Daycare Acceptable? Discussion/Sept 1997


Original Query from Kriste Lindenmeyer klindenmeyer@tntech.edu 12 Sept 1997

...To me, the most interesting thing about recent changes in welfare reform is the acceptance of daycare, even for very young children, as a desirable thing
for poor families and the rest of society. While this might not be accepted as the ideal prescription for the middle-class and above, it is a shift from earlier federal policies that generally denounced childcare, especially for those under two years of age, and suggested that daycare would ultimately harm society by producing maladjusted adults. Something has changed. I'm just not sure why, or where this shift will lead America's children. Any thoughts?

Responses:

From Priscilla F. Clement p4c@email.psu.edu 18 Sept 1997

...In the past, those who opposed daycare for the very young children were largely middle-class--many of them women who didn't have to work and who could afford to accept theories about how important it was for mothers to be with and bond with their children in the earliest years of their young lives. Middle-class women were also among the most important providers of welfare [daycare?] to poor women, and so were often able to require a more prosperous and homelike setting for poor children(through foster care or orphanages) than their natural mothers could provide.

In recent years, more and more middle-class women return to work soon after the birth of their children, and they require high-quality daycare. They don't want their children removed from their care (anymore than poor women ever did--but poor women haven't always had the choice), and so they seek daycare. In a sense, middle-class women have much more of the same perspective today that working class women have always had, and so it seems daycare is OK for both.

From Jeanette (J.H.) Raichyk mraichyk@iac.net 22 Sept 1997

...Your daycare debate discussion caught my attention today with the comments of one writer about why daycare is now "OK" whereas when we were first considering working 25 years ago, it was suspect. I don't know how much I've missed but IMNSHO, I think there are embarrassing reasons for this transformation, beyond the economic necessity and what one can afford to believe.

Exhibits...

  1. Motherhood has become a sore issue among women: nasty acrimony over 'pro-family vs. pro-person' and we still can't manage to separate 'personhood' after all this time from our 'motherhood'...maybe it's not do-able (heresy?)..who benefits from all this divisiveness(?)...bottomfeeder and/or vested interests.
  2. So many current books on successful women as role-models for the next generation have a blind spot for this issue..e.g., there's one, _Working Women for the 21st Century_ by LaTeef, I think, that interviews a broad spectrum of women and asks, among other things, how they felt about their relationship with their children, IF they succeeded in having children. Even though most of these women were well above middle-class and their responses were suitably professional, it's apparent that this problem has not been solved by those with even the most advantageous of resources. The author, however, seems curiously oblivious to the obvious universality of this consensus and promotes the idea that women should continue to replicate their experience...Why?
  3. H-Women has a thread on timing maternity and careers in academia...a very extensive list of responses and very enlightening...the pain of leaving our children comes through even in cases where the timing turned out just right...also some very good suggestions on modifying the tenure system and a few suggested brining your child with you which was the solution of choice for women in other times/places..and not just long ago and far away...I know home-based working women who work with their clients while caring for their children...why don't women (and men) push the boat out in a different direction? Lack of imagination or will?
  4. That daycare is an undesirable solution is very unpopular (guilt maybe? or maybe poorly paid women are the providers?), even though there are clues to this fact in any places...studies at the kibbutzim, 'underwhelmingly supported' work collected by Wanda Crawford at NKU, studies comparing home schoolers' social functioning versus public schooling children...yet no one is making movement noises about something that affects huge numbers of people greatly...why? is this too private???
  5. There's a book just out called _The Future of Women_ by two women at the Global Business Network (www.gbn.com) which does futurist scenarios for a wide population of clientele and has a long list of significant 'visionaries'...their work suggests there is an urgency to resolving the women's issues in a near time-frame, not a generation from now. So I'm looking forward to seeing this topic surfacing here, since H-Women should be able to bring to bear a wealth of data without acrimony...let' stir the pot.

From Janet Coryell coryell@wmich.edu 23 Sept 1997

All I know is that until we stop treating women like they are all alike and all have the same needs, desires, demands and interests, we will never get anywhere.

Daycare for my sweet baby? Not if I can avoid it...but I have an academic husband who can share schedules with me. I cannot, however, get a damn thing done most of the time that is any way intellectually demanding (witness the past sentence construction, please). Why can't I find affordable part-time daycare on campus, that cares for babies before they are 2 1/2? That's when the state licensing changes and you only need 1 adult for 10 kids, as opposed to 1 for 4. So I postpone for a year my research into long-term, intellectually difficult work and do short-term editing that I can pick up and put down. Does my chair/admin/dean, etc. support that realistic decision? I doubt it.

But those are my choice, and if the lady next door wants to stay home, good for her. Ditto the full-time wage earner across the street. Just admit one size fits all doesn't.but that's what institutions assume and believe. Stinks, don't it?

From Belinda Ray womenshistory.guide@miningco.com 24 Sept 1997

The main problem I see with childcare in general is that it is perceived as a "women's issue," and therefore ends up at the bottom of our societal priority list. Notice many issues traditionally associated with women rather than men (i.e. domestic sphere v. industrial realm) are treated in this manner. Our children's education is another example. While there are equal and sometimes greater number of males teaching in colleges and universities (according to recent census stats), primary and secondary school facilities are still predominately female. And, education, along with childcare, frequently ends up with the short end of the stick.

I read an anthropological study, "Anthropological Perspectives on the Subordination of Women" by Charlotte J. Frisbe, that stated while the definitions of women's work and men's work have varied historically from one culture to another (i.e., in one culture women may tend gardens while in another culture this may be considered a man's duty--the exceptions, of course, being childbearing and child rearing, which are universally associated with women), male tasks, whatever they may be, generally care more importance. That is to say, from culture to culture, things designated masculine automatically become more highly valued.

This definitely holds true in American society. We consistently place industry and wage earning (male) above childbearing and child rearing (female). Our priorities are way out of whack. It seems obvious that raising a child is one of the most important and difficult tasks a person can undertake, and yet we still seem to scoff at it. When asked at a cocktail party "What kind of work do you do?", many stay-at-home parents would be inclined to answer, "Oh, I don't work, I stay home with my children." Excuse me? I stay at home with my twin boys, and if that's not a job, then you can be certain no one in this country is working.

Until we are somehow able to change our national view and acknowledge the importance of good parenting, we won't find satisfying answers to daycare problems. Women need to embrace their roles as mother--which is not to say that all women need to have children, but simply that we need to understand that being a mother is an amazing feat, not the slacker's way of opting out of the career track. Men need to do the same. A stay-at-home Dad is not a failure in the business world. He is a man with good priorities and a wonderful opportunity which is not as frequently open to men--the opportunity to participate vigorously in raising his children.

From Joanne Kay King jokking@ksu.edu 24 Sept 1997

In reading the comments on daycare, I wonder (not for the first time!) why our national leaders, our academic leaders, our business leaders, etc., etc., don't recognize the most valuable natural resource for the future. Why are young children of so little value in this nation? We talk about the daycare issue as a "mothers' problem" or a "parents' problem" but really, it's a "children's problem."

20 years ago when my two oldest were 2 and 4, I discovered the wretched situation of daycare; doesn't sound like it has improved much. My answer was to stay home and detour my career while my husband's took off and provided our financial support. Now I am in graduate school and playing "catch-up." Am I sorry?? Depends on what day you ask that question. Sometimes I'm so grateful for the close relationship with our kids---but that might have happened anyway, and here I am, very far behind my peers. Hindsight's no help.

We have raised three wonderful young women who intend to have careers and families. I hope it works for them. I hope that I can help them achieve that goal. The sad part is "the powers that be" don't care any more today than they did in the early 70's about the real needs of kids, or sound childcare options would have been operational by now.

From Diana Lyn Laulainen-Schein lau10005@tc.umn.edu 24 Sept 1997

>I cannot, however, get a damn thing done...<

Hear. Hear. I have a six-week old and I can't get a thing done with her around either. I am taking a break until January but I need to get a handle on this by then. The campus facility definitely does not have student interests in mind. It is the best facility around but that only means it is far beyond the financial reach of students. It would cost my entire salary to have my daughter enrolled there. They do not have any provisions for part-time care, which is what most students would need. The bottom line is we would have to pay for full-time to even get her enrolled.

We chose to find a private home daycare provider, which can be scary. Licensing means they basically have a name and address. One of my best friends works for child protection services and even she says the licenses aren't worth the paper they're printed on---but to repeat, options are limited.

From Jeanette Keith keith@planetx.bloomu.edu 25 Sept 1997

As someone who "embraced motherhood" 21 years ago this October, reading these letters brought back memories of problems I had all but forgotten. Fortunately, I didn't have to leave my infant in daycare. But my experience with daycare for my toddler son was totally positive, and when he was four I enrolled him in a church-affiliated daycare that allowed me to bring him in and pick him up pretty much at any time during the day.

He was an only child, and had no neighbors or relatives to play with. Daycare gave him important socialization that he would have otherwise missed. Indeed, some of his friends today are kids he played with at that daycare center years
ago. Furthermore, I think a number of his teachers at the daycare were (heresy to say) better teachers of values and behavior than I was at that time. I'd like to point out also that while one can hardly bear to leave an infant for any length of time, especially if one is breast-feeding, having some time off from a toddler or pre-schooler can be wonderful.

I don't think the daycare situation is nearly as dire as these recent postings indicate, although I think daycare is a need that government and employers rarely understand. Some people I knew back then worked out mother's co-ops, in which babysitting would be shared or swapped for other kinds of work.

From Ellen Beattie ebeattie@uniandes.edu.co 25 Sept 1997

First, let me say that I have been following this thread since it was merely "academic" (who has written what?), since I find it an interesting and important topic. So now I am delighted for the invitation to "stir the pot"; I find it refreshing to find some true discussion and not just solidarity in the newsgroup, as was recently also the case with "Diana, silence, etc."

My comment, however, is both felt and slightly academic. Reading through the why-is-it-this-way? postings I remember some comments made by Michael Lamb, et al, in a book recommended earlier. According to their cross-cultural analysis, the way a society treats the childcare issue will depend on at least four different value judgements on a large social scale:

  1. What the society believe about the nature of early childhood itself; are those THE formative years, years like any other, or less important years before the "age of reason?"
  2. What the nature of childcare should be: is it actually educational or is it just "care," that can be done by (virtually) anyone?
  3. Is childcare considered as an individual or a societal or shared responsibility (predictably, U.S. individualism tends to the former), and
  4. What is a woman's most important role in society; how is she and her activity valued in society; should there be equality between the sexes, and so forth.

Of course, no society has a single point of view on this, but social policy is shaped by a dominant one. So, the particularly bad conditions of childcare in the U.S. (illustrated by some postings on the thread), as compared with just about any western European country and many others as well, reflect not only women's place in society (equally bad, but probably not worse than those other countries), but several aspects of the dominant ideology, including, for example, Freudian psychology.

From J. H. Raichyk mraichyk@iac.net 26 Sept 1997

To the mothers of young children looking for ideas---(...this is a note sent to another young mother struggling with career and young children.)

A friend of mine who is a writer might have a possible solution for your dilemma.
She got a 'mother's helper' in the form of a teen from among the local home schoolers. Our local group has occasionally sponsored childcare workshops for our teens. (Classes like that might be a source, too.) Home schoolers, as a group, tend to be more child-friendly and they are more flexible in their schedules. Her young friend is there to care for her baby and her toddler and does a wonderful job so the children love her. She began coming in the beginning to get to know them and for them to know her. Now my friend even takes her 'helper' on outings (a chance for mentoring). She seems like her teenage sister and they have fun together. And, guaranteed, it's not expensive--she's not isolated from her babies and she seems happy, just like women in Liedloff's _Continuum Concept_. Your babies are very lucky. Don't give up and don't let the system get you down.