JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 19, 1998 / 23 Nisan, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Child-care day can't replace mom

FROM THE SAME SORT of folks who brought you Take Our Daughters to Work Day, we now have the first annual Child Care Professionals' Day, to be celebrated on April 24. Sponsored by Cheerios and Scholastic, the goal of the day, according to Working Mother magazine, is to "help America understand and appreciate the role of caregivers in children's development, not to mention in parents' productivity at work." Child Care Professionals' Day will be followed by Worthy Wage Day, a "day of activism" designed to "help caregivers improve working conditions, boost pay and gain community respect." Daycare kids

Ah, activism! The sweet feeling that you are making the world a better place. The word carries fragrant memories of anti-war protests and civil rights marches of yesteryear. Anyone who is an "activist" is by definition on the side of the angels. (To offer just one example: It is often "abortion rights activists" but never "pro-life activists," rather "anti-abortion forces.") And what does today's "activism" amount to? Justifying the decision to place one's children in the care of others?

To consult the web site (www.childcarerr.org) of this initiative, however, is to discover the profound ambivalence that even the most avid child-care "activists" feel about the whole subject.

The site features several articles about the new research on infant brain development, with a strong focus on the need for warm, responsive early interactions between baby and, well, they never say "mother." The preferred word is "caregiver." The caregiver should be talkative, steady, stable and loving. The baby's later intellectual and emotional development will be shaped by early experiences and attachments.

These are conscientious parents who are worried about their children. The new brain research has only increased their anxiety because they can no longer tell themselves that a nice lady down the street with five or six babies cared for in her home, or a new immigrant who barely speaks English, is giving their baby everything he needs. Hence "activism." What the country needs, goes the reasoning, is better quality caregivers -- people who will duplicate in every important respect the qualities that mothers bring to child rearing.

Perhaps a rethinking of our priorities is a better idea. Perhaps the best thing a mother can do for her baby is not to find the best caregiver but to be the best caregiver.

I know, I know. Not everyone can afford to stay at home, and not everyone is suited to it. Well, those who aren't suited to it shouldn't have children. And, let's face it, Child Care Professionals Day is not organized by or aimed at single moms who must work in shoe factories or doughnut shops to make ends meet. It is directed at women on the corporate track.

It is worth recalling that there are 7 million at-home mothers who choose to forego extra income in order to provide, in person, exactly the sort of care to their children that working mothers are at pains to purchase. Yet, there is no Moms at Home Day, sponsored by big corporations, aimed at increasing awareness of their valuable contribution to society.

The goal of child-care activists seems to be to improve the quality of child care in every way possible except one: to encourage more women to perform this vital role themselves.

Full disclosure: I use child care and have been lucky in finding nannies who are intelligent, patient, fun and firm. But I have organized my life so that I can work from home, and only about 10 hours per week at that. I feel very lucky to have intellectually rewarding work while also being able to be an almost full-time mother to three little boys. But I make choices every day that put my kids before my career. There is pain involved in this. I watch contemporaries speed ahead of me on the career path, and occasionally, my ego aches. But these children are and must be my first priority. Women can have it all, as the saying goes, but not all at once.

Yes, you can pay people to provide child care in hopes that they are as loving, intelligent and responsive as you are. And you can hope that they will instill the sort of values, manners and morals that you would. But you may be kidding yourself.


4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.