Bringing The World Home To You

© 2021 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Overnighted: Podcast Transcript

Anita Rao
I grew up with a mom who didn't stray far from what storybooks told me moms were like. She was around for after-school snacks and driving me to piano lessons. My dad is a physician. He worked bonkers hours, but his job meant that financially, our family of three kids was privileged to only need one working parent.

I sat in ignorance of how rare our situation was, for a long time. The reality for most working families really sat in for me a few years ago - I became the editor for a podcast called the Double Shift that tells the stories of motherhood in America.

And I got immersed in the experiences of families with needs and schedules very different from my own. Those with two working parents, whose jobs are outside the nine to five schedule, or a single parent working multiple jobs. Their stories illuminate the need for childcare at all hours of the night - and the fact that standard work hours leave out support for so many working people. So, who are the folks filling in the gaps?

This is Embodied: our show tackling sex, relationships and your health. I'm Anita Rao.

Second shift workers clock in when bankers hours are over, and third shift workers start their shift around midnight - but most daycare centers operate from 6am to 6pm. Some parents turn to at-home nannies or family members, but for a cohort of folks, it's 24-hour childcare facilities, spaces that are open for your middle of the night drop-offs or early morning pickups, and help provide a safe space for the meals and routines parents miss because of work.

Deloris Hogan has been running one of those facilities for more than three decades. She and her husband Patrick are the co-owners of Dee's Tots Childcare in New York. The kids called Deloris "Nunu" and her husband Patrick "Pop Pop."

The facility they run is inside their house. They live upstairs and the daycare is downstairs. With the hours they both work. The line between the two is pretty blurred. Their doors are open from 6a.m. to 1a.m.

Nunu
And it's just one big family. That's basically what 24-hour daycare is because you have to be a family in order to leave your children with people for 11, and 12, and 13 hours a day, and overnight - because, you know, parents are afraid of that. So, you know, they have to really trust you to leave their precious gifts like that with people that they really don't know.

Anita Rao
So how do you and your husband co-run the business? Tell me about how you manage hours like this.

Nunu
Well, I have a swing shift of people, I have six to seven people working with me. In the morning, my youngest daughter will come down, and she works in the morning from six to 11. My husband comes at seven, and I have people coming in at 9:30, 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, 2:30. I have people that come in at five o'clock.

I come down, when I come down — it depends on how long I was up — but I'm normally down no later than 9:30, 10 o'clock in the morning. I'm just up from 9:30 to maybe four o'clock in the morning - maybe longer than that. Overnight, I have to sit with the kids because the parents have to give you permission up here in New York to go to sleep around their kids. I do have great parents, so I can go to sleep, but I'm sitting in a chair. I'm laying on an air bed in the daycare with the children that I have.

Anita Rao
I'm curious to get a sense of the experience for these kids. I mean coming in to stay over the second or third shift may be coming in after, you know, what would be an ideal bedtime for them. Tell me about some of the unique needs that they have that you all have to cater to.

Nunu
Well, there's some that come in after school, and they're here till 11:30 at night. And there's some that come at 5:30, and they're here to one o'clock in the morning. And there's some that come in six, and they're here to eight o'clock in the morning — which I deal with nurses and I deal with COs and different stuff like that. Mothers that work in store departments and their shifts are different — and I have some others that work three or four jobs just to make ends meet. So, you know, their shifts are different.

What the team is, when they come in, the first thing they need is somebody that's going to be like a parent to them. You know, when mommy's not around, they need that love, and that care, and that understanding — and we make sure when they come in from school, they're doing their homework, to make sure they take baths, they' re brushing their teeth and different stuff — and at night, they put on their pajamas to go to bed. I do their hair. I just get them ready for the next day.

That's things that mommy can't do right now. I'm doing for them, you know. We feed them dinner — all different types of activities and different things with them — so it's like so many things that we're constantly doing. You really can't put your finger on everything, but believe me, my finger is on everything. We have to do a little bit of everything with them because in reality they become our children.

Anita Rao
Nunu runs one of a handful of 24-hour facilities in New York. There are similar operations around the country, including one in Rocky Mount, North Carolina founded by Evy Hart. Evy is another veteran of the childcare system and operated facilities for 21 years before hanging up her hat six years ago. When the pandemic hit, Evy decided to come out of retirement to open Molly's Daycare Center.

Evy Hart
I saw a real need. There were a lot of frontline workers that were really in need of childcare. Most centers in the area were idiots here in Rocky Mount and didn't offer the 24-hour services. And if they did, there was a limited number of childcare centers. So, got a building, renovated it and opened the doors, you know — help the parents out and, like I said, it was just a big need for childcare.

Anita Rao
So tell me a bit about some of the families who need spaces like yours — what are the kinds of work that they're doing that requires support and these other hours?

Evy Hart
You have a lot of parents that work in different manufacturing's that work rotating shifts, you know — two weeks they may be on first shift, the next week they may be on second. You have some parents that work flexible shifts. They work first shift that runs into second shift, so by me having 24-hour center, I'm able to accommodate all of their needs, all of their work schedule — and even sometimes they have to work weekends. Sometimes they go in for overtime or holidays come in and a lot of daycare centers closed. Molly's is here to ease some of that tension off the parents and our doors are open.

Anita Rao
Evy, Nunu and the folks they work with are in many ways an extension of the family. And they're really intentional about finding ways to bridge the gap for parents who can't be there for important moments in the day, like meals or bedtime.

Nunu
Well, the parents would definitely, if they want to, stop by and see how the kids are doing if they work close by because some of my parents who work at the hospital — which one of the hospitals right down the street from me or they work at the police station — which the police station is right down the street from me and the fire department and stuff — like maybe four or five blocks — and they will stop by if they want to stop by to spend some time with the kids, sit down and bring McDonald's or whatever they want to do with their kids — and they'll call them late at night just to check on them, to see how they're doing and different things — like my nurses that works in the Bronx down by Bronx Zoo, she'll call her children every night, just to check on them to see how they're doing — you know, asking questions like: Are you okay? Is everything alright?

Because, you know, parents feel guilty that they have to leave their children in somebody else's care. So, I definitely let them do stuff like that. Let them come around the kids whenever they feel like it. My doors an open door policy. I don't like take the children in and go: Okay, I have your children, go. I don't want to see you no more till seven o'clock in the morning. You're welcome to come in anytime you want to come in, to check on your children, to make sure your children are alright, and that's how we bond a relationship.

Because when a parent can walk in the door and just see that the children is just they're having fun and enjoying themselves or we're sitting there — we're doing a game or we're watching a movie or something together or we're talking about something that the children was interested in — and we're just sitting there talking and going on while we all just sitting at the table, and we're eating dinner together, and discussing things that happened with him in school during the day.

So, you know, there's always the open door policy and the parents are very happy about that. And the children, they bond with you because all they need is love. When you treat them the way that the parents treat them, or just giving them just unconditional love, they're gonna bond with you. That's why they call me Nunu, they call my husband Pop Pop, and they call my daughter TT. Because we're their family.

Anita Rao
Well, Evy, how about the same thing for you? I mean, your job is about caring for the parents as much as caring for the kids in some way. So, what are the ways that you support parents and families given how intimate this is to have kids sleeping overnight, and having multiple meals not with her parents?

Evy Hart
Yeah, I'm just like Nunu. We do have open door policy here where parents can come in at any given time to talk, to check in, see about their children. We also have a camera surveillance system here as well. They can download the app on their phones, and they can actually watch, listen and hear their children interact, talk, engage in activities as well. We have ring doorbells on the outside that capture moments, you know, when people come and knock on the door — if they want to visit or a family member as well. So, that's just a security protection.

So, having that relationship with the parents is real good. Like I said, it'll alleviate some of the stress, the worries, and the fears — and maybe some of the questions that they may have because they can just log on, on their break time, and just see what their child is doing here — listening, you know, looking at the emotional reaction on their faces, the conversation, the words and the language that the teachers are using to up-build them in every way possible.

Anita Rao
So I mean, that brings the fact that there's a range of ages, and obviously experiences and personalities of all of the kids that walk through your door for those that end up seeing you more than they see their own parents, what are some of the challenges that that poses?

Evy Hart
Well, some of the challenges I noticed is the attachment. Like Nunu said, they need so much love, and with that love, you have a mixture of time and patience. That attachment — they do spend several, quite a bit of hours here with me, and we have that bond, we have that attachment, you know — we have our special moments where they talk, they open up, they share things, and they feel very comfortable.

And that trust is an essential part of that as well, so with all of that mixed together, with the love, the time, the patience, trust, you know — sometimes the attachments get so strong with myself I consider them, sometimes I'll look at them as one of my own children. Treating them like that is so important.

Believe it or not, children remember. They know where they feel welcome. They're welcome here. Their love and they reciprocate that, so it's not like - most of the time when the parents come in it's almost like a tug of war. They have to pull them out of the center because we've spent so much time with them. They're not ready to go. They're calling their names, the child is actually running back in the classroom, they want to stay a little longer because children don't really know too much about time. So, we have a good relationship here with the children — where they're loved, they're safe, they're cared for, and we have lots and lots of conversations with them.

Anita Rao
Evy and Nunu are caretakers who are there at many of the moments where parents can't be, but when you run a facility that's open 24-hours a day, how on earth do you rest?

Nunu
Actually I don't. I don't rest. I don't know what kind of relationships I have with rest.

Anita Rao
Nunu said if she gets three hours of sleep, she counts that as a win. Sometimes when her husband notices that she seems super tired, he'll call her on it and send her upstairs for a nap — but most days, she's working long, long hours. I asked what kind of support would allow her to get a little more rest?

Nunu
A lot of daycare providers — we do all of this for the parents and different stuff, but we really wouldn't have to do this if a lot of the parents wouldn't have to work two and three jobs. And if the government would actually, you know, pay them the money that they need, so they wouldn't have to work all these hours and different things. Now, as for the nurses, I understand them because they're there to help us night and day. The police department, fire department, all of that, they're there to help us night and day.

But a lot of the parents that I do have come in also are parents that's working two or three different jobs, and they're working low wages, so they have to, you know, take that many jobs in order to feed their children and everything. So, I think if the government stepped in and stopped nickel and diming daycare, so they can stop nickel and diming the kids — I think that would be a lot of help. It really would be.

Anita Rao
You bring up so much in that answer. You know, the fact that wages aren't high enough for parents, so they have to work multiple jobs, or they're given schedules that don't allow them to get benefits. They have to work multiple jobs to just make enough money. And then wages are low for childcare workers. And so there aren't enough spots for kids whose families need them. And it's all interconnected in this complicated web that the childcare system is really in a lot of crisis, in a lot of ways.

And Evy, I mean, how does your experience running your center kind of illuminate what you see as some of those challenges that prevent you from getting the rest that you need and workers from being able to be more supported?

Evy Hart
Well, I'm like Nunu. If I get four hours of sleep, that seems like eight hours, you know. It's a struggle. It really is. It's a struggle right now to even, you know, hire staff members as well. But with the pandemic, and the height of this, you have some centers that have lost educators, that have lost staff members, those early childhood workers, so everybody, you know, is really struggling right now. And, you know, having a center that runs 24 hours a day, there just challenges that — sometimes it combats you, sometimes you're at a loss, but you continue on, you push forward, you know, because we're here to serve those children, you know. To serve those essential workers, to work with the parents that have multiple jobs, that have flexible and rotating shifts as well.

Anita Rao
There was a recent piece in The Washington Post that reported that more than a third of childcare providers are considering quitting or closing down their businesses within the next year, as a sense of hopelessness kind of permeates the industry, given that workers are looking for other jobs that maybe get more pay, and there's just a whole lot kind of adding up. I'm curious, Evy, do you feel that sense of hopelessness? What are your feelings as you look toward the future of your business?

Evy Hart
That is a strong possibility because, right now, a lot of centers are at a loss, you know. There's a big demand for childcare, and it continues to grow. Some centers now facing, you know, unfilled job positions, they're facing empty classrooms. They're facing the fact that some of the staff member — it's hard to get them back into the workforce. Some centers may never go back to be in-field at full capacity due to the workers shortage.

So, there's a lot of challenges, you know — things that, you know, I'm contemplating, I think about that we all face, you know, during this pandemic, but hopefully, you know, the funding that come through, we'll get the support that we need so we can continue operating our business and serving the children and the families that really need us.

Anita Rao
Working in the childcare industry in this country has never been easy. Then the pandemic hit, and spaces operating on the thin margins got even more crunched. The strain has been immense, but childcare facility owners like Lesely Crawford have found ways to keep their doors open because families rely on them. Lesely runs a facility in Pittsburgh, that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Lesely Crawford
We had a family. The husband died, you know, within a matter of a week or so. The dad watched the child while the mom worked in the evening, and she had the baby when he worked during the day. And here, this mom was left now with no resource at that point, and no direction or guidance. Having the center made it possible for her to keep her job where she was, keep the family and a network that she had at that job and sort of flourish, and sort of like regain strength and momentum to continue on even after the dad passed away.

So, it's not just like a childcare center. Without it, we would have a lost generation. And I mean, that's how I view it because some of our kids would never reach some of those milestones that they could potentially reach simply because they're, you know, at home in front of TV.

Anita Rao
That's Lesely of ABK Learning and Development Center. Like Nunu, she's kept her doors open, but that's not the case for many childcare centers in this country. The pandemic forced thousands of childcare facilities to close their doors, and for a while, Nunu thought she might have to shut down hers too.

Nunu
In the beginning, I really thought I was going to be one of those daycares that closed down, but I ended up serving most of the parents without fear. With the pandemic and the virus and everything — and I was afraid that it was going to come to my house. I was afraid for my family and the other babies — and things in here, like specially we have a little newborn, and they don't have, you know, any type of the little bit of shots that they're getting and their immune system is so bad. It's not even ready, you know, prepared yet for them.

So, I was afraid, but I had to push on because I think a lot of my parents that came in the door — and they really needed that — they was afraid to go out themselves. You know, it was have amazing how the government want to pay all that money for them to go out there to die. Now that the shot is available — that nobody's really taken — which they should be now that is available. Now, they just don't kick these parents to the curb, like: Okay, it's fine for you to go out there and put risk to your life. But, now that we have the shot available, now we no longer want to give you that extra money to pay childcare. We don't want to give you the money or anything.

It's going back to normal where, you know, if you're making $47,000, and you have two kids, then you're over — you don't get childcare subsidies anymore — you have to pay this out your pocket. I have a young lady, and now she's 14 years old, and her mother got kicked off subsidies. One of her daughters got kicked off when she turned 13. So, she's been struggling trying to pay things out of her pocket, and even if you try to help them — the government says if you charge that person $125, you got to charge every kid to come in your daycare, $125. If you let that person come in for free, you got to let every person that come in your daycare for free.

I thought this was my business, and I can do whatever I want to do in my business. But, evidently, the government has their hand in everything, but they're not helping anything. They need to just, you know, stop paying us $7.25 an hour, or $7.45 because we have to pay our workers $15 an hour — and then the ones that work on the weekend, I have to pay even more than that. How do I pay somebody more than I'm making? I'm struggling myself trying to keep bills, and keep my teachers here with me. It's a struggle.

Anita Rao
Evy, just to end, I mean, I'm curious — kind of building off of what Nunu said — I think illuminating the financials of what it takes to make a business like this work, and the low margins, you're still able to pay your workers all goes a long way - and kind of helping people realize what the situation in the system looks like, but if you could kind of help illuminate for folks, something about the lives of the families that you are working to support — that you think kind of goes unnoticed or is less obvious to folks who maybe work more traditional schedules or have that childcare support more effortlessly. What would you kind of want people to know?

Evy Hart
Well, what I would want them to know that, you know, being a small business like we are, we're working on the small profit margin, just like Nunu said. When you do for one parent, you have to do for all. You've got parents from all walks of life. Some parents are full-time, some parents are part-time, some parents dropping them for a couple of hours — you tried to work with parents, in all these situations to accommodate all their needs.

It's a struggle. We have employees to pay, we have taxes to pay, we have operational expenses to pay, as well as maintenance inside and outside the upkeep of the facility. So it's a struggle, but you know, we're here, we're doing what we can do — doors are open. And we're hoping that, you know, we can get more funding to continue on.

Like Nunu said, minimum wage is really the lowest that a person can be working for. I mean, that's really nothing to the bottom of the barrel. And you know, people want more. Some centers are struggling that they can't offer those benefits to employees anymore. They can't have a 401k, the dental, the vision, the medical, you know. That discount for childcare, you know, if you're an employee — all those sentences that if we had funding, you know, we could offer that. But, right now, it's a struggle for everybody. So, we're going to do what we can to accommodate the families, accommodate the children and their needs.

Ayana Moore
When I was looking for childcare, I did have in mind that, at times, that care would need to extend beyond the work day and overnight. So, I had to think about that as I was seeking out childcare. I wasn't sure exactly how it would fit together. I didn't know what all my options were. So, I just had to talk to many different people to figure out what would work for our situation.

Anita Rao
Ayana Moore is a single mother of two and a clinical research manager. Her job requires a pretty significant amount of travel. And when Ayana's first kid was born, she was spending about half her time on the road. With a full-time job, demanding travel and no family nearby — Ayana knew it was going to take some serious digging to find childcare that worked well for her family.

Ayana Moore
I quickly realized that the home daycare was probably going to be the best option for me because they provided more flexibility in general with the type of care that they could provide. And once I made that decision, I just really needed to find one that I was comfortable with. Having a newborn — I was pregnant at the time when I was looking, but just thinking ahead to having to leave my child with strangers overnight was a really frightening thought. I don't live close to my immediate family unfortunately, so it wasn't a service that they could support me with.

And so I just really needed to find someone I felt comfortable with. You use as much information as you can find to make the right decision, but then there's a little bit of like gut feeling, you know — a gut check that you have to have as well — just to know whether or not you're comfortable with this family that you will entrust the care of your child with.

Anita Rao
Well tell us a little bit about who you ended up choosing and the relationships that ended up forming with those folks that you kind of have that good gut feeling about.

Ayana Moore
In one day, I probably went to six or seven different daycares and some were fine. They all were licensed and their homes were clean and everything, but I was really looking for a facility where I just felt a sense of family. And so I ended up going to a home daycare — it was at the very end of the day. I was exhausted — I almost canceled the appointment, but it was run by two women who actually didn't live far from me. They were right in my neighborhood, and I think the thing that really struck me about them is that that they were caring for some extended family members as well. They had a couple of teenage girls who were cousins of theirs who'd had some challenges at home and they were caring for them as well — and it was just very reflective of the way my own family operates as well, which I really appreciated the care that they provided to their extended family.

And I didn't even ask them at that time about extended care. I was only asking them about, you know, the normal traditional schedule, but when I started to tell them about the work that I do — they are the ones who offered, at that time, they say, you know, whatever you need, you let us know and we will figure out a way to accommodate — and so they were — out of all the centers I visited — like they listened to me and they wanted to know exactly what my needs were — and then they're the ones who offered to accommodate those needs which I've really appreciated.

Anita Rao
That's incredible and nice to have that trust because, as you know, we heard from Evy and Nunu — some parents feel some guilt about having to leave their kids in the care of someone else or especially overnight. I'm curious about how, if that, ever came up for you, and how, you worked through that?

Ayana Moore
There was an incredible amount of — there's angst and then there's guilt, you know. You have both of those. In the beginning, my son — I would take him with me actually — I traveled with him to Southern Africa many times — I would nanny share with my co-workers when I was there, so once he got to be about 2 years old, it just became a little bit too difficult to take him back and forth.

So, that's when I finally told them: Okay now we're going to have to, you know, figure out the best way to accommodate this travel schedule in his care. The good thing, at that time, was that it really became like his second home — and so he was very comfortable with them — but there was a lot of guilt in leaving him behind because I was gone for, you know, not just overnight or not — an extended amount of time, but I was gone for like a week and so it's very difficult.

We did video chatting. I actually wrote — I created a book for him, so I actually got together a lot of pictures — I know I was trying to think of everything I could do, so that he would still feel connected with me while he was out. So, I actually, I wrote this really long poem for him. I pulled together all of these pictures of us from over the last couple of years, and I had it printed, you know, at one of the local print shops — and so I would pack this book with him as well.

When he was gone I would try to leave him video messages that they could play for him during the day because, you know — the other challenge is — I'm on, you know, a somewhere between a six- to 12-hour time difference depending on where I'm traveling to — so I tried to do — just be very creative and just make sure that he knew that I was still thinking about him and that we stayed connected.

Anita Rao
Ayana's son is now 9, and their family's childcare needs are different — but that doesn't mean that she's lost touch with the folks she, and her family, connected with for childcare.

Ayana Moore
Yeah, I mean we really became like a family for sure. I mean they would have my son, you know, sometimes for a week out of the month. On occasion, when I was traveling a lot, it might be two weeks out of the month. So, we became very good friends. We would sometimes spend holidays together and they're definitely more like family now, I would say. We still keep in touch. The kids still, you know, would spend time with them pre-Covid. Covid, of course, in the last, you know, year and a half, has changed the time that we spend with one another, but we still are very much connected.

Anita Rao
The services that folks like Ayana's childcare providers, Evy and Nunu provide are clearly essential — but keeping these services up and running has become increasingly difficult — given existing government infrastructure and support for childcare. Childcare employment is down more than 100,000 positions. Workers are leaving for higher paying jobs and fewer open daycare slots means fewer options for parents who need to be at work themselves.

Ayana Moore
Childcare is very expensive as a single mother. It was jarring in the beginning, you know, just the expense of it — but it's your child, you're willing to pay, you make other concessions and accommodations. But, on the other end, it's the cost of managing or maintaining a facility is quite expensive, so, I mean, I would love to see there be more support on the government — from the government and childcare.

I mean, our tax dollars go to pay for public schools, and I just really feel like that care for children should just extend to before they even enter the school system. I see in many places, you know, pre-K is now subsidized, and some places it's paid for completely, but it would really be ideal for that support to extend to even care before then. People shouldn't have to work three and four jobs just to make ends meet — and part of that expenses like you're working, but then a significant portion of that has to go to childcare — which sets you back even further. So, like you can't get ahead. So, I would really love to see there be just more of a fair support for childcare provisions at an earlier age.

Anita Rao
While parents and childcare providers push, fight and wait for more support, the future remains hazy and uncertain, but they turn to one another for support even virtually, over the airwaves.

Nunu
Evy, it is very nice to hear your voice, and I pray that everything work out for you and your daycare.

Evy Hart
Thank you. Thank you. You be blessed. Thank you so much.

Nunu
You stay safe. You stay blessed, my love.

Anita Rao
Embodied is a production of North Carolina Public Radio WUNC — a listener supported station. If you want to lend your support to this podcast and WUNC's other shows on-demand, consider a contribution at wunc.org. Now, incredible storytelling like you hear on Embodied is only possible because of listeners like you.

Kaia Finley produced this show with editorial help from Amanda Magnus. Jenni Lawson is our sound engineer and Quilla wrote our theme music.

The show is also supported by Weaver Street Market, a worker- and consumer-owned cooperative, selling organic and local food at four Triangle locations in North Carolina. Now featuring online shopping with next day pickup. WeaverStreetMarket.coop.

And a little reminder that we want to hear from you and include your voices in future shows. We're working on a show right now about menopause — and we would love to hear about your experience. What did you know about menopause before it started for you? How did menopause change your relationship with your body or your sense of self? Send us an email: embodied@wunc.org.

I'm Anita Rao - taking on the taboo with you.

More Stories