Day Care, Feminism, and the Wellbeing of Children

Extended periods of day care for young children are not in their best interests. Parents might benefit, but children seldom do. But before I go any further, let me get the objections out of the way first. Some folks seem to have little choice but to use day care for their children.

But several replies can be made:
-Governments should be offering more family-friendly economic and tax policies so that so many families do not feel forced into the formal day care route.
-Often a family will put in as much money each week for day care costs as they will get back with a second income.
-Often it really boils down to priorities. We all need the basics in life to get by, but do many couples insist on two incomes in order to live the good life? Fancy homes, giant TVs, brand new cars, overseas vacations – these are all nice but they may not be necessary.

As I said however, some seem to have no other options. But there should be more options. If governments want to help here, they should offer all mothers genuine choice. If they are going to subsidise formal day care, they should also subsidise home care or nanny care or neighbour care or church care.

day care 3Let the parents decide how best to use such financial assistance, instead of aiming for only one outcome: pushing new mums back into the paid workforce, and dumping the kids into day care. But before you shoot the messenger here, be aware that plenty of other folks are worried about the wellbeing of children as they spend large hunks of their early lives being raised by strangers.

Two recent news items have reignited the debate. The first concerns one expert who was willing to buck the system and stand against political correctness big time by saying that long day care is a “form of child abuse”. Here is how the story opens:

A respected pediatrician and vice-president of the leading advocacy body for prevention of child abuse and neglect says leaving babies in long-day care can be a form of child abuse. Dr Sue Packer, Canberra’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, also believes lack of communication between parents and their children when young could be a contributing factor to Australia’s alarming rate of depression and suicide in youths. “There is a looming risk for children brought up in an untested environment (long-day care),” she said.
“They are a social experiment now. We will see how much alternative care they can cope with without compromising development.” Dr Packer was a contributor to pamphlets on display at Nambour General Hospital last week titled Alternatives to Smacking Children. While Dr Packer does not support smacking a child, even a controlled smack, she said what was more damaging was the lack of attention children got.
“More than anything that is changing in Australia is the connected time parents spend with their children,” she said. “It is plummeting. Which is more damaging, the occasional smack or level of attention? I would say the level of attention.” Dr Packer questioned why parents were having children when they did not want them and enjoy them.
Her sharpest criticism was levelled at parents who put their children in long-day care when they were less than a year old. “Babies in care from six weeks of age we are learning – and there is amazing research – how this affects the development of the right side of the brain,” she said. Dr Packer referred to the work of Professor Allan Shore, a leading neuroscientist at the University of California, who has done research into how parent-child interaction plays a key role in shaping the right side of infants’ brains.

And now some child care workers are even supporting her as well:

A child care industry insider says she supports the notion that long day care can be a form of child abuse. And the Sunshine Coast worker, who asked to remain anonymous, believed many others in the industry, who witnessed the trauma some children go through when left for long days, felt the same. “Some kids are dropped off at 6.30am and don’t get picked up until after 5pm,” she said.
“You see these kids and you go ‘you poor little things’, particularly when all the other parents are picking their kids up. They are always at the door waiting, looking. It is really sad. It is particularly hard in winter when they have been dragged out of their beds and they arrive looking like they’re thinking ‘What the hell am I doing here?’. They still want their mums.”

And we have decades of research to back up such concerns. Here is a small sampling of the data:

Taking a child away from its mother during its early years can result in a number of harmful results as one expert notes: “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 guru Steve Biddulph writes, “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.”

A parent’s absence or inaccessibility, either physical or emotional, can have a profound effect on a child’s emotional health. Harvard psychiatrist Armand Nicholi has observed that individuals who suffer from severe nonorganic emotional illness have one thing in common: they all have experienced the “absence of a parent through death, divorce, a time demanding job or other reasons”.

One study from Norway, for example, found that children experiencing less maternal care than others had higher levels of behaviour problems. Learning can also be impaired. 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.

An 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. Other studies have even found that children who spend a lot of time in child care are more likely to join gangs as surrogate families.

A recent 10-year study involving 1,300 American children found that the more hours that toddlers spend in child care, the more likely they are to turn out aggressive, disobedient and defiant. The researchers said the correlation held true regardless of whether the children came from rich or poor homes.

More recent American studies bear this out. The largest long term study, which began in 1991, conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that the longer the hours a child stays in day care, the more aggressive, disobedient and difficult to get along with they become. And the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota found similar problems of aggression and anxiety among young children who spend long hours in day care.

So why the incessant push to dump kids in day care if it is so harmful? I already mentioned economic pressures and constraints on families, and these need to be addressed. But there is another, darker reason – an ideological reason. You see, many feminists and social engineers have long insisted that this is the way forward. The truth is, the formal day care mentality is an integral part of feminist theory. Consider just a few representative quotes:

“The care of the young is infinitely better left to trained professionals rather than to harried amateurs with little time nor taste for the education of young minds” (Kate Millet)

“No woman should be authorised to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have the choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” (Simone de Beauvoir)

“A variety of ways have been suggested for reducing [women’s] desire for babies. One commonly suggested proposal to achieve this goal is greater encouragement of labor-force participation by women. . . . [Perhaps girls could] be given an electric shock whenever they see a picture of an adorable baby until the very thought of motherhood becomes anathema to them. . .” (Jessie Bernard)

“The heart of woman’s oppression is her childbearing and childrearing roles.” (Shulamith Firestone)

“In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them.” (Mary Jo Bane)

“Unless women have, from the moment of birth, socialization for, expectations of, and preparation for a viable significant alternative to motherhood . . . women will continue to want and reproduce too many children.” (Wilma Scott Heide)

So an ideological agenda has been pushed here for many decades now. Radical social engineering is a big part of why we now readily part with our own babies and toddlers, giving them to complete strangers to look after during their most crucial stages of life.

It is amazing that we have managed to so thoroughly destroy mother’s instincts to look after her own children, at least while young. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once noted the radical shifts that must take place to break the mother-child bond:

The mother’s nurturing tie to her child is apparently so deeply rooted in the actual biological conditions of conception and gestation, birth and suckling, that only fairly complicated social arrangements can break it down entirely. . . . Women may be said to be mothers unless they are taught to deny their child-bearing qualities. Society must distort their sense of themselves, pervert their inherent growth-patterns, perpetuate a series of learning-outrages upon them, before they will cease to want to provide, at least for a few years, for the child they have already nourished for nine months within the safe circle of their own bodies.

So I say, let the debate continue.

[1757 words]

22 Replies to “Day Care, Feminism, and the Wellbeing of Children”

  1. I have never placed any of our children into daycare for even one day because of these sorts of anecdotes. Besides, I want to spend time with our children and see their milestones and develop a bond with them. I’d rather be super frugal and live on one income with one car and mend/make do/grow my own food etc than place the children into day care.

  2. I worked in child holiday care when I was younger and I vividly remember several of my coworkers discussing the hangovers that they came to work with and the nights where they never made it home.

    This was the boss too and they were all “qualified professionals.” Best yet, it was run by a Christian organisation.

  3. Growing up I and my two sibblings were placed in long day care until we were old enough to become latch-key kids. The outcome for our family has been horrific. I am 58 years old, and I still bare the fruits of the trauma that I endured. There is nothing redeeming about long day care. It is child abuse, pure and simple.

  4. I really wonder why people bother having children when they outsource the raising of them to others. Surely a large part of being a parent is to inculcate them with the values and virtues you hold dear.

    I know several people who work in childcare and they would not put their own children in there. Not that the places they work are horrible in and of themselves, but the system is not good for kids.

  5. I also consider out-of-home care for infants and long day care for toddlers as child abuse far worse than any smacking.

    All the professionals’ talk on the necessity for early learning is absurd. Babies and little people need love and limits, not cold ‘care’ provided by low-paid, rostered workers.

    The fact that governments refuse to treat all mothers equitably proves that current policies to ‘encourage’ (Newspeak for ‘force’) mothers into the workplace are ideologically grounded.

    We really live in barbarous times.

  6. The church has a lot to answer for in this debate too. Why do some parents turn to daycare for their children? Because they do not have family or community support to help with the pressures of parenting. Of our older generation, more and more women are working outside of the home. This means there are less avenues for young mums to ask for a few hours break or even someone to sit and chat with. There are less role models to inspire them to use their skills in different ways now they are ‘at home’. Parenthood is becoming more isolating and I feel for the mums who feel they have no other choice but to use paid care in order to preserve their sanity. If we are part of a church community, we all have a role to play in addressing this issue.

  7. What irks me is the common idea that subsidised day-care is a fundamental right. Therefore those of us who chose to care for our own children (and do without a second income) subsidise those who choose two incomes, the low income earner subsidies the high income earner. People love to call out discrimination, this seems highly discriminatory to me.

  8. Excellent article, and how true, although very well known.
    Sadly however, some children would actually be safer in long day-care, considering what types of people their own parents are.
    That is another perverse result of decades of feminist ideology.

  9. Thanks Bill
    Thanks for saying what everyone else is afraid to say. This debate (and your recent pieces on IVF) needs to be made. As a childless couple we are becoming almost are uncommon as children born with Downs Symdrome. In the workplace (education sector) more and more jobs are being filled by part-time mothers who go back and forth on maternity leave, leaving those of us who have made a career of teaching unable to get full-time work. They want it all and expect it all – often returning to executive positions. if we had been privileged to be parents I would have forfeited career aspirations and money to become a mother.

  10. A mothers role is to give her children time, energy and life to her children.
    If they don’t learn from Mother and father, at home, where will they learn the truth from?? Not the world.

  11. If you stick your children in an institution when they are young, don’t be surprised if they stick you in one when you are old.

  12. In all your reasons for using day care, you didn’t mention the one that almost tempted me to use it. Mothers who are worn out and suffering depression. Day care becomes a very tempting and easy way to have a break. I’m glad I never did go down that path as I see the rewards now that my children are older, but motherhood is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs and it is often a thankless task. For me it was a process of turning to God every morning in prayer and asking for his strength to get me through. I’ve learnt many, many valuable lessons and I’m so happy I persisted!

  13. I know it’ can be so hard to be a stay at home mum particularly when you have a child with a disability. Many mums say they go to work to “have a break” ! Prayer helps with the insurmountable problems.

  14. Lyn, do you realize how inspiring your testimony is? Especially in these days where motherhood – as opposed to PC ‘parenting’ – is not valued?

    You resisted the easy way out of your depression and trusted in God and he has rewarded you for your trust in him.

    I recall the nuns telling us senior students when we were 16-18: “educate a man and you’ve educated a person; educate a woman and you’ve educated a family.”

    Those nuns were right : mothers traditionally have civilized and educated their children to participate in the wider society.

    And boy, we can all see the results since mothers have been edged out of the home, can’t we? What I find most disturbing is the lack of resilience in young people: in any disturbance let alone a tragedy, counsellors are on the scene even before any blankets let alone paramedics!

    How can young people grow a spine if they’ve always been coddled and brainwashed in institutions?

  15. They may not all be disease factories with babies crawling through scores of other babies pooh, but I wouldn`t think they are anywhere nearly as healthy as a family home. Full-time mothers deserve the same financial help for their children. If there is so much money around to pay for childcare, then give the mothers vouchers, redeemable for cash. I`d have thought you`d have to be very hard up to allow others to decide what values to teach your children, for strangers to role model for you and for strangers to bring your children up, but sadly no, the almighty $ is too hard to resist for too many.

  16. My wife and I could never see the sense of working a second job to be able to afford to pay someone else in a day care centre to indoctrinate our children with their beliefs if we were to send our children to day care. We decided that we would look after our own children. My wife stopped working full time when our first was born. When she returned to work one day a week I was working on a casual basis and was able to take the day off to look after our children. It certainly gave me an understanding and appreciation of the incredibly valuable work mothers do.

    To the mothers who have decided to look after their children rather than return to work, never tell others you are “just” a housewife when people ask you what you do. The input you have to your children far outweighs any career advancements or financial gain you may receive from working when it may not be necessary.

  17. “…..But there should be more options. If governments want to help here, they should offer all mothers genuine choice. If they are going to subsidise formal day care, they should also subsidise home care or nanny care or neighbour care or church care….”

    The liberal progressives within the state want as much involvement in childrens lives as possible.

  18. What also concerns me is the cycle it creates. How do children who go to daycare learn how to be mothers and fathers? How will they understand that there is another way? When we are used to being abandoned by our parents, we think that it’s ok to do the same to our own children and the cycle continues. What we see our parents do becomes the norm for us.

  19. I never forget when I had my second baby one of the wonderful nurses in hospital said to me that you can never cuddle a new baby too much. The bonding that happens in the first few months is something that is hard to explain or understand and a pure joy to experience. She was so right in my opinion. I had a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience with this second baby. This is something that cannot happen in a child-care centre where the mother is absent. Although as a mother of a new baby you might not always feel like it, giving them to others to bring up isn’t the answer. Here I agree wholeheartedly with Lyn … It’s a daily exercise of putting ourselves in Gods hands. This is a great discussion to have!

  20. Bill,

    An important issue here is the notion that leaving and cleaving has implied that grandparents need to get themselves out of the job of helping to raise the next generation. The perverse extremity of this idea is the grey nomads who trip around Australia, spending their children’s inheritance, while their kids are mortgaged to the hilt, and trying to be parents and breadwinners at the same time.

    The Biblical Christian family is the Trustee Family, and that means that there must be an inter-generational involvement in raising the children. This does not mean an occasional visit to grandies at Christmas and Easter, but daily mentoring and assistance in the very difficult task of raising a family.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    God bless you, Bill.

  21. Bill, in your description of the ‘good life’ you mention “Fancy homes, giant TVs, brand new cars, overseas vacations” , but you missed out pets. It is yet another example of idolatry, that believers will spend $2000 pa on a dog, and treat it better than their own kids.
    I think you are very brave to address the subject. Jesus teaches that we serve either God or Mammon. The least two preached on commandments concern the Sabbath and coveting. Sadly our western churches do not want to offend their congregations, so these matters are ignored.
    Children should be a priority, above careers, cars, pets or holidays.

  22. The neuroscience professor whose work on brain development is referred to in the above commentary is Professor Allan Schore. Not “Shore”. For anyone googling to find out more about him, please note the spelling.

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