation for putting their children into daycare, but what else can you do? Not all of our families are “close knit” or full of sane people (who wants to leave an infant with grandma when she flips out and cusses like a sailor over a few dishes in the sink? seriously). Most of my coworkers are men, and quite a few of them have told me they’re willing to cut back on other expenses in their lives in order to place their children into a safe (and more expensive) daycare. I haven’t heard men making the statements insanity mentions, other than the fictional interwebz folk.

    Millennials are gonna go broke if at some point or another, you don’t work 2 jobs and that’s even living in a relatively cheap area and having minimal expenses. What ends of happening is a lot of people are waiting until they’re 30 or a little older because at least they can afford to have a parent stay home when the children are babies. It’s not ideal…but it’s reality.

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