News that a childcare centre in Botany, Auckland, will become the first in New Zealand to offer extended hours and stay open til 8pm was far more divisive than it needed to be.
On one hand, working parents breathing a sigh of relief, hoping more daycares are able to follow suit and this soon becomes the new normal. It is such great news. It caters for shift work, for early starts, for late finishes, for long commutes ... in summary, it suits regular life.
On the other hand, the Karens of the internet, fond of judging people for not being able to live the only life they deem acceptable, taking it as yet another sign of the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
Here's an objective, factual statement: Times have changed - and it's about time institutions start catching up to it. A family with two working parents is a common family these days. Whether that is a good or a bad thing doesn't change the facts. Gone are the days of the typical family including a mum always at home.
In addition to that, in New Zealand, a country of immigrants, it is also not uncommon for a couple to settle here without any of their extended family. The people you used to rely on to help look after your children, back in the day, are often a flight or two away and in opposite timezones.
Frankly, if you live in Auckland, work full-time and have no extended family around, I honestly do not know how you do it and this increase in daycare hours must sound like an absolute godsend to you.
When the news of the Botany daycare centre hit Facebook this morning, some of the comments were stomach-churning and absolutely reeked of middle-class privilege.
"Don't have kids then", "cut your hours"... the unsolicited life advice just poured in. You're guilty of trying to provide for your children because, apparently, you're trying to provide too much?
One universal truth about parenting is that, no matter what you do, you will get judged for it. If you stay at home and your child doesn't go to daycare, you will at some point in your life hear a comment about how you're not helping your child develop important social skills. If you go back to work and put your child in daycare, you're basically abandoning them and don't deserve to have them.
Parents can't win. We know that. The good news is we're not trying to win anyway. We're just all, in whatever way, with whatever we've got, trying to do the best by our children.
People return to work after kids for a number of reasons. Of course, financial pressure is a big one but, sometimes, it might not even be the only one. Maybe a parent wants to go back to work because they really love their job and don't feel like staying home all day. The one thing those reasons have in common is this: they're none of anyone else's business.
The reality is most working parents wish they could spent more time with their children. They don't want to be stuck in an air-conditioned office with no natural light until five o'clock every day, to then battle rush hour traffic to get home and have to deal with dinner and laundry and everything else before they're allowed to sit down. But who's going to pay the bills?
For as long as nine-to-five remains the norm in workplaces, childcare centres will have to find ways to cater to this.
A fourteen-hour-a-day childcare centre doesn't necessarily mean a child will spend 14 hours in there (so calm yourself down). It means that it will cater to a broader timeframe of work and even help some parents who have longer commutes or different shifts at work. Your nine-to-five is someone else's 11-to-seven and another person's seven-to-three. That doesn't mean a child will be in there from sunrise to after sunset but it does mean more children will be able to attend, at different hours.
If you grew up with a stay-at-home parent or if you were, yourself, a stay-at-home parent, that is genuinely great for you. However, I ask you to please keep in mind that your life comes with a certain degree of privilege. Even if you say your family made "sacrifices" so that you could stay at home with your kids, understand that, for some families, those same "sacrifices" are simply not possible. You cannot judge every family by yours.
I grew up with two working parents who loved me beyond all measure. They didn't need to be around me constantly for me to feel loved and cared for. Throughout my years, my parents held whatever jobs they needed to in order to provide my sister and I with a good life. They were gone in the morning and back in the evening or they were around in the morning but not back until well past my bedtime. They did what they had to do to make sure we never went without anything. I will not stand for anyone who insults people like that. From my parents, I learnt the value of hard work and I learnt that love is not the thing you're trying to reduce it to.
When you look at a working parent and judge them for having to leave their child at a daycare centre, know that they're probably already feeling guilty enough as it is, that they too wish they could have more time with a child.
When you callously say "then you shouldn't have had children then", please understand your words mean you are suggesting that that little life there, with that infectuous giggle that they record on their phone and then play endlessly throughout their workday - the most precious thing that could ever happen in that parent's life - was not a good idea. Is going to work really such an awful thing to do that you think entitles you to be so cruel to them about it?
What are you trying to say about daycares in New Zealand anyway?
In three years, my child has been to two different daycares. In both of them, she got to spend time with some of the most caring adults I've ever seen in my life. It honestly makes me a bit emotional, to this day, to think of the way these people cared for my girl, through every milestone, through every speed bump in her growth.
Attacking parents for needing to put their child in daycare is also attacking the incredible people who dedicate their lives to this profession - to looking after other people's children and nurture them in the hours when the parents cannot be around.
It's, frankly, insulting to a whole group of professionals, which includes some of the most loving, nurturing people I've ever encountered.
As I sit here writing this, my daughter is in daycare, being cared for and well looked after by people who love what they do, who love being around children. They're doing their work while I do mine. At the centre of that, what actually matters: my daughter is being loved and looked after, by all of us, at any given point. I will not stand for anyone who dares to disrespect or talk down the value of their job and their contribution to society.