There are a bunch of things I wish people would stop saying about parents. Here’s just one: the persistent and pernicious idea that parents somehow don’t raise their children if those children are in daycare.
I’ve seen hundreds of statements like this over the years; often from people who are anti-daycare, but not always. The most recent example came was in a blog about a study which found that children who attended centre-based child care were more likely to be overweight than children cared for in a home (by either a parent or a child care provider, but not a relative, apparently). Dr. Arya Sharma, a noted and well-respected obesity specialist, blogged about the study, and included the following phrase (italics mine) “when parents have more important issues to deal [with] than being home to raise their kids, their offspring may well be at increased risk of obesity.”
I doubt Dr. Sharma meant to bash working parents (maybe he’s one himself) so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for a poor choice of words, particularly so since in this study, the employed parents of kids in home-based daycare, whose offspring did not have an increased risk of being overweight, would have had the exact same “more important issues to deal with” as parents of kids in centre-based care. But my point here is not to hammer one careless blog post. (I once made an error that turned one of my statements into the exact opposite of what I meant to say.)
I have seen a constant stream of these “working parents don’t raise their children” statements over the years. In February 2011 Human Resources Minister Diane Finley criticized the Liberals’ support for a National Child Care program by saying, “It’s the Liberals who wanted to ensure that parents are forced to have other people raise their children…” (Italics mine, again). It comes up time and again, a top of mind phrase people pull out of the memory bank when they want to say something negative about daycare.
Where did this idea come from that children are only “raised” between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm on weekdays?
Let’s think for just a minute about some of the things that must be true if we accept the premise that working parents don’t raise their children.
It means that fathers, the vast majority of whom have always worked outside the home, don’t raise their kids. Well, my Dad sure enough help to raise me, and so did the fathers of the other kids I knew (the non-involvement of fathers of the 1950 and 60s has been greatly mythologized). Ditto for most of the contemporary fathers I know.
It means that parents don’t raise kids once they are in school, even presumably, if here is a stay home mother or father in the picture. Actually all sorts of people say this. I’ve seen incessant references to the all the “parenting” that schools have to do now that parents work and are “too busy” to raise their kids. Yeah well, one of the reason working parents are so busy is that, in addition to working at their paid jobs, they actually do a lot of stuff with their kids after school and daycare hours, on weekends – in the middle of the night sometimes. I’d have to double-check but I think that counts as child raising.
And I’m really not sure what we could conclude about about mothers who work non-standard hours, as many do. Do they avoid the not raising their kids tag because they happen to be home during the day?
Silly, isn’t it?
So here’s my open letter to all the people who are tempted to suggest, imply or declare that parents of children in daycare don’t raise their kids.
Like, um, don’t do it, eh? Cut it out! Knock it off! I mean it!
DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE!!
Good. I always like to start the day by solving one of the world’s problems. Ha!
As a parenting writer, my motto has always been “Parents don’t need my help to feel bad.” Saying that working parents don’t raise their kids is not only inaccurate, judgmental and, well, foolish, it makes them feel bad. Many of today’s parents already feel worse than is good for them.
It’s sometimes justifiable to make people feel bad if they are doing something wrong and they have the ability to do better. But most parents, employed or at-home, are doing nothing wrong by. They’re just trying to do the best they can under their circumstances.