We’ve been really fortunate not to need outside childcare. I have chosen part time jobs that allow me to take my infants and young children to work, but not all families are so lucky or can afford for one parent to stay at home. I’ve read many studies on the postive and negative effects of childcare on children’s health and social-emotional development, but I have never heard it called child abuse.
I have always enjoyed the children’s books written by Mem Fox. Time for Bed is one of my favorites, and I respect her ideals on peace. She has written beautiful poetry on tolerance, and she is an advocate for young children. Earlier this month, Mem Fox shocked parents by stating that daycare for young infants is a form of child abuse:
I just tremble, I don’t know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work. I know you want a child, and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? I don’t think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that’s incredibly controversial. We’re going to look back on this time from the late ’90s onwards – with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours – and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen. It’s just awful. It’s awful for the mothers as well. It’s completely heartbreaking. You actually have to say to yourself, ‘If I have to work this hard and if I’m never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?
Mem’s comments have reignited the childcare debate. She has received support and criticism for her comments, and she has responded on her website. She defends her comments and explains she was not the first one to call daycare for young infants abuse, but she was restating what a Queensland childcare worker told her. She discusses brain development and her role in speaking for infants.
On some levels, I agree with Mem’s comments. If an infant is put in a poor quality childcare facility, then yes, the environment will not be stimulating and nurturing enough for optimal development. On the other hand, children can form bonds with caregivers that are very strong and sufficient for neural pathway developments. These loving caregivers provide touch and bonding that children thrive on. Sure, in an ideal world, parents would be the primary caregivers for their children, but quality childcare does exist.
I don’t think Mem’s comments warrant banning her books, as some have suggested. I think her comments should be considered by parents as they chose childcare for their children. Mem is a sweet soul. Just consider this excerpt of a poem she wrote:
Their lives may be
different from yours,
and their words may be
very different from yours.But inside,
their hearts just like yours,
whoever they are,
wherever they are
all over the world.Their smiles are like yours,
and they laugh like you too.
Their hurts are like yours,
and they cry like you too.
whoever they are,
wherever they are,
all over the world.