Amelia is a professor, consultant, writer, lover of photography, an over committer, big thinker, creativity, authenticity & sanity seeker. A contradictory blend of southern charm and steel wool and lover of all things chocolate. You can find Amelia at www.theblackhousestudio.com and at www.amotherlode.com

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Gym Childcare: Point of Diminishing Returns?

I wanted to share an interesting story with you, I’d actually love to hear your response.

Yesterday my son and I went to the gym for me to get a much needed work out completed. They offer childcare for members which makes going to the gym during the day possible and convenient! My son is never especially happy when I drop him off in child watch. He complains for a few minutes and the staff usually engages him in coloring or working puzzles etc. to divert his attention. So his crying as I was walking out the door wasn’t especially alarming and I was confident that he would settle down within minutes. I popped my ear phones in, cranked up some fast paced workout music and hit the treadmill.

Around 10-15 minutes into my workout I could hear my son crying! Despite the music playing in my ears, the televisions, regular workout sounds and chatter, I could hear my son crying. With lightening speed propelled by fury, I turned the treadmill and iPod off simultaneously and bolted over to the window to check in on my son (there are windows separating child watch from the work out room so you can check your children). There he sat, at the end of the slide, holding a shoe and weeping. I glanced around in an effort to locate staff and found that one staff member had pulled up a chair to admire a sleeping newborn (such productive work!) and the other staff member was no where to be found. Otherwise, the room was filled with playing children (around 6) and my crying son. I managed to stand and watch for about 10 minutes, hoping someone on staff was going to step in and give me a reason to not lose complete faith nor my temper.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I went into the childcare room, let myself into the play area (I unlocked a gate to do this!) picked up my son and was walking out all while staff was completely oblivious! Seriously, they had no idea that I had just snatched up my own child, hell, I could have been there to snatch up anyone’s kid! The one staff member lost in a complete abyss of baby lust was still admiring the sleeping newborn while the other staff member finally emerged from the broom closet….talking on her cell phone!!!

I was so mad I could have spit enough nails to build a house! I marched up to the receptionist and demanded to speak with the site manager. She conceded to locating the manager after initially asking “what is this about?” my response was a simple stare that communicated loudly “look lady, I’m not playing get your manager now or all bets are off.”

I step into an empty conference room for privacy (of course a broom closet would have worked right?!) and shared with her the events that had occurred. First, my son was left to cry for 25 minutes while staff was fantasizing about babies and chatting on the phone, second, I just walked into child watch and picked up my son completely undetected! I followed this description of events with “what the hell is that about?”

OK, so here’s the kicker, her response to all of this is “ma’am, I’m not going to tolerate you swearing at me.” Go ahead, chew on that for a moment. My jaw must have dropped to the floor just before my ears turned bright red and I felt my heart rate peak. With teeth slightly clenched I responded “wait, your staff just allowed someone to walk into child watch, pick up a child and walk out undetected after spending 25 minutes ignoring a crying baby because they are in a broom closet talking on their cell phone and you’re wrapped around the fact that I used the word hell? You’ve gotta be kidding me right?” Her face went pale and blank, she blinked several times in a row before managing to say “I’m a mother too.” My completely sarcastic self was toying with a retort along the lines of “you mean to tell me that you’ve reproduced with all your intelligence and wisdom? Thanks for diluting the gene pool.” But then that would have just been me being ugly.

Long story longer, it was clear that I was wasting my time attempting to resolve the issue with her so I moved on to her boss. After an in depth call to the regional manager and a follow up call after she did her own checking on the situation, it was determined that the staff member talking on the phone in the closet didn’t know she couldn’t talk on the phone in a broom closet at work while leaving children unattended to in another room. The brilliant solution to this conundrum? They are going to send out a memo to the staff to let them know that cell phones aren’t permitted while working. So glad that there is someone out there being paid to state the obvious, I sure do feel better.  I was truly speechless and aware that I was attempting to address a problem that we have fundamentally different views on.

Have we just gotten to that point in our society where the use of cell phones and technology trump real human interaction and logic? Where use of a cell phone while caring for children is not considered that big of a deal? Have cell phones become so intertwined in the fabric of our daily routines that the misuse of the technology is becoming increasingly difficult to identify? Has face to face human interaction become so secondary that the use of the word “hell” is the central focus, the word trumps blatant neglect? Have we reached the point of diminishing returns with technology?

I don’t know if I’m asking the correct questions or not but I do know that I am not going back to that gym anymore.

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Comments (5)

  1. Mina Frannea 01/28/2011 at 5:01 pm

    Totally appalling!

  2. Raejean 01/22/2011 at 10:32 am

    Amelia, you bring up two disturbing points. One is cell phone use at work. Back in the old land line days, some employers would allow you to make personal calls; provided you ended the call when a customer, client or boss entered the room. It irks me to see store employees on their cell phones or texting instead of serving their customers. I had hoped the economy would bring back customer service, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that. One of my children told me this week that the substitute teacher texted all during their class, instead of teaching!

    The other point is gym childcare. When my kids were little, again pre-cell phones, I looked into joining a gym. When I toured the daycare facility, I saw a newborn lying next to a folded up dirty diaper. I stopped and stared and the employee conducting the tour didn’t notice or think that was anything out of the ordinary. Years later, I did join a small gym and got to know the girls that worked the childcare room; they were awesome and earned my trust.

    I hope you find solution to your workout needs.

  3. Erin Oltmanns 01/22/2011 at 9:40 am

    I’ve heard this same sort of story over and over about gym daycare. I think that perhaps, gym daycare isn’t really “daycare” it’s a marketing tool for the gym…a room that they call daycare so they can list is as a perk of membership. It doesn’t seem like a gym ever really boasts the ability to CARE for a child. 🙁 Which is why I have a treadmill at home. 😉

  4. Amelia Maness-Gilliland 01/21/2011 at 8:39 am

    Hi Callie, it is unbelievable- I quickly realized that I was dealing with people who held vastly different views than I do on the issue of childcare and responsible use of a cell phone. Let’s hope nothing serious happens to any children on their watch!

  5. Callie Feyen 01/21/2011 at 5:54 am

    This is horrifying! I am so sorry it happened to you and your son! And I can’t believe that the gym daycare and staff didn’t think they’d done anything wrong.