Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.
You’ve got 10 kids all under the age of six in your care. One is only 6 months old. She’s sitting in a bouncy seat. Another is a toddler who teeters around on new-found legs. His 3-1/2-year-old brother is there, too. He likes to pick his little brother up and sit him on one of two play tables in the room. The rest of the kids are playing nicely. Some build interesting things with Legos, others draw pictures with crayons and paper.
The phone rings. You gotta answer it because, in addition to watching the children, soothing them when they cry, making sure they don’t hurt each other or themselves, it’s your job to take the calls and schedule appointments.
Suddenly one of the kids who seemed perfectly OK when his mom brought him in, upchucks right in the middle of the floor. Almost simultaneously a toddler sitting near a corner, who had no signs of a cold, sneezes and slimes the colorful plastic rings she’s stacking onto a spindle.
You throw the phone down, grab two handfuls of tissues and make for both messes. Before you get either cleaned up, much less see how the one who barfed is doing, the 3-1/2-year old is perching his chortling baby brother on the edge of a table.
That could easily be the scene at Cudahy Bally’s Kids Klub. Just this week one of the two Kids Klub employees was let go, leaving just one to handle all the kids, all the calls and walk-ins who want to make appointments for tomorrow or the next day, and insure that the floors, walls, furnishings and toys are clean and disinfected.
It was done to cut costs.
The employee who is being let go had been there 7-1/2 years. She loves the kids and they – and their parents – love her as they do the one remaining employee. She’s worked there for 18 years and has been reduced to part-time status. Coincidentally, both women are named Lisa. Given the generally low wages childcare workers make, Lisa and Lisa can't have been paid particularly well, so just how much does Bally's managers think they’re going to save by cutting them?
One Bally’s member drives in all the way from Mequon to work out at the Cudahy Bally’s so she can leave her children with Lisa and Lisa. I don’t know if she’ll continue doing so, now that there’s only one Lisa left. Not that the remaining Lisa can’t or won’t do a good job. But it’s sort of like your kid’s class doubling in size. No matter how good or conscientious the teacher, she just can’t give her students the same amount of time and attention.
And there’s the safety issue. You’d think Bally’s would be concerned about liability.
Reportedly, other Bally’s Kids’ Klubs have only one attendant. But club members say they aren’t nearly as clean or as pleasant or as creatively and mentally stimulating. That’s important to most parents.
Here’s how my daughter, who has entrusted her three children to Lisa and Lisa while she works out beginning with her seven year old when he was just six months old, describes it.
"These women don't just supervise my children. They take their jobs as care givers seriously. They use stimulating toys (some purchased with their own money) to engage children in creative play. They take pains to keep children healthy, enforcing a "no runny nose" policy and disinfecting toys daily. They also tend to children's emotional well being, comforting those who are upset, taking special care to help new or shy youngsters transition into their care, and celebrating children's accomplishments. At Halloween and Christmas, they give children goodie bags (with the parental approval). Not surprisingly, my children LOVE Lisa and Lisa, and so do I.
Being able to take my children to Bally's with full confidence that they will be well cared for while I work out has kept me going there despite the club's other shortcomings and the draw of more convenient and better priced alternatives."
Such an environment, apparently, isn’t a Bally’s priority.
Evidently, the renovation of the club's entrance and locker rooms planned for this fall is more important than providing the services that keep my daughter and others renewing their memberships.
My daughter is talking seriously about finding another gym. If she does, my husband and I will probably follow.
Perhaps it's this kind of shortsighted business decision that's landed Bally's in such dire corporate financial straits in recent years.