The spring 1998 issue of Human Life Review carries Maria McFadden's look at the tension between parents and experts regarding the day care issue.
McFadden describes “studies that link early full-time day care with psychological, social, and behavioral problems: children become less attached to their parents, more resistant to authority, more aggressive with peers, and, in cases of low-quality care, become cognitively delayed. A 1995 national study by the University of Colorado found 40% of day care for infants and toddlers to be of harmful quality (only 8% was considered ‘quality').”
Most working parents, aware of the potential for problems in an institutional approach, “want to keep care-giving at home with family members, nannies, or au-pairs. Nor do most parents see child-care as an area for governmental intervention. The Clinton (read Hillary?) ... plan is to give tax breaks for day care, and ‘improve it,'while doing nothing — in fact, even making it harder — for parents who want to stay home, work part-time, or have private child-care arrangements.”
Why this governmental prejudice in favor of institutional care? “There is ... a social agenda, which is very much in accord with both the Clintons' politics and policies and radical feminism: put pressure on Americans to accept the social rearing of children. You know, It Takes A Village.”
As it has been since Betty Friedan, “Motherhood is the road block in the progress of radical feminism, which seeks to free women from their biology.... Thus, the raising of children must be a social endeavor.”
In the real world of working mothers, McFadden points out, “Women who work full-time often feel guilty or constantly worried about the quality of their child care; women who mother full-time often feel underappreciated and denigrated by others, and maybe even in conflict with their husbands. Mothers who do feel that they ought to be the primary caretaker of their children are often made to feel backward or unambitious by their peers and the culture of the elite.”
McFadden credits George Gilder's 1973 book, Sexual Suicide, with predicting most of the ramifying results of the sexual revolution: “Gilder also wrote of the danger of the feminist demand for universal day care — it would benefit the middle and upper class women seeking ‘meaningful ’careers, but would force poor women, who might want to stay home, into the work force.... Gilder predicted that if the mother- child bond was, in extraordinary circumstances, broken, then the identity of the group would also break down. Sexual Suicide was published in 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade. With the legalization of abortion, the mother-child bond was broken in a profound way. Pregnancy no longer meant you were tied to another, like it or not; it was something you could ‘reverse.'”
If the feminists are wrong, and biology is destiny, writes McFadden, then “life in the womb is an allegory of the life outside and, really, a preview. In pregnancy, the woman and her child share an intimate relationship that is unique, irreplaceable, and constant. Once born, the relationship is of necessity physically less close and constant, but ideally birth is the beginning of a new stage of powerful love and intimate connection between mother and child.”
But many experts make their living “correcting” parental decisions, for “in a society with more and more paid ‘experts ’on child care, mothers' and parents' instincts are not trusted. Parents are told that their children are better off in daycare centers or early school programs than at home, because they will be ‘socialized early, ’even though most people instinctively feel that whole days spent away from home can be a real strain on little children, and that secure nurturing fosters individuality. We are told that it is ‘quality time, ’not quantity time, that matters. But how many marriages break up because the husband and wife were too often physically separated?”
But then, other experts attack traditional marriage too: “Pretty soon we will question whether people even need significant others — why not a series of ‘mutually enhancing ’relationships (it takes a village...)?”
Maria McFadden closes with another quotation from George Gilder: “When [a mother] raises a child she imparts in privacy her own individual values. She can create children who transcend consensus and prefigure the future: children of private singularities rather than ‘child development policy.'“
Ellen Wilson Fielding writes from Davidsonville, Maryland.
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