Day care center dilemma: Sick kids
The problem is especially acute for working mothers as they live in a country where they have more parental duties than their husbands. Many parents say they wait until the weekend to see a doctor rather than requesting time off from work.
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, 30 working mothers said they have experienced such a dilemma between work and parental duty.
“I usually give my child pills to withstand the pain and wait until the weekend to see a doctor,” said a 32-year-old mother surnamed Choi, who lives in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi.
The main reason behind such reluctance to seek timely medical care for their children is the Korean working culture in which parents feel uncomfortable leaving work in the middle of the day.
A 36-year-old working mother surnamed Park used her paid leave when her child caught chickenpox, but she was told by management to do her work from home.
In an effort to provide a better environment for parental care, Representative Kim Choon-jin of the major opposition Democratic Party submitted a bill in March to guarantee parents up to four days of paid leave when children under 7 catch contagious illnesses such as chickenpox or the flu.
Some owners of day care centers pressure parents to send their sick toddlers to centers because they are worried about reduced government support measures.
A 36-year-old working mother surnamed Han, who lives in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, did not send her child to a day care center for 20 days in a row because her child was sick.
The mother recalled that the owner called her to send her child to the center because it would only receive 25 percent of the government support aid designated for missing days.
Working parents also worry about a lack of programs designed for children staying at day care centers until the evening when their parents pick them up after work.
One center in Songpa District, southern Seoul, recently faced criticism because the center’s owner left a child alone and went about doing her business outside.
“Some children raised by working parents display frustration and tend to overeat as a result,” said a teacher working at a day care center in Gwanak District, southern Seoul.
Experts say special attention is needed for such children with working parents. “Children raised by working parents can feel left out when being alone in the house, thinking their mother might not like them,” said Dr. Roh Gyeong-sun, a child psychiatrist.
“Teachers should pay more attention to such children by doing things like reading to them to prevent them from experiencing such feelings.”
A day care center owner in Gyeonggi says center managers should have a strong sense of responsibility for child care to regain public trust in day care centers.
“If an owner is greedy, he or she will only think about short-term profits,” said the owner, who asked her name not be disclosed. Sixteen of 20 children enrolled at her center are raised by working parents.
The owner added that government policies designed to encourage more centers to accept children with working parents are needed.
“To meet an eight-hour standard for teachers, we need supplementary teachers to look after children between 4 and 7:30 p.m. [until parents come from work to take them home],” said the 48-year-old owner.
By Shin Sung-sik, Jang Joo-young [ email@example.com]