|More subsidized, universally available, affordable,
high quality, professional childcare is often advocated as a way
of advancing the interests of women.
Yet early long day care is not in the best interests of very
young children and their families. Evidence increasingly suggests
that this childcare agenda is misconceived, because it:
- Is unrealistic, as it is often unaffordable and
- Overlooks accumulating evidence of risks of undesirable
- Is contrary to much expert opinion about what is likely to
be best for very young children and is contrary to the desire
of many working mothers to care for their own young children
if they could afford to.
- Relies partly on the now-discredited ideology of cultural
determinism, which denied the relevance of biology to human
behavior, arguing that mothers can be largely replaced by
- Makes adequate breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
A rethink is needed.
We each have a pedigree of maternal ancestors who, overall,
were selected, over thousands of generations, for their success in
all aspects of healthy mothering: pregnancy, childbirth,
breastfeeding, attachment, and the protecting and rearing of baby
girls who grew up to do likewise, not in splendid isolation, but
in social groups with others having an enduring interest in the
The question should not be "how can everybody have
affordable, quality childcare?" It should be: "Taking
into account the biologically-determined nature and needs of young
human beings and their mothers, how, in our de-tribalized
societies, can we best help and support parents who wish to do a
mutually satisfying job of mothering and fathering their infants
and young children without jeopardizing their own futures?"
If some of the effort devoted to seeking high-quality childcare
were used creatively to support high quality parenting, we would
be nearer to our real goal of enhancing the well-being of mothers,
young children and society.
We could recognize that mothers with infants and young children
are an essential, vulnerable group, unique in society, having
special needs for a few short years. Infancy cannot be re-run
Governments can encourage community appreciation of home-caring
parents for their parenting and other contributions to society. In
the gross domesticproduct, we could show the multi-billion-dollar
value of mothers' work and mothering at home.
Parents should be free to make informed decisions, but economic
justice for the family is a pre-condition for real choice. The
next advance in women's rights could be affirmative action in
favor of mothers of young children, to give freedom of choice.
If we are to pay for the care of children, why not pay mothers
to do it?
We need family incomes policies offering equal opportunity for
home-caring parents, especially mothers of children under three.
Economic policies have been unfavorable to these families,
compared with two-income families using subsidized childcare.
Governments could be neutral, offering the available money
fairly to all parents, to care for their very young children as
they choose, especially while children are under five. Mothers
also need provision for superannuation, if the economic sacrifices
of early childrearing are not to become a lifelong handicap.
Mothers' needs for relief, help and company must be addressed.
Programs of voluntary visiting of new mothers can offer many
Some childcare centers could become like Swedish "open
pre-schools", open to parents, and providing companionship,
educational opportunities and facilities for children and their
parents. High quality parenting of very young children, does not
preclude return to part-time work later, even in pre-school years,
but parents may need help to re-enter the work-force.
We need parenting-friendly policy options put before
Governments and decision-makers, by the bureaucracy, the
Opposition, academe, and the Institute of Family Studies.
Until recently, one ideologically-based view held a monopoly of
counsel. It is an unsustainable way of helping women, because it
deprives the next generation of women of mothering while they are
infants, and also deprives the little boys who will be their
partners, and the fathers of their children. Preparation for
marriage begins at birth.
This is not "returning to the 1950s". Many problems
were inherent in the social isolation and child-rearing ideas of
those days. Today we can help young people understand how to
achieve more satisfying parent-child relationships than were
common in the past.
Preferably, the approach to these issues should be bipartisan,
rather than having parties compete in spending on childcare, while
neglecting the importance of healthy mothering, and the
developmental needs of infants and their families.