Text by Anusmita Dutta
Daycares in India are mushrooming In India at a rapid rate. According to research done by Tech Sci daycare market in India will grow at a rate of 23% up to 2022. The data indicates two things: more and more women are joining the workforce, and there has been a change in India’s social structure with nuclear families/single parenting on the rise.
Daycares are facilities where children are cared for during the day when their parents are at work or attending to other responsibilities. Before I became a mother, the word ‘Daycare ‘seemed that one word that would ensure that I continue with my career. It was an often asked query, “ If you start a family, do you have anyone who can help you with the baby so that you can continue working?”. I would reply smugly, “We have so many daycares in the city now, I am sure I would be able to work post-baby”.
Daycare Vs the Indian mindset
Indeed the city has many daycares available to parents who want a safe ‘second home’ for their children where they will be cared for and supervised while the parents attend to their jobs and other responsibilities. Just Google search and it will throw up several names of available daycare facilities in your city. Post motherhood, I realised a need to have an in-depth understanding of these facilities before I could think of delegating my child’s care to them. Moreover, I also realised that the decision to put one’s child in daycare required some amount of emotional readiness for the family as a whole. In a country like India, where joint families were a norm until a few decades ago there is a mindset that putting the child in daycare means doing away with our own responsibilities as parents especially the mothers. In such a scenario, we have to not only prepare ourselves but also our children( if they are at an age to understand it) and well-meaning family members that daycare is an option to only ease our lives.
The different forms of Daycares in India:
- Home Daycare facilities run by individuals from their home premises. These are also known as ‘Palna Ghar’. The oldest form of daycare in India is however mobile creches, a facility for construction workers to keep their children while they worked. Back in 1969, a lady called Meera Mahadevan found toddlers and babies near construction sites left out in the open, in an uncared manner in sweltering hot weather while their mothers worked. The same year she launched the first mobile creche which has benefitted families working in construction sites for almost 50 years now. Over the years, the government provided various legislations (Factories Act 1948, Mines Act 1952, Plantation Act, 1951, Inter-State Migrant Workers Act 1980 and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005) to provide daycare facilities to women working in the organized sector.
- Daycares are available on corporate premises. These are facilities offered by companies to their employees. In recent times, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017, has made it mandatory for employers with 50 or more employees to provide a creche facility either on its own or through a common facility. Moreover, the act requires that employers need to bear the complete cost of providing childcare support to their employees. Though there are some loopholes in the provisions of the Act, as the act not being applicable to organizations having less than 50 employees, and the possibility of employers turning wary of hiring female employees given the cost burden, the New Maternity Benefit Act is still a brave move. The good news is the government is reviewing the act for some modifications. According to a newspaper report in ET titled “Government Looking at enhancing, extending maternity benefits,” the government is considering putting some cost burden on the child’s father’s employer too.
- Daycares are available with pre-schools. This is the most popular type of daycare these days as children can extend their stay in the school premises post the regular school hours.
Daycare – where your child’s safety is a priority
Daycares score higher over any other arrangement for childcare on aspects such as safety, accountability and reliability. Hired helpers at home are often erratic and unprofessional. (For example, if the Daycare is closed on any other day except for Sundays and public holidays, the parents are intimated well in advance which is often not the case with hired help.) Daycare owners also fulfil certain legal requirements to start the facility. The caregivers are usually expected to be trained by a recognized institute or at least demonstrate the ability to care for children efficiently. There are recognized courses offered by Creche Management Trade ITIs to equip prospective caregivers with requisite skills. VES Tulsi Technical Institute in Mumbai offers a creche and preschool management course. The trained caregivers are therefore better able to look after the children and also keep them engaged.
Moreover, Daycare facilities hold licences to run the business and the staff is required to undergo thorough background checks and verifications before they are hired.
Daycare – a helping hand for working and stay-at-home parents
For working parents, Daycares can be a boon because anyone who is a parent or lives around small children would know that it is a round the clock job. As Shilpa Kamath, Principal at a Mynest Preschool, Thane puts it, “Needs of a growing up a child today, are no longer limited to providing nutritious food and a hygienic and secure environment. Today’s working mother needs more. She wants her little one to be socially, creatively and emotionally engaged as well. She prefers to entrust her child in the hands of a professionally trained team under whose supervision her child will follow a well-charted daily routine with a balanced mix of playtime and learning activities. A professional day-care provides all of this as well as helps inculcate a spirit of good social culture, discipline, friendship, caring and sharing. A proficient daycare assures a mother that her child receives the same love, care and attention that she would give at home thus allowing her to dedicate her time and effort to her career”.
A daycare can take the load off the parents by taking over critical parental tasks. Women have resumed work full-fledged or even half-day because the daycare takes care of the child’s daytime meals or even assists them in homework. The parent makes the monetary contribution and leaves the rest to the professional caregivers for the stipulated time the children are delegated to them. There are few daycares that also offer ad-hoc facilities on need basis that can be availed for shorter durations like a week or so as per need. When my daughter’s preschool closed for summer vacations I put her in an adhoc daycare for a week until the summer camp started. This ensured that my own daily schedule of attending to my work and household chores remained undisturbed. The same with my friend who faced a family crisis when her father-in-law was hospitalised during his last days and all the family elders had to be in the hospital with him, the adhoc daycare proved to be boon for her small son as they took care of the child.
Apprehensions of parents & Daycare policies
It is normal for parents to have apprehensions about putting their precious child in a daycare facility. There are valid questions on safety and hygiene that pose the biggest challenges. Moreover, there are also concerns about how well the child would adjust to staying in a Daycare.
As parents, it is our duty to do thorough due diligence before we send our children to Daycares. Reading reviews on the internet and going by word of mouth is very useful.
Some daycare facilities offer mobile apps using which parents can keep a check on their wards. Most Daycares also offer CCTV facilities which are considered a basic amenity these days for parents to be fully sure of their wards’ safety. As Brinda Kathrani, Director of a leading Preschool Kidpop Early Learning Centre says,“ We at Kidpop Childcare have very stringent policies when it comes to child safety and well-being. We prefer hiring an experienced staff specially because you need to multitask in a daycare with all age group of children. We prefer referral system but for us, the police verification is a mandatory process.” Needless to say, with her good reputation, Brinda has been able to start two more centres in the city recently.
Easing your child into daycare
Despite all the benefits, let us remember that our children are our responsibility and we should consider their comfort before we finalise on a daycare facility. It’s heartening to know that in most cases children DO adjust to daycares and even start LOVING them. According to Priyanka Gosavi, a school teacher at an international school, the daycare proved a boon when she wanted to get back to work after a career break. Moreover, the daycare is on the same premises as his playschool which helped him adjust faster. In her words “We are a nuclear family. I preferred my son to be in the daycare of his school so that he would get a company of children his age. I see many positive changes in my son since he started going to daycare. He has become self-dependent and has opened up a lot. I am very happy with my decision.” For anxious parents, it is, always a good idea to slowly ease the children into the facility. Therefore, a parent can start with keeping their child in the daycare for a few hours initially and then gradually increase the duration.
With the support of good daycare facilities, educated and talented women, working parents and single parents will be able to go back to work. With urbanization and high cost of living, this is a practical need. However, childhood comes only once, and parents would also want their children to be safe and emotionally secure. Parents would like their children to know as parents they did the best for them, and that putting them in daycare doesn’t mean loving their children any less. It is a practical need and a good daycare is a workable solution for all concerned.
About our writing program student:
Anusmita Dutta works as the Content Head in GetAConnect.in. She started her career in the e-learning industry but moved on to writing in the print and the web medium as well. She is also a Spoken English Tutor and a children’s storyteller.
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