• A major report shows increased risk of childhood respiratory illness, obesity, aggression and hyperactivity for children who attend childcare.
• Emily Writes discusses the realities for parents putting a child into care.
Another day, another scare-mongering study on the latest science that shows that parents are letting down their children. One more accusation that can be thrown at mothers (let's face it - it's mothers who cop this) about their so-called choices.
One more lob at an "industry" when really it's the teachers being paid so little to do such a special job who are going to get it.
Another day, another ridiculous assumption that all parents have the same choices. It's always a free and easy choice to put your child into any kind of care - and if we really thought about it, we wouldn't do it for under-threes. And we would do it for over-threes. Or is it the reverse? And don't do it too much! And at a good centre! One with a sandpit? The study didn't say...
There are myriad reasons why some children need to be in care - one of those is that many parents don't have a choice or they have very few choices.
They have to work in order to keep a roof over their heads and dinner on the table. I know any comment along these lines will be drowned out by the "In my day-ers" but the fact is - it's not your day anymore.
And if you don't like the fact that many parents have to put their children into care in order to get by, do something about it. Support families. Support government policy that supports families. Be an employer that offers flexibility to parents and pays enough that a family can support themselves so their children don't have to go into care. Support businesses that make their workplaces family friendly. Stop yelling "In my day" at parents who are struggling.
When we make this issue about choice - instead of about support for families and quality early childhood education - we push the blame onto already overburdened parents who are trying to do their very best with what they have.
We are glossing over the fact that early childhood education can be wonderful for many children of many ages. We are hurting teachers, many of whom work in this industry because they love children and they want to change lives.
When we make this issue about choice - and suggest that early childhood education is simply a bad choice - we add nothing to a debate that is already harming guilt-ridden parents.
As the mother of two boys who has worked full time and part time, from home and from an office, whose husband has been a stay-at-home dad, who has been at play centre and crèche and kindy, who meets dozens of parents every other day through voluntary work with parenting charities, I can only say this: Parents are working their asses off to fit into a system that isn't set up for families.
I have privilege that others don't in that my job and voluntary work is flexible and so is my husband's. I am lucky that my part time employer supports me and my family by offering flexibility.
I was lucky when my first son was born that my husband wanted to share care and be a full time stay-at-home parent and my job paid enough that I could afford that. Had that not been the case our child would have been in care from four months old.
Still, we chose to put him into a crèche at two years old for two days a week. Why? He had spent much of his first two years in isolation due to a health condition. He was finally at a point where he could be around other children in a safe and secure environment. And my husband needed to keep working to keep his skills up. We looked at many places, tried one and it didn't quite fit, then we found a second home for him.
A little tiny crèche where the teachers are incredible and trained and, most importantly, they love our son. He has absolutely thrived there. I credit so much of his self-confidence to that little crèche.
The teachers didn't just help him grow, they helped us grow as parents too. We were anxious and nervous after so much of his early life being spent in hospital. They taught us to let go of certain worries. They were always there with friendly advice and support for us and helped us navigate the ups and downs of that precious age.
This has been a privilege - many parents can't pick and choose. They can't choose a crèche because they need all day care. They can't choose a centre that is far away as they may have transport issues. They may have to choose the cheapest option. The one with the longest hours. The one without a wait list so their child can start tomorrow because they just got a new job.
A family running a small business doesn't get to park their business until their child is three - they need care now. A single parent doesn't get to negotiate over who will be the at-home parent and when.
This is why all early childhood education needs to be quality education. This is why we have to have a range of options that suit parents.
We also need to acknowledge our privilege and luck around the choices we make and stop putting the boot into parents who don't have those same choices.
Playcentre is fantastic. A wonderful support for parents - but completely out of reach for most parents who work outside the home. Nannies aren't often an option due to cost. Crèches and co-ops are wonderful little communities - but many parents just don't have the time when they're already so stretched. Kindys are fantastic - but it took us years to get into our local one, many serve enormous communities and the demand is too great, others lack resources so they don't often seem like a good choice for many parents.
Alongside this is the fact that full time day care from an early age is a reality for many (possibly most) parents and many families will tell you it really works. Their voices need to be heard too
There needs to be acknowledgement of this within this discussion. And we have to start allowing for complexity instead of blanket statements that tell parents they're harming their children.
We need less sound bites and more discussion. Yes, "10,000 hours in care" is a great little soundbite, I understand the need to get attention for your cause. What matters though is if this discussion shifts from attacks on parents to something actually useful - tangible changes to the way we support parents and the full support of fully-qualified teachers providing quality early childhood education to our children.
Because I can tell you, a parent will cop all sorts of abuse on social media and in the comments section of articles about the latest study if they think in the long-run there will be benefit to our children. Let's just make sure that actually happens aye?
Debate on this article is now closed.