Thursday, December 3, 2015

The great myths around child care

You're not going to believe this but in all the discussion around the Trudeau family's nannies — mostly yesterday but a bit today as well — I saw several variations on the statement, "People should take care of their own kids. If they didn't want to take care of them, why did they have them?"

I know.

It's hard to surprise me but I do still get a little disheartened, a little discouraged.

I wrote a very short piece about the nanny controversy yesterday. In truth, I don't care who pays for the nannies (I wish they would pay them a little more) but I stick to my opinion that the hypocrisy here sticks out like a sore thumb.

It got me thinking about child care though. When I started in journalism in a community newspaper back in the '70s, writing about day-care centres was considered radical. I would regularly hear from readers about children in the USSR who were separated from their parents when they were very young, the better to indoctrinate them into evil Communist ways. I was warned that this was the direction our society was taking — godless, unprincipled governments wanting to get their hands on our little ones and turn them against their parents and their parents' ways.

The other common misconception about day care is that it's in demand from women who want to go out to work to buy extras and luxuries. They have husbands who are perfectly capable of supporting their families but these women want more — new curtains, new rugs, new dishes. Got to keep up with the neighbours and if that means shipping the kids to God-knows-where, well that's life.

And the kids. . .oh dear. We all know the stories of the sweet little face pressed against the window, sobbing hysterically as Mama waves goodbye. How could she? What kind of heartless mother is she?

That's William on the left. He never went to day care because I worked at home but he went to play group and he could hardly wait to see the back of me when I dropped him off.

These are myths, of course, and views of day care have changed a bit over the years. It's still not considered a service that we should be pursuing for the good of the community. It's still a struggle for many families and it's still misunderstood by the more privileged who don't understand what all the fuss is about.

I remember back about 25 years ago, there was a local day-care centre which announced it would be placing children in the hands of the police if their parents were late picking them up. Some of the conversations I had at that time made clear to me that there were those who just didn't understand how many people live their daily lives. People said, "Well, you can't blame them. Why can't parents get there on time? It's not really fair. If you're held up, you should should just get someone else to run down and pick them up."

Yes, this makes great sense for a young single mother, on her own, working as a waitress, who has a table of eight lingering over their meal and her replacement hasn't shown up. No, she can't just walk out and leave them. That's just one example but not unrealistic.

I went to my archives and found a column I'd written about it at the time. It's called Child care: an essential service and I'd be delighted if you'd pop over and see what I had to say about it in The Sunday Daily News, July 23, 1989.

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