A promise for 2006

Editorial - January 2006


Are you feeling as though you have no time? Truth is, you probably don’t.

Consider these rather depressing statistics from Take Back Your Time, a Seattle-based advocacy organization:

• We’re putting in longer hours on the job now than our grandparents did in the 1950s.

•  We’re working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.

•  On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) longer per year than our peers in Western Europe.

•  Working Americans average a little more than two weeks of vacation a year, and many of us (including 37 percent of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.

Add to the mix all of the other things competing for our time—from television and the Internet to soccer games and ballet lessons—and it’s a wonder we ever have quality time to spend with the people we cherish the most.

Normally, we don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. They are so easy to break, especially the ones about exercising more and eating less. So, let’s not call this a resolution. Instead, let’s call this a promise to our kids. In 2006, we promise to spend more time together as a family.

We have always taught our children that you live up to your promises. So if we promise, we have to do it, right?

The first step is building family time into the schedule. Just as your family calendar lists the soccer games and ballet lessons, schedule in a couple of hours each week for family time. And just as no respecting member of a team would consider missing the big soccer game, no respecting member of your family should consider missing family time.

If you make it a big deal, it will become one.

Then, when you get together at the assigned hour, be there. Turn off the phone. Shut down the e-mail. As one of our favorite greeting cards says, "Be here now, be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?"

Choose something you can do together. Spend time cooking and then eating the treats. Or go outside and make a snowman. Choose a book to read aloud as a family. Play a board game. The activity doesn’t matter as long as you’re together. For more ideas, see our story on page 45.

Life is complicated. We know it. You know it. But don’t let it get out of your hands. Make the promise and then just keep it. It’s that complicated—and that simple.


Raising the bar on childcare

The state of Illinois is home to another first for kids: a union contract for 49,000 home childcare providers who care for the children of working poor families.

Those workers became the first home daycare operators in the country to win a union contract, after deciding last April to join the Service Employees International Union Local 880. It is a huge step for childcare workers and another sign that Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who recently launched a program to offer health insurance to all kids in Illinois, understands that kids deserve better from their government.

The 39-month deal calls for the state to spend an additional $250 million to boost these childcare providers’ pay by 35 percent and provide health care benefits and incentives for training.

This is the first pay increase in seven years for the workers, according to the union. At the highest end of the pay scale, the state now pays licensed home daycare providers $21.53 per day for each child under age 2. Under the new contract, the reimbursement rate rises to $23.40 in April and $26.60 in the last year of the contract.

But the majority of the unionized home daycare workers are exempt from state licensing requirements because they are taking care of fewer than three children of family or friends. Those people get just $9.48 per child per day from the state. Out of that they are required to provide food, supplies and toys. The rate will rise to $10.48 on April 1 and to $12.75 in July 2008.

If a society is measured by how it cares for its children, we still fall woefully short with such a low reimbursement rate. But it’s a step in the right direction toward reducing turnover and increasing the quality of workers who do the most important work there is: caring for our kids.


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