Friday, July 01, 2005

Making Informed Decisions About Who Will Raise Your Children

Over a year ago I was asked to read and evaluate a book as part of my role as a book evaluator for an international non-profit organization. I read books to see if they are compatible with the mission and purpose of the organization and to state my opinion as to whether the book should appear in the organization’s lending library. The intention is to have only books which are compatible which share opinions of the organization. Usually three people evaluate each book; the majority consensus determines the outcome.

The book I was asked to read is “Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn’t Telling Us” by Brian C. Robertson PhD. I was so moved by this book that I marked up the borders with pencil, noting startling passages and important studies. I was supposed to return the book when I was finished, but I couldn’t part with it. I ordered a new copy from Amazon and returned that copy to the organization, instead. While shopping for it online at Amazon, I saw other purchasers of "Day Care Deception" had also purchased "Liberation's Children: Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age" by Kay S. Hymowitz. I was moved to purchase it at that time.

“Day Care Deception” was stressful reading for me. It confirmed what I had suspected and what I felt in my heart and in my gut that babies and children need their mother’s care and nurturing, and any other care provider is second-best. Additionally, certain day care types (group day care settings) are the worst. It is not just that the care is second-best at that moment in time; it is that being in group day care has been linked to changes in personality, learning, and emotions. The author shows how the children are changed forever—yes--forever, simply by the care they receive as babies and children being given by non-mothers. I had to decompress after reading that book, so I did not read “Liberation’s Children” at that time. So, “Liberation’s Children” sat on my shelf, untouched, until now.

Last night I began reading “Liberation’s Children”. Each chapter is a long essay on a particular topic. I found the first chapter, about mothers in the workplace startling as I had just written about the topic on my blog that morning and the topic was really on my mind.

One thing that Hymowitz writes about is the studies that have shown that being raised by non-mothers has damaging effects on children. The issue is that whenever a study shows something negative, the media spins it in another direction, or focuses on one part of the study to criticize, to intentionally draw attention away from the disturbing parts. This same practice is mentioned in the preface of “The Hurried Child” by David Elkind and also in “Day Care Deception”.

I’d like to share with you, so many quotes from this first chapter, but I can’t. I think you should read the (entire) book yourself!

Here are a couple of quotes that appear at the end of the chapter (on page 18):

All this confirms what philosophers have known since the time of Plato, of course: how we rear our children reflects the kind of society we are. And here the having-it-all script should give us pause. Its veneration of work and professional achievement over all other human goods pays insufficient attention to the well-being of children and the society they will inherit.

Our young mothers- and fathers-to be face difficult choices, which they need to make with as much wisdom and understanding as possible. If the experts and the pundits would only let them.

Here are some statistics from the book with a citation of the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data as the source. I was surprised by these statistics as I have been led by media reports to think that the number of mothers in the workforce is higher. Note that if a mother works just one hour per week she is labeled as a working mother.

Mothers of children aged three and younger, 39% worked full-time.
Mothers of children aged six and younger, 43% worked full-time.

Source: “Who’s Minding the Kids” pamphlet published by the U.S. Census Bureau:

One parent neither employed nor in school, with children under age 5, 42%.
One parent working part-time, with children under age 5, 19.4%.

My issue with mothers working and not caring for children is most disturbing when the working is not necessary for basic survival, but by choice for their own personal fulfillment or so that a more luxurious lifestyle may be lived. This is most disturbing in the cases where the mothers have not informed themselves about the risks and problems with using non-maternal caregivers for their own children. I have always felt that all decisions should be informed decisions. There is plenty of information and studies that show that who raises children does affect not only their developing personality but their emotional health, intellectual and cognitive ability, and health and well-being. The fact that learning disabilities and mental health disorders have been linked with using non-maternal caregivers is very disturbing to me, especially when I learned that the teenage suicide rate is higher and that so many children are being medicated with anti-depressants or other drugs such as Ritalin. Shouldn’t parents who want to be parents, who plan to have children and even those who go through extensive infertility procedures to get pregnant, make their child’s care giving decisions only after being informed of the issues? I think so. However, I doubt many people make their decisions after informing themselves of the real issues. Shouldn’t the child’s well-being be placed first and foremost as a priority, and all decisions be made based on what is best for the child? It seems to me they should.

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