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Imagine you put a lot of effort into a project at work. You stay up late to get it done, you do external research on different and creative ways to accomplish the task. You may come to feel that this project embodies you. You’re proud of it. You love it. You stake your future on it. Now imagine you just handing it over to a complete stranger to look after and maintain it.
Sounds fucking crazy, right? It is. And if you end up having kids, you’re gonna do that.
So this is a subject I broached on one of our episodes of the Dadgum Podcast, but I felt like it needed a little expanding. I am, unfortunately, a daycare connoisseur. We have attended a full four (4) official daycare institutions so far, in addition to a nannyshare, some assorted workout facility childcare offerings, so on and so forth.
Needless to say, this is not the ideal. But hey, we all gotta work since money don’t grow on glass houses or whatever. So you do what you gotta do.
For the most part, my experiences with child care have been good, or at the very least, pleasantly adequate. We are currently in a great situation, so the average keeps on coming up. But we did have one experience that was… hoo boy.
On the outset, everything seemed hunky dory. The place was exactly one mile from my house and next to several eateries. Some of our friends in the area started sending their kids to the same daycare at the same time as us. Yay! A community! Not to mention, it was like $150 cheaper per month. Beyond all those advantages, we really liked the teachers at the school despite not really gelling with the owner.
But we noticed some things that, in hindsight, should have given us a warning. First, there was a lot of staff turnover. Like, a LOT of turnover. The first person to leave was the manager of the place, who gave us the initial tour and sold us on the school to begin with. The next was a series of teachers/caregivers, all of whom we liked, and who clearly our kid was forming relationships with.
Several weeks after one of the more seasoned teachers left, I received an email from the owner of the place. We’d been on vacation for a week or so, so our kid hadn’t been in attendance. She said she had something to discuss with me. So I go in, and she tells me that this person was let go because the owner didn’t like the way the fired person had put her hands on my kid. Obviously, I didn’t like hearing this. I had many questions. The way the owner described the situation really didn’t seem like a big deal, so I told her that was no reason to fire anyone over, to which the owner replied “I didn’t like the way [redacted] handled the criticism. It had much more to do with her personality.”
So then I asked, “if [redacted] was fired for this almost a month ago, why am I only hearing about it now?” The answer was that the email was stuck in her outbox.
A word to all you young’ns out there who are just now getting into the corporate life: every single person on earth knows that’s a bullshit excuse.
So here are the data points I have to go on at this time:
The owner fires people over personality
Lots of people either quit or are fired (we usually never get a full description of what happened)
The owner communicates to clients the same way a lazy ass intern would
About another month goes by and apparently there’s enough drama going on that the owner decides to hold a townhall meeting with all parents invited. Despite it being the last thing I wanted to do, I go. During this meeting, each and every one of the teachers goes over their qualifications and backgrounds (many of which are impressive). Then, the owner gets into what can only be described as a paranoid conspiracy theory, accusing groups of parents of gossiping and plotting against her.
We decide to soldier forth, mainly because 1) nobody I spoke with had any fucking clue what she was talking about, and 2) the staff members that had everyday interactions with my kid were all great. Like, used to be college professor great. And despite the morning cry sessions whenever I dropped him off, he was making friends, getting socialized, and apparently learning (as much as a one and a half year old can demonstrate learning).
Now I’ll admit, there just seemed like a little bit of bad juju around this place. The whole vibe just seemed off. Every adult I encountered in this building just didn’t seem 100% happy to be there, whether that was the teachers or any of the other parents. The energy of the school just didn’t feel right.
Finally, my kid’s main teacher comes to me one day to tell me that she had put in her resignation. I really liked this person and thought she was kind of the main point of light we had going there. Also, just doing some quick math in my head, I had a hunch that with the current staff levels there was no way the school was going to be compliant with state laws around the kid-to-adult ratio required for daycares. We had been promised new teachers, but clearly there was something broken about the hiring process.
The following day, we receive an email that tuition was going up by about 15 percent next month, and there was nothing we could do about it.
That was GOING to be a problem, but the immediate day after that, there was a mouse in the building. It didn’t bother me (it had rained a lot that week) and it didn’t seem to bother many of the teachers. They basically said “oh! We’ll take care of it.”
However, not two hours go by and I get a call saying that I need to pick up my kid, that the school is closing to take care of the mouse issue. An overreaction, I figured.
But then the school doesn’t open the next day. Or the next. Or the next.
Turns out, the owner of this place is not someone who deals with stress well, and the mouse in the house was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She had had a breakdown of some sort. Unbeknownst to me, the teachers had taken all the kids outside so they wouldn’t have to see the owner in the state she was in, and when I picked my kid up from the outside play area, the owner was actually inside, pacing around maniacally.
The fallout was… not pretty. The owner was committed. She was not given access to any form of communication, so for about two weeks, both the teachers and the parents of kids were kept in the dark in regards to the status of the school. The first information we received after the incident was from relatives of the owner who had come into town to deal with the issue.
The teachers were paid out of what funds were remaining, and obviously all left to go find more stable places of employment. The school would not be reopening.
That was really only the beginning. We were allowed to go pick up whatever stuff we had left behind at the school, changes of clothes, diapers, etc. I asked what was going to happen to the rest of it, to which the accountant replied, “if you see something you like, go ahead and take it.” We got a sweet toy dumptruck out of that visit.
But here’s where shit gets real. Several parents had prepaid tuition for their kids. One couple in particular prepaid an entire year for two kids, and got less than a month of service to show for it. They were out upwards of $25 racks. Let that sink in.
Questions about refunds were thrown around, but no real answers were given.
About a month after the incident, the owner breaks her silence. She sends a mass email – through the school’s Tadpoles account, no less.
When I received it, I thought hey, let’s hear her out. The opening salvo was more conspiracy nonsense about parents who were aligned against her. She went on to throw all of the teachers under the bus, which I couldn’t forgive. The teachers were the ones we liked, the ones we had a relationship with, you dipshit! Trying to shift blame to them is DEFINITELY not going to help your cause. She finishes the email by saying that there will be no refunds.
The final step in the saga is that there is an ongoing lawsuit filed against the owner. I chose not to participate, since I didn’t lose enough money to make it worth my while. As far as I’m concerned, we got out of the situation comparatively unscathed.
The silver lining is that we are now in a new school that is fantastic. We love everything about it. Our kid even likes it so much that we can threaten him with not taking him there and that makes him obey. Holy shit, right? The best part is that a good portion of the staff are refugees from the original place, including the manager who we originally liked, the teacher who got fired for the “clash of personalities” (we later found out the improper physical contact was a complete fabrication on the part of the owner), and one of the last teachers who was there on the day of the mouse (she is a full-on saint who has helped us out in a thousand different ways).
Now, there are a lot of underlying factors to this entire story. The first part is easy to get out of the way. We need to pay teachers more. We need to pay daycare workers more. Heck we need to make the entire workforce way more gender neutral while we’re at it. Universal Pre-K is also a really, really good idea.
The next part is harder, mostly because I don’t have a ton of experience in the subject. But that is, there is a well-known stigma around mental health. I don’t know enough about the background and history of the owner of that school to even give a semblance of decent recommendations, but there has to have been a system or program that she could have participated in that would have alleviated a lot of problems that all came to a head at once.
Interpersonal skills would have prevented the staffing shortfall; anger or anxiety management could have helped her deal with the mouse issue in a rational way. Granted, my “rational way” would have been to camp out in the school with a pellet gun and a box of Captain Crunch, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, ESPECIALLY when kids are involved, people should not be too afraid or too ashamed to pursue avenues that will help them deal with emotional or mental problems.
Anyway, sorry to drag everyone down, but #DadLife isn’t all about baby boners and poop jokes. We gotta deal with real shit too.
For some way more fun content than this, give the Dadgum Podcast a listen. We’d love to hear from you guys about how we’re doing, if you have any questions for us, or if you’ve got any drunk stories that seem very childish as well!.