There is a fear of spiders. The fear of lifts. Before dark, before disorder, thieves, rabies or - before Christmas you could experience that again - before relatives. Actually, you just need to translate any thing or phenomenon into ancient Greek, add "phobia" to it, and a clinical-sounding anxiety disorder is born, because someone is always afraid when in doubt.

So far, only one fear has no name, which is relatively strange, because it grows like an octopus in these dark months, pressing more and more people against it with its hideous slime arms to instill a horrible feeling: the fear of it that the daycare is calling. And not just to pass on how nicely little Elias has just painted with wax painters, how cute little Frieda is resting in her sleeping bag for lunch, but to say that it just doesn't work anymore. That the child shouldn't stay any longer because the thermometer shows 39 degrees Celsius that it has abdominal pain or coughing or it just doesn't stop crying.

Depending on the educator, the daycare call is more or less sensitive, often it has something imperious, which is only honest, because in truth it is more an announcement than a dialogue. Kita on the phone means: pick up, immediately. The question of power arises just as little as negotiations are permissible.

It is probably the uncompromising thing about this call that explains the great fear of him, even if it doesn't happen. Because it is not so much what actually happens when you are actually called (leave everything behind, mutter apologies to colleagues, run away with an open coat) that is so bad, but the state of limbo in which you know that a call is more likely. When crouching cough, hand-foot-mouth and lice go around and child by child threateningly approach their own family, the phobic tendency increases immeasurably. Not because the logistical super meltdown of a sick child regularly drives adults to despair, anyway. The fear of the daycare call has above all metaphorical value. It reads: Your life, the way you live it, does not work. Everything is too much. And actually you have known it for a long time.

Perhaps the millennial parents, that is, those who are the first to mass-outsource their children to children under the age of three, are simply not yet well-bred. Maybe what they think is still too important to them. Because it's not the case that everything actually breaks down if they are missing a day or two at work. What breaks down is your own illusion of always being able to do everything - and the illusion that someone is actually relieving you of this illusion. If the daycare center calls, they are forced to unmask themselves, in front of colleagues, who of course have always been aware that reconciling family and work is insane, a construction that constantly fluctuates and sometimes just folds up.

The daycare call phobia is above all a problem in your own mind and as such not so unlike fear of spiders or rabies. So maybe it is time to slowly begin to think institutionally about therapeutic approaches, about specialized practices in which those affected can get help. All you have to do is know what the hell "daycare" means in Greek.

In the series "Die ZEIT-Reaktion discovers ..." Nina Pauer, Britta Stuff, Francesco Giammarco and Alard von Kittlitz alternate every week about observations from their everyday life.