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Is Putting a Baby in Full-Time Daycare Child Abuse?

Posted Oct 07 2008 6:21pm

I’ve been having a bit of a battle about my Attachment Parenting post.

To those coming into the debate fresh, let me clarify my position. I believe wholeheartedly in the following:

  1. staying home with my children absolutely through the first year and beyond if possible (except for short outings).
  2. co-sleeping.
  3. breastfeeding - exclusively for six months, and at least for one year.
  4. wearing my baby as much as possible.
  5. feeding healthy foods 90 percent of the time (I’m never opposed to birthday cake) - and always organic when possible.
  6. homeschooling - although I do have a daughter in our local public high school.

I believe lots of other crunchy, yet conservative things too. But these six are the most relevant to the topic at hand.

My feelings on attachment parenting are just that, my feelings. I’ve offended some people and I’m sorry for that. I certainly never intend to be hurtful, just truthful. Do I believe with my whole heart that putting a baby who is under a year old in daycare is wrong? Yes. Absolutely. Just as I believe with my whole heart that aborting a baby is wrong. Absolutely wrong. I will believe these passionately until my dying day. But, I think this is where some who have “called me on the carpet,” as it were, misunderstand, I don’t believe in mandating personal behavior and I do believe that every rule has its exceptions. There are always exceptions and its not for me or anyone else to decide what is right for a family. Whether its abortion, daycare or how you spend your money - it’s entirely up to you.

I believe that leaving an infant in full time daycare is potentially very detrimental to that infant. Is it abuse? The dictionary definition of abuse is “bad or improper treatment; maltreatment.” Is it, as one of my detractors put it, “equivalent to burning a child with cigarettes”? No. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive in its nature. That doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. Certainly, there must be degrees of abuse. Slapping a child in the face is wrong, but is it as wrong as beating a child? I’m inclined to believe there are indeed degrees.

I also think it’s tragic that in this society we are so extreme. It used to be that a mother “had” to stay home. Now, if she doesn’t go out an “work,” she’s what? A lazy slacker? Can I be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom? I’ve written about it before…I’m still not sure.

Rather than continue making irate comments on the blog, I thought I’d post my nemesis latest comment here - and you can either join in on the bashing of me - your humble host, or speak your own mind.

For reference, here is the article by Mem Fox where she says putting a child under a year old in child care is a kind of child abuse. For the record, I agreed with her - hence the ensuing venom!

Here is the second comment from this commenter (my response follows):

No, really, i am mad at what you are saying. And I am mad at you for being so judgemental and elitist to boot. As far as my anger at having to work- forget that. What matters is that everywhere there are moms who work because they want to preserve a life for their kids. CHOOSING to work? We all choose to work, no matter how poor/wealthy we are. I’ve never had a gun held to my head to go to the office, and neither have you. As far as the disruption of my husband’s income, it could be he left me, it could be his job ended, it could be he went back to school. Either way, the bottom line is, that choosing to stay home (assuming the home is YOUR home, and not another person who works to maintain their home) most of the time requires a partner who is 100% committed to staying out of daycare and working to make that happen. Since partners lose jobs, partners get sick and die, and partners change their minds and leave, we as mothers need to sympathise with those in tough situations.That’s why it blew my mind to read that post. TO be put in the same category as those who burn their baby’s legs with cigarettes (and to me, THAT is real child abuse)
when you beg understanding for your psostion 11 years ago… well jeez. I thought if anyone would be compassionate towards struggling mothers, it’d be you. But no, you’ve joined the throngs of elitest white women (who tend to be the only demographic to afford a rural, organic lifestyle) that hold attachment parenting as the Ultimate Mothering Call, and those of us who can;t parent full time get the smary “Well, we work as a team, and we are BOTH COMMITTED TO IT. ” That implies that somehow, our current position is our fault. Like WE famikled by not having wealthy parents that could buy us a farm, or partners that were wealthy or steadfast in parenting choices.
So knock of the simpering empathy and condescenscion- and take it for what it is. You live in a priveleged bubble, you’ve been able to rise above the rabble, and now you can sit in judgement over who is justified in working and who isn’t.
Thanks. Really, Thanks. it;s nice to know such loftiness exists, so that if I CAN stay home again, I never cast such an attitude as yours…

My responses:

A couple other things…first, I have included the quote to Mem Fox’s comments in the article. Check them out, they are very well taken points. The other point I wanted to make was that while I did have to live in my car for three months - I certainly didn’t choose it. Readers of my book will know that I would have preferred to stay home with my kids and care for them full time, but that circumstances made that impossible.

The bottom line is this: everyone has to do what they have to do, but I believe firmly in choosing our children first and always. And I believe that by abandoning them to full time daycare - especially when they are under a year old - is harmful to mothers and babies alike. No matter what the circumstances, and no matter how you try and justify it, it’s harmful to them. That is an undeniable fact. I am sorry if that’s a painful statement to some.

Further - just because now I’m angry about this - this is just the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’m so tired of hearing about what the mothers want. Who is speaking up for the babies? And - how can you disagree with the fact that a baby needs his mother for at least - the very least - the first year of his life? How have we gotten to a point in our society that, most basic fact, is now in dispute? And we’re going to dare justify it? Are there some mothers who need to work? Certainly, but am I not allowed the opinion that mothers should stay home with their babies? Or bring them to work? Just because it’s not sensitive to a working mother’s feelings? Again, I ask, how about your baby’s feelings?

How does the baby feel when you leave it all day, hopefully in the arms of another - but more likely in a crib, playpen, swing or stroller? How does the baby form a bond with you, if he never gets to know you? I’ve babysat for babies under a year old before and it’s painful to watch them searching for someone to love them, hold them, nurse them.

And - I didn’t say that leaving a baby with a willing partner or relative or good friend wasn’t a good idea - at least once in a while. Sometimes we need a helping hand - we just don’t need other people raising our babies for us - they don’t have the vested interest we have.

As Mem Fox said after her words inspired a few groups to even burn her books (because that always works): “It’s quite normal for us, when we’re threatened by an inconvenient truth, to react with rage, then denial, and then ridicule of the person who relayed the news. Eventually acceptance follows.
I have absolutely no choice but to take it all on the chin. I was the foolhardy messenger.
But please don’t shoot the messenger. For the sake of this country’s babies—their future and ours—could we all now focus on the message instead?”

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