This post originally appeared on DC Metro Moms on November 6, 2009
Gym Childcare: Mandatory TV?
When a huge new gym with a low monthly fee opened a mile from my house, I was excited to try it out. During the tour, I asked about the TV in the childcare room. In my previous gym, the childcare worker yakked on the phone with her back to the room while the TV babysat her charges. “Well, some kids like to watch it, but it’s not on all the time,” the manager said.
A few days later, I filled out the forms to leave my son there and asked the childcare worker the if she could turn off the blaring 80s sitcom that neither the 10-month-old baby on the floor nor the six-year-old girl coloring at a table was watching. The staff member replied, “Sorry. It has to stay on. It’s company policy.”
I beg your pardon? That mammoth noise pollution device is a requirement for good babysitting? Mind you, this place had an indoor play area to rival Gymboree (complete with slide!), plus toys, art, and two childcare workers. What is with requiring the TV? That somehow makes the place safer? And why a sitcom? I have plenty of friends who are much less media-wary than I but still complain about TV being used too much at the gym (or the offerings being inappropriate for little eyes).
My current gym has no TV and it works great. The kids just play.
I wouldn’t even consider leaving if the monthly fees weren’t so expensive. Well, that and I must say I was intrigued by the idea of a spa on site at the new place – I could work out AND get a pedicure or a massage for $1/hour childcare! It had better evening and weekend parking, and a saline pool, not to mention newer exercise equipment. And a friend of mine says the yoga is good. But TV as a requirement for my three-year-old?
Sorry, but I pay sitters to play with my kid specifically so I won’t have to resort to the TV. I spent way too many hours as a kid learning how to talk trash from “General Hospital,” and I just don’t like how my son acts when he’s all hyped up on visual stimulation. Waldorf education claims that early media exposure just keeps kids from doing their natural think of imagining stuff themselves. Even if I didn’t agree with that, I know that if I’m already bringing my son to a busy, chaotic gym, I might have to peel him off the walls to get him back home. Now what does that do to my yoga buzz?
To his credit, the manager was nice, if surprised. He didn’t know about the policy, and, when the inquiry I sent to the company headquarters was forwarded directly to him, he reiterated in an email to me that, as a father, he understood my concerns, and they would work on the noise level. Indeed, when I picked up my son that one day, the sound was low, and the show was a cartoon.
But the manager also said the company takes customer concerns very seriously. So then why haven’t I gotten an answer almost three months later? I’d like to know what they are thinking with this policy. I finished out my trial week without a second childcare visit, and in the end I decided that the new place with its multiple music video screens on every wall was actually too high-strung even for grown-up me. I think it’s just not the right fit, but the lower cost did inspire me to quit my other gym, too. Now that my son is in preschool and I have more flexibility (but less cash), I’m headed for the cheap county fitness center, and the bike trail.
I received a promotional email from the new gym manager last week and asked him if he ever heard back from corporate. I told him why I didn’t expect to join the gym right now, including a note that I would want to at least get a response on the company’s rationale for a policy I disagreed with on its face. He wrote back a quick thanks with “let me know if I can ever be of service,” which I responded to by asking again what the reasoning for the policy was.
Now the gym is strangely quiet.
That is so terribly wrong. Good for you for standing up for the kids. That manager should have taken your concerns more seriously … by acting on them.