I live in Washington, DC, the city famous for its lobbyists. In fact, the first law firm I worked for was in the Willard Building, the lobby of which serves as the origin for the name of this K Street-affiliated profession.
We all know that public representatives can be persuaded, through lobbying efforts, to take action. But daycares?! Really?
Yes. This falls in the category of “strange but true.”
In the DC area at any rate, there are way more babies than there are spots in quality daycare facilities. The cost is through the roof. And waitlists can be hundreds of names long. It usually costs some amount of money (in DC, on average, around $75-150) simply to join a daycare wait list. And some daycares charge you an annual fee just to stay on the list. It’s a racket.
When my husband and I were expecting our first baby, we sent wait list deposit checks to our top five daycare centers literally the day we got the positive pregnancy test. That early timing wasn’t going to assure us a spot, though. With infant classrooms of only 6-10 babies, and sibling preferences, there were so few spots opening each year that we were starting to feel desperate.
So what did we do? Lobbied!
Three Strategies for Lobbying a Daycare
Were we super far down a wait list? And suddenly was a spot open for us? Yes. I have no idea which of these specific strategies made the difference. (Perhaps it was the combination of them?) But here’s the approach we took:
- Visit, and Make a Positive Impression: Showing up in person at a daycare not only gives you important information about whether you’d like the place, but it also allows you to meet some of the people who work there. To the extent you are kind, courteous, and enthusiastic, it can’t hurt. We visited one daycare per month while I was pregnant to spread out the effort. After you visit, hand write a thank you note. I’m serious.
- Write to Them After Your Baby is Born: After our oldest son was born, we wrote a handwritten letter to our top choice center. The letter included a photo of our little guy, a declaration that they were our first choice, and the sentiment that we would be incredibly delighted to send him to their center. We may have also made a plea that our son would increase their red-headed diversity.
- Have Dad Call the Center: After our baby was born, my husband took to the phones and called each of our top choice daycare centers every few weeks. Several of the people he spoke with noted that it was so often the mom who called to inquire about their position on the wait list, that his outreach stood out. (Note: I am fully aware that this suggestion could smack of “when mom does it it’s annoying, and when dad does it it’s cool. I am by no means encouraging reinforcement of stereotypes like rewarding dads for normal parenting efforts. Believe you me, I am all for getting rid of the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood bonus. I am simply, to quote a great leadership coach, “standing in the truth of what is.” In our case, the dad voice stood out. And this strikes me as a great parenting task dad can take the lead on early on to lighten mom’s mental load.)
When our efforts paid off and we got a spot in our top choice center, it happened to be a month earlier than we needed it. We (of course) took the spot, and gulped hard while paying what felt like a crazy amount of money for something we weren’t using. But we could breathe again, knowing we had childcare figured out.
What about those daycares we didn’t lobby? Well, we got into those centers too. About 3 or 4 years later!!
Have you had successful daycare lobbying stories? Please share tips and advice in comments below!
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