Tara Ann Thieke Profile picture
Mar 8, 2018 42 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
International Women's Day coincided with @EricaKomisarCSW's book crossing my path again. The glib platitudes circulating while anyone who challenges the consensus is shouted down got me thinking (oh dear).
For a decade I worked as a nanny, at daycare, and in foster care. I've avoided speaking about what I observed b/c I love the children I've cared for & preferred to focus on that. Who wants to argue w/ people emotionally motivated to interpret facts in the most comfortable way?
But everyday I'm bombarded on social media by people using children to push agendas. To guilt others while claiming to hate guilt. To judge while rejecting judgment. What happens is the actual children, become props for the agenda of others while caregivers are silent or ignored.
So today I'm going to speak about what happens to real children in the culture and economy we've created.
Scene One: A 3-year old child screams every morning when they wake and I'm there instead of the parents. Wails on the floor. Takes about 30 minutes to calm them down everyday.
By the time this child was 4 - 5, though, things had changed. They would scream when their parents came home. We had to find ways to sneak me out of the house. The child called me "mom," (something I discouraged every single time it happened without fail.)
When the child was told I was moving they sobbed everyday until my last day. I was disappeared from the child's life (not my choice). The child has zero contact with the person who was their primary daily caregiver for over 2 years, when this child formed their earliest memories
What happens to a child when someone they love like a parent is shown to just be an employee who can be erased? When their caregiver is disposable?
Scene Two: Working at an elite preschool. One program oversees toddlers from 18 months to 3 years.
Each time a new one comes they scream. They are hysterical about their parents leaving. We are supposed to tell the parents it is natural, nothing to worry about.
Eventually the children do learn their parents are gone and they "adjust." I remember one child, adopted, who was dropped off around 6 am and picked up at 6 pm. The child often acted out. It was dismissed as behavioral issues and the adoptive parents didn't want to hear about it.
So we were forbidden from talking about it. The real problem was the child was an orphan who had been taken from their home across the world and left with a series of revolving semi-strangers for 12 hours a day. When the child got home it was dinnertime, bathtime, and bed.
Every rule at this school is broken, no boundaries are enforced, except one: you do not get to go home. No matter how much you cry, your parents are gone and you are here. I wonder why this is the only rule that matters.
Scene Three: I'm a live-in nanny in a very wealthy, exclusive community largely composed of centrist Democrats. As the only American nanny working for a woman in a large group of friends, I become the go-to person for scheduling playdates, sports schedules, etc.
I'm also the only nanny paid a decent wage. The others are immigrants imported specifically for the job they're at. If they speak up about being on-call 24 hours a day, they'll lose their jobs. Many of these women have children and grandchildren back in their home countries.
They're miserable about it if you talk to them. It takes a while for them to trust me because the mothers treat me as an "American." And while it's a lesser deal, I'm lonely, cut-off from the other nanny's cultures, no one to connect with.
The moms tell me I'm "one of them." It's true to an extent. If I say "No" to something I don't have to worry about being deported. I'm not sending my paycheck home to my grandchildren. And I'm not told my virtual indentured servitude is an example of the system "succeeding."
The moms joke about when I'm going to get a "real job." The lesson being that caring for their children isn't a real job. Boy, it shows in the way they treat the caregivers!
The parents all demand maternity leave, quality pre-schools, and profess admiration of a meritocracy where an immigrant's children can go on to join the white-collar class. But not one of them wants their own daughter to be a caregiver.
They want "more." Because caring for children isn't important. What the heck does that teach their child? What does it teach the caregiver?
Peers who profess themselves to be socialists, egalitarians, literally roll their eyes when I tell them what I do. They demand quality childcare but laugh in private at those who do the work. I find this very interesting.
Scene Four: I'm working in foster care. Some children are removed from their mother because of abuse. The mother's boyfriend had hideously injured the youngest two children. I had care for the three eldest of the 5, who had a different father, long gone.
The children are placed in a stable home with a foster mother who does full-time childcare. After a long period of adjustment they begin to flourish. It is a tragedy, because they ache for their mother, who truly wants them, but also neglects them during supervised in-home visits
The system rushes to reconcile them though the home they will be returning to is completely disruptive. They will go back to daycare while their mother works terrible jobs she's forced into by the system. Is the daycare better than the home though? Yes, but not by much.
The "care" centers I visit for these children are full of overworked, underpaid, exhausted women. Some are saints, others are horrid. You feel for all of them regardless, because how did the world get this way? The broken mother, the broken workers, the broken children.
But then I hear about how we need more early quality education. Quality? For whom? The rich will continue to get the quality care they've rigged the system to achieve. The children of the wealthy will cry, scream, and be miserable at first, but they'll be forced to adjust.
And the pretty toys and fancy schools the parents can pay for guarantee the children will be successful, though whether they will be "happy" or well-adjusted is an entirely different matter.
As for the poor, their mothers will work unfulfilling jobs. They will never ever "have it all." They will not be helped to be home with their children; they will not be taught how to build a stable home because that would be judgmental.
They won't be offered help to make their relationships "stick." They'll be used as cheap labor for stadium food kiosks until they can be replaced as a machine. Maybe they'll still be allowed to clean toilets, I don't know.
Children of the poor will have broken mothers who seek comfort in the arms of men with no investment in them, who have never been taught to be invested in themselves. These men will hurt them, they will sexually abuse them. The data is there however much you don't want to look.
So on #InternationalWomensDay I implore us to remember everyone is connected. 'Have it all" is cheap rhetoric that encourages us to disconnect from our mutual dependence, and no one is more dependent then babies and children.
You're not a bad guy b/c you've used a daycare. Nor, in the rush to switch from denial to acknowledgment, is it all the patriarchy's fault. There's very appealing things about not having to change diapers all day. We've made being caring for small children exhausting and lonely.
Iit's not helpful to turn and blame men. Some men made the system, some women helped exacerbate it. And most of those men and women were taught this is what works.
That sounds totally deterministic, like equating victims and the victimizers. But that's the insidious nature of sin: it pits everyone against each other, blurring responsibilities.
The good news is there's free will. We may not be responsible for what happened yesterday. But we can forgive the system-makers, ask forgiveness for our complicity, and free ourselves to start making different choices, imagining different ways of doing things.
We can put the most vulnerable at the center again, and the most vulnerable are impoverished mothers and children.
To end this on a more positive note, here are things I was privileged to do that I wish every parent got to do: I sat next to children as they read their first words. I saw their eyes glow when they accomplished a new task.
I held their hands when they cried and watched them forgive others. I watched them be silly, charming, messy, empathetic, loving, creative, exhausted, and brave. These shouldn't be my memories, they should belong to the parents. But I'm grateful for them.
I want to build a world where every parent has more of those memories. I want to build a world where those who care for children during those moments are not devalued or tossed aside. I want to build lasting connections for children rather than uprooting them constantly.
I want to build a world that sees the work which takes place in the home as valuable, as the work of our hearts, and not as something to be outsourced.
When we outsource the work of the home, we outsource our own lives. Let's reclaim the home and find a way to make the economy work for it, rather than dismantle the home to build an economy that can't turn a child's joy or grief into an algorithm.
The end!

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More from @TaraAnnThieke

Sep 29, 2018
Of all the misery-making aspects of the Church scandal, the impact upon the sacrament of Confession is particularly upsetting.
The entire world seems caught up in a situation of emotional blackmail and cronyism regarding sexual misconduct.
On a side note, it makes it all the more weird when (some) elected officials get a pass on their behavior in office... trading sexual favors for power is one of the oldest patterns in the human race, likewise using that power to intimidate subordinates.
Read 13 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
As someone who has been sexually assaulted more than once, this past week has been traumatic. I've been genuinely torn. Why do I hesitate to throw the book at Kavanaugh, a rich prep school kid oblivious to his privilege? Is it my own pro-life partisanship?
While thinking about it, and other traumatic memories, one came back to me, something that shaped my life and my fear and loathing of mob mentality, sort of the way @roddreher's high school experience did to him.
When I was in middle school I was a quiet kid. Friendships are rearranging around that time. One girl, who had severe problems at home, decided to spread a rumor about me in 7th grade. When I heard it, and other girls started teasing me, I decided not to go back to school.
Read 12 tweets

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