Day Care Blues

Over 30 years ago social analyst Peter Drucker wrote this about the rise and rise of Western daycare, “We are busily unmaking one of the proudest social achievements in the nineteenth century, which was to take married women out of the work force so they could devote themselves to family and children.”

If he was rightly shocked back then by this development, his head would be reeling now. Today we have an entire generation of young people who are being raised by strangers, and not their own parents. While radical feminists and social engineers would applaud such changes, no one concerned about the wellbeing of children should.

daycareSometimes a parent has no other choice in this regard, but far too often the wants of adults are trumping the needs of children in this debate. While adults at times may have a genuine need for the long-term care of their children elsewhere than home, this is seldom beneficial to the kids themselves.

Based on decades of careful research on these issues, the simple truth is this: the younger a child is, and the more time he or she spends in formal daycare, separated from mother and father, the more likely that negative outcomes can occur.

Indeed, plenty of studies have demonstrated the harmful results that such extended periods of formal care can have on young children. Consider one very recent Australian study which has once again confirmed all this. This is how one news item begins the story:

Children who spend more than 21 hours a week in long daycare are at greater risk of performing below average in maths, literacy and overall academic achievement, a new study finds.
The Australian National University work, based on four waves of longitudinal data over six years, found “significant” negative academic outcomes for preschoolers who attend on average more than four hours a day at childcare centres.
Once they crossed the 21-hour-a-week threshold, children were found to have more trouble adjusting to school later on and had poorer marks on a key development questionnaire rating strengths and difficulties.
The controversial study will likely reignite debate about the impact of long daycare. The analysis was based on about 3500 children aged four to five in 2007-08 who were not attending full-time school. About 37 per cent attended some form of long daycare, with about 14 per cent attending for more than 20 hours.

And this simply repeats what previous studies have shown. For example, Ernest Foyer, former U.S. commissioner of education, and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has said that children in day care suffer in terms of language skills development.

A recent American study of 4000 children found that mothers who return to work soon after giving birth may harm their child’s school performance. The study showed that children of mums who work full-time struggled academically compared with those whose mums stayed at home.

Educational psychologist Burton White, director of the Harvard Preschool Project, has written extensively on the subject of nonparental care. This is how he summarises his experience: “After more than 20 years research on how children develop well, I would not think of putting a child of my own into any substitute care program on a full-time basis, especially a center-based program.”

The reason for all these negative outcomes is not hard to come by. Babies need the love and attention of their mothers. Child development experts indicate that children do not engage in peer play until they are about two years old. The late psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg said that babies need mother most of the time until age three, and afterwards, can tolerate a half day’s absence.

As Connie Marshner sums up, “The quality of love and care that a child receives in the first three to five years of life is the main factor in whether that child will be able to think, to learn, to love, to care, to cooperate with other people – in short, whether that child will merely exist or will thrive and flourish and add to human society”.

Studies in bonding and attachment theory have shown that a child’s emotional and mental wellbeing are inexorably tied up with continuous, sustained, stable physical and emotional contact between mother and child. Taking the child away from its mother during this critical period can result in a number of harmful results.

As one expert writes: “Children deprived of parental care in early childhood are likely to be withdrawn, disruptive, insecure, or even intellectually stunted. New research [even suggests] that the depression resulting from separation anxiety in early childhood can cause a permanent impairment of the immune system making these children prone to physical illness through their lives.”

Or as family expert Steve Biddulph said, “It now appears that mother-baby interaction, in the first year especially, is the very foundation of human emotions and intelligence. In the most essential terms, love grows the brain. The capacities for what make us most human – empathy, co-operation, intimacy, the fine timing and sensitivity that makes a human being charismatic, loving, and self-assured – are passed from mother to baby, especially if that mother is herself possessed of these qualities, and supported and cared for, so that she can bring herself to enjoy and focus on the task.”

As Penelope Leach has written in her important book, Children First: “It is clearly and certainly best for babies to have something close to full-time mother care for six months at least – conveniently linked with breast-feeding – and family care for a further year and better two. Using financial or career penalties to blackmail women into leaving infants who are scarcely settled into life outside wombs that are still bleeding is no less than barbarous.”

She goes on, “However carefully she is fed, washed and protected, and however many mobiles are hung for her, a baby’s overall care is not good enough to ensure her optimal development unless she is constantly with people who know her as an individual and who always have the time (and usually the inclination) to listen to and answer her; to cuddle and play, show and share. These are the people she will attach herself to and that attachment matters.”

As I already said, for some parents, especially single parents, formal daycare may be the only option. The point is not to condemn such parents, but to condemn – and seek for a remedy – a system that forces parents into that situation in the first place.

Much more child-friendly social policy is needed to relieve such pressures on parents. For example, real choice should be available to all parents here. Governments should not dictate to parents where and how they seek to raise their children.

A system of child care subsidy could be established in which all parents receive benefits which they can choose to use as they wish. They could redeem it for care outside the home, or redeem it for cash if they choose to care for their own children at home.

But something must be done to slow down this widespread unnatural and unhelpful separation of young children from their own biological parents.

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20 Replies to “Day Care Blues”

  1. We have 4 children and I had a really good career but I have never put my children into day care for even one day because I wanted to raise them myself. It did mean a drop in income but by being home I can cook everything from scratch, shop around, buy second hand, barter, recycle, use cloth nappies, grow lots of backyard food and involve the children in doing all this as well as working part time from home.

    Breast feeding as recommended for up to a year is also easier if you are at home with a baby.

  2. Lex Clarke – what was the Well d’uh.” comment about?

    Until motherhood and childhood is valued more, many people will place their children into full time day care.

  3. Trouble is who’s got the gold now? All we can do is pray. Lots of powerful special interest groups out there. But if we pray, society may wake up.

  4. All salient points.

    But it can’t be left out that the government has driven up the cost of living – housing prices, energy etc – to such an extent these days that it makes life difficult to earn a living without both parents bringing in a wage. My parents bought their first house in their 20’s and had it paid off within 3 years on my father’s modest wage alone. But that’s not possible today.

  5. Bill, thanks for raising this important issue. Jo, you encouraged me with your lovely testimony of raising 4 children.

    When the first of our 3 children arrived 42 years ago, my wife and I made the decision that we could survive on one income and quality care with our children was given top priority.

    As a result, we have close relationship with all three children, their wives and families.

    Imagine what this would do to the savings in the federal budget if this were advocated and promoted (even through government advertising). But that would not be politically correct.


  6. My four children are all well-adjusted happy adults. All have tertiary-level education, one with higher degrees and two studying post-grad. My children were raised by a full-time stay-at-home tertiary educated mother, who forwent her career for the sake of our family. Financially it was tough on a single income, all-be-it an above average one. What it meant was a fore-going of the luxuries of life which baby-boomers seem to demand.

  7. Thanks Bill, such an important topic.
    I too am fed up with hearing from our politicians that what women and families want, is more affordable child care. Politicians on all sides seem to offer this as being their ‘family friendly’ policy.

    I wish they would wake up and stop insulting women and families everywhere with this rhetoric.

    What do you suppose would happen if women were offered the same childcare subsidies if they wanted to stay at home?
    How many new mums do you think are just chomping at the bit to get back to work and all that they really want is to dump their newborns into childcare?

    Many, many women and families do not want childcare, they want to be able to choose to stay home….if only our politicians supported that option.

    A lobby group for stay at home mothers is desperately needed I think. They need to rebuke every politician who tells us that their family friendly policy is to increase childcare subsidies and get the mums back into the workforce.

  8. What disgusts me is how governments of both stripes advocate policies to get mothers back into the workforce to allegedly boost productivity.

    How barbaric is that? Not to recognize the worth let alone the work of mothers who rear healthy, civilized and self-disciplined young adults who contribute to society.

    Infants and toddlers don’t need professional ‘care’; they need the attention of one person to thrive. Whether from a mother or an older sister, love is the key.

    If both parents really, really need to work their children are better minded by rels or neighbours.

    Commercial childcare should be a last resort. As businesses, childcare centres are subject to government regulations and as such staff are brainwashed into feminist nonsense.

  9. Totally agree with your article, especially the system of child care subsidy you propose. Even this subsidy could be means tested, we are after all not a nation without huge debt already.

  10. I wish the reaction noted in the comment above to this article “Well d’uh” was everyone’s automatic response. Daycare, however, is politically charged topic. People tend to think only of the adults in the equation and forget about the children. Unless you have seen first hand, how daycare affects children, it is difficult to realize the scope of the problem. Young children need more articles such as this one and a real nationwide discussion on what is best for babies and young children.
    May Saubier
    Doing Time: What It Really Means To Grow Up In Daycare

  11. To put your children in day care is careless. It’s uncaring and nurture void.
    Our boy did spend 2 days in a day detention centre and even he said please, can I not go there again.
    At 10am a packet cake was bought out and the biggest child ate most of it, was then hyper and hit other kids at random.
    The same thing the next day.

  12. Well it should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear.

    This has been the plan of satan for centuries, to destroy the very foundation of civilisation and the centre of Gods plan for man, the family.

    The reason for the speedup in the destruction of the family unit is because satan knows full well his time is running out, and he has limited time to drag as many down into his realm as possible before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ comes and ends his reign upon the earth.

    If you want to find a real Christian Church, and not a quazzy feel good fake church who only worships God with their lips but have hearts that are far from him, look for a Church that has Christ and family as its centre. If it is not based upon these two things, then it is not of Christ.

    Neil Waldron.

  13. Damien,

    Don’t you see, that’s the beauty of it, they pushed to get women back to work, then when they fell for it, that made households with two incomes instead of one, then they got the market to increase the prices to suit IE: what was once at a price of a single wage income, is now a double wage income.

    It is all about the destruction of Godly choices, and make everyone follow the beast and get his number basically.

    But there are ways to do it, eat whole foods, downsize, economise etc. It is hard, but it is worth it.

    Anyhow, hope this helps.
    Neil Waldron.

  14. Nobody has mentioned the opportunities – with the internet & NBN (one day soon!) for mothers to work from home, either home-based small businesses or part-time consultancy in their areas of professional expertise. Could be the best of both worlds. Any comments on this?

  15. Dear Bill,

    Everything you say about long day care for children is correct.Unfortunately, they are a phenomena which grew out of radical feminist ideaology.

    The ‘sisters in suits’ are never, ever going to agree with you though! They will continue to think firstly of themselves and their own aspirations as they have always done since the sixties. Parliament is full of these radical, selfish, career feminists and the spineless men who have pandered to them and their ideas over the decades which never included traditional marriage and family values.

    Consequently,most women had no other choice but to be herded into the workforce doing monotonous,low status jobs simply so they can make ends meet.This has been because the benefits gained for families in the 19th century have been steadily eroded and the influence of radical feminist ideaology since the sixties contributed to this in no small measure through its political activities.

    Since children obviously can’t be left to fend for themselves in our so called ‘civilised’ society another ‘industry’ had to be set up to deal with the children of mothers in the work force. This ‘índustry’ mostly employs women who are low paid and whose status is on a level with a check out chick.

    What really angers me though is the lack of compassion these suited feminists in their ivory towers have for their less fortunate sisters who far from being ‘liberated’ find themselves trapped in a new and worse form of slavery often on their own.

    The only utterances I hear from them is women still haven’t got equal rights in all areas, more childcare is needed,domestic violence is on the rise as most men are brutes, etc etc ad nauseum.

    Simply, we are now reaping the rotten fruit of the radical feminist movement of the sixties because women have harder lives and more problems now than they have ever had.

    The irony is the New Man which some feminists think THEY created always existed even before feminist politics but it takes a clever woman to find one.

  16. Though a professional woman I spent 15 years at home rearing my five children, and my only regret is that I didn’t spend another five years at home so my youngest children could have been welcomed home from school by me, not the neighbour.

    They were fortunate in that our neighbour was a kind, uneducated woman who just loved little ones of any species. Yep, baby possums, kangaroos, magpies or humans – my neighbour loved them all and actually tamed them all with Milo and chocky bikkies.


    I hope this confession doesn’t disturb city professionals. But I still believe my youngest children were better minded by my uneducated little-things-loving neighbour than by credentialed childcare workers.

    I’m sure Jo agrees.

  17. David, I did mention that I work part time from home via the internet whilst raising 4 children.

    Antonia, I agree that home care is better than day care. One thing I have noticed is that many mums go back to work when the children are of High School age but that is when the children need you more because that is when values and beliefs are tested. In my experience, teens need more guidance than for e.g. an 8 year old.

    I have a few friends who are medical Doctors and they chose to stay home and raise their children and they face enormous pressure as a result.For those that say both must work to pay a mortgage, there are ways to live on the lowest income ( we’ve done it many times) by mending, making do, buying second hand, using freecycle,cooking everything from scratch, growing your own etc

    Another thing – I was at a party recently when a lady aged about 70 confessed that she’d been a career woman her whole life and now says it was her biggest regret.

    .She’d placed her kids into child care in the late 1960s and early 1970s and just devoted herself to her career. Both her children ( in her words) are dysfunctional and have drug issues / personal issues after falling in with the wrong crowd. She felt that may have been avoided if she’d been around more to raise them.

    A very sobering conversation.

    One more thing – I enjoyed about 90 % of my time at home raising children and feel that many mothers would miss out on, for e.g. the look of amazed joy your child has when they see you in the audience at their assembly/concert/school.

  18. To David Williams, yes, I am one of those. I am a Mum of 8, some of whom are grown & married, 4 of whom are still young & being home schooled. I run a part-time business in a niche market which is part of our family’s cultural pursuits. It is internet based & also involves vending at events we participate in. The whole thing works really well and has opened up lots of opportunities to the benefit of the family.
    Although I was tertiary educated I left my job before having children, so never had any sort of maternity leave – I was always a stay-at-home mum and after a time, a home schooling mum. I have never seen the point of mothers going to work so they could pay others to look after their children so they could go to work…etc. We did do a bit of pre-school for the first few children, but after starting home school that was not necessary. Also did 1 day for a later child, in a very nice preschool that had vege garden & chooks, but the rigmarole of govt. paperwork was unbelievable so it was a sigh of relief when that finished.
    We have always been in business, we are not millionaires but live moderately, and by the grace of God have always had more than enough and plenty to be thankful for.

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