A Moment with Dr. Moore

May 27, 2021

CalvinThrough the Night: A Film About 24/7 Day Care

The Council has always strived to put a spotlight on child care and the central role it plays in parents’ lives. Now it’s good to see that our field has come to the silver screen in a searing documentary, Through the Night. I recently watched this real-life portrait of a 24-hour day care in New Rochelle, New York—and I thought about just how well it gets our message across.

The film stars Deloris and Patrick Hogan, who run Dee’s Tots Childcare seven days a week out of their home. It also features some of the families they serve, including a pediatric nurse who works overnight and a woman who holds three jobs because she can’t find one that provides enough hours, much less the benefits she needs.

Hardworking families have relied on Nunu and Pop Pop, as the kids call the couple, for more than 22 years. Over that long stretch of time, Nunu has dried the tears of both children and their family members, given them hugs and heard their woes. “I’ve seen parents break down because they don’t want to leave their children, but they have to support their families,” Nunu recalls. And there are times she, too, wants to break down as she works round the clock to fill a pressing need with little support from the state.

Though Nunu clearly loves her job and the children she cares for, the constant work has taken its toll. Her back hurts. The nerves in her shoulder are shot, but she’s afraid to get surgery because she needs to pick up babies all day. She’s even had a stroke, fulfilling the parents’ and kids’ worst fears that “something will happen to Nunu.”

Besides her aches and pains, Nunu also feels guilty because she can’t give her own children more of the attention they deserve. But she refuses to feel sorry for herself and won’t take the break that she badly needs. “This work is hard,” she admits, “but I’m afraid if I lie down, I won’t get up. I have something to do, so I have to keep moving.” Move she does, and we follow her through the day and night as she cooks for the children, cleans up constant messes, deals with the hubbub that fills her home, works with the children in her garden, helps them learn their letters and numbers.

Nunu also teaches her tots about kindness and compassion. One day, they’re having a fight, so she calls them all over and says, “Let’s have a conversation. Sharing is caring. Let’s act like we love each other.” And her own sense of love seems without bounds as she cares for the children, who she fondly addresses as “babe.” One time, a little boy is having a meltdown because she won’t let him play with his tablet in the bustling day care. “Could you not cry,” she gently pleads with him, “because you make me cry, too.”

Mixed in with the tears and turmoil that fill Nunu’s life, there are some bright spots that show how much joy she takes in her work. Toward the close of the film, a graduation takes place at the day care, with the children dressed up like kings and queens and Nunu in a flowing yellow dress instead of her usual sweats. The parents are all there too, and she beams as she thanks them for “letting me be part of your lives.”

The film ends with a buoyant vision of golden balloons floating in Nunu’s front yard. Hope floats, too. And we certainly need it since this film is not just a depiction of one selfless woman and the families who she serves. It’s also an indictment of a system that doesn’t give either our working parents or our child care providers the support they need.

We at the Council have been on a long crusade to bring the challenges and contributions of child care to the forefront. So, I hope this film will open eyes with its heart-rending—and heart-warming—portrait of the gaping holes in our social safety net. “This is the way the world is set up at this point,” Nunu stolidly points out. But it shouldn’t be. Perhaps, her story will move those who see it and help build momentum to fix our broken child care system—a problem that should make us lose sleep. I know that watching this poignant film made an impact on me. It lingered in my head and in my heart all through the night.

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