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.