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.
Related posts on daycare:
- The Best Helping Hand a Mother Can Have
I’m sure many people will agree that daycare centers are not the best place for any newborn. Unfortunately, most people who put newborns in this type of childcare have no other option because they don’t make that much money. I would NEVER say that because these people don’t make enough money to stay at home longer, or hire a nanny, shouldn’t have children! I just hope this debate sparks some sort of problem solving rather than mud slinging.
Aaron Tos says
Obviously many people does not have any other choice than putting their newborn in childcare, but that does not mean that it cannot be a form of abuse.
Whether you agree with her comments or not she has the right to say them. Those who think she should not speak her mind and also think her books should be banned because she has done so should really take a good hard look at their stance.
Free speech is good.
Banning books is dangerous.
Now if those who disagree with her want to get rid of her books that they personally own, that’s fine. But to ban them because she spoke her mind – dangerous.
In fact, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week starts this Saturday, September 27th.
I agree with Robin that the author has the right to speak her opinion, and that banning books is dangerous. I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me to have my own thoughts and opinions and doesn’t dictate the way I should live my life.
I also hope with Andrea that the discussion leads to problem-solving rather than hate and arguing. Hopefully the organizations that govern childcare regulations will be looking more closely at the conditions that exist that create poor child care situations.
In my opinion, ultimately it’s the responsibility of the parent to find the best child care that you can afford. Be diligent with the day care to ensure that your child is happy, healthy and developing normally. If she’s not, find another one. There’s rarely ever only 1 day care that you can afford. By not accepting a lower standard, then hopefully the bar is raised overall. Neglecting to make a change in your child’s care when it’s obvious that he’s not healthy or developing well is abuse.
I agree with the other posts, this should be a call for solutions, not for banning or mud slinging.
BUT, I find it extremely disheartening to hear her suggest that women need to choose between their careers and their children. So many women before me have battled so hard for equality in the workplace and this type of posting sets us right back to the 1950’s.
We need to start pushing our government and businesses to provide longer maternity leave (6 weeks is considerably less than any other country), more schedule flexibility, increased job sharing and more on site child care options. Only then can we begin to eliminate the less-than-optimal childcare and improve the overall quality of life for families in the US.
Jennifer Lance says
I just wanted to thank all of our readers so far for having a very civil conversation with the comments. This is a touchy subject, and I really appreciate all of the considerate thoughts on the subject.
Jamie Ervin says
I’ve never been one to say there is only one right way to do anything. What works in one home or for one family may not work for another. That said, I had children KNOWING that I would be their primary caregiver. I didn’t want someone else to raise my children. When I was 5 months pregnant with my youngest child, I became a single Mother. Suddenly, I had to go back to work. Going to work entailed childcare. It might be a sad tragedy for many families, but I do not believe it is child abuse. We all do what we must, hopefully with the best interests of our children at the forefront of our mind. I was blessed for the first year of my youngest child’s life, my Mother was the person to care for my children. Then my Mother started getting ill and was diagnosed with ALS. I had no one left and my children had to go into traditional daycare. Does that make me a bad parent? I know it does not. I wish that every Mother was able and willing to be with their children full time. I accept that isn’t reality. Now I am home with my children again and am grateful, maybe more than I was before because I know it is a privilege not every Mother has.
I would give anything to stay home with my son because I love being with him, but it just won’t work financially. It killed me to put him in part-time at 3 months and full-time at 13 months. He is in an extremely high-quality center and he loves going to school and adores his teachers and the other children. He has learned so much, they have even taught him sign language. They go outside every day they possibly can and have outside vistors like story-tellers and bug-wranglers. He has music and yoga every other week. All of this at 16 months. That being said, I’d stay home with him in a second if I could. However, I am incredibly insulted by her comments and will never again be able to read one of her books. How dare she imply that I would put my child in danger for personal gain? I don’t think someone with “a sweet soul” would say something so horrendous and hurtful to a group of people who love their children and are trying to do their very best for them.
In my position as a teacher I get to see the differences in children that were in daycare and those who were not. The ones who attended daycare do not have the discipline, lack of social skills and immaturity (whining/clinging) problems of the ones who didn’t attend. It’s so much easier to teach kids who went through daycare and preschool. The ones who didn’t attend preschool are almost always behind.