Hello? Raising children does not take place only during daycare hours.

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!


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.


About uncommonjohn

I am one of Canada's top parenting writers. My areas of expertise and interest include debunking bad parenting advice (especially about sleep), self-regulation, fatherhood, child development, children's mental health, childbirth and breastfeeding.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Hello? Raising children does not take place only during daycare hours.

  1. Andrea says:

    Yes! Thank you! I HATE those comments. I do find they only seem to apply in the preschool years — the people that make those comments seem fine with sending their own children to school all day. And of course, the comments are usually directed at moms. We’ve done a bit of everything–work outside the home parent, stay at home parent, work from home parent, away on business parent, student parent, daycare, nanny…The whole time, we’ve been raising our own kids, even when we have help.

  2. Juliette says:

    Agreed. That statement really bothers me. I am at home “raising” my son. But our daughter was in daycare from 12 months until she was 4. Did she have other influences in her life that taught her thing I would have (for better or for worse)? Yes. But hey, as parents, we picked the daycare we sent her to – one that was aligned in most ways with our philosophies. That is a choice that ensures that the “raising” we did at home was mirrored at the daycare as much as possible.

    Comments that suggest that children in daycare are raised by someone other than their parents are stuck in the 1950s, in my opinions – in that very short period of time where this idea that mothers should always be at home, selflessly devoted to their children. Before that, many children were with nannies, siblings, grandparents, etc during the day, depending on situation. Children have always had other caretakers in their lives other than parents.

    There are lots of right ways to be a parent. To suggest that only one family configuration is “right” is insulting and narrow-minded. Scientists and politicians should know better.

  3. Herb Wiseman says:

    I would argue that parents have little to do with how their children turn out so go ahead and work. For those interested in the topic read The Nurture Assumption by Harris. She provides good analysis about why children turn out the way they do and it has virtually nothing to do with the parents.

    • uncommonjohn says:

      You’re bringing up a different argument Herb. However, to follow your use of Harris’ argument to its logical conclusion: if parents have virtually nothing to do with how kids turn out, then the quality of substitute care must have little to do with it either so long as it is not abusive nor totally neglectful. Which shoots down all the rhetoric about the need for high quality child care. Or does quality only apply to child care and schooling (and as Harris would argue, neighbourhoods) but not parenting?

      By the way, this is the first time I’ve heard anybody mention the Nurture Assumption in over ten years. As far as I can tell the book has been largely forgotten. It did not revolutionize thinking about parenting the way some predicted it would.

  4. Jackie Crawford says:

    My belief as a parent is that it’s our responsibility to try to teach our children to be good people and instill good values, morals, the knowledge to know the difference between right and wrong and so much more. They will learn from others in their lives, without a doubt, but I feel that it’s us, the parents, that our children look to first for cues. I just read a great book I’d like to share with other parents called “Teaching Kids to Be Good People” by Annie Fox, M.Ed. You can check her and the book out on the website http://www.anniefox.com/. It’s a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to anyone. Thanks again for the post!

  5. Nicky says:

    Although I agree we shouldn’t judge,I feel that it’s a pity that the subject itself (daycare vs. being at home) wasn’t addressed. Everything I’ve ever read and experienced indicates that it really DOES make a difference how much time a young child spends at home. I did everything I could to avoid daycare for my 3 children,and even though they are now in Kindergarten and school,I only work part time from home so that I am there for them in the afternoons. Yes,we have to watch our pennies,but some things are worth more than money. You do miss out on a lot if you don’t see your pre-schooller from 8am till 5pm. Even part-time daycare would be better than full time.. The question is why wasn’t this mentioned?. It’s an economic fact that many mothers can’t afford to stay home with their children,and they should not be judged,they are doing the best they can. But how about some recognition of the fact that it does make a difference if you stay home in the early years,in terms of attachment and trust? If women continue to be sold on the idea that it’s okay to be separated from their babies and children,we will gradually lose sight of what’s important. The fact that many mothers do feel guilty about working and putting their children in daycare surely indicates that it goes against our natural instincts,regardless of whether they can or can’t stay at home? We can support both working and stay-at-home mums,without judging,but please let’s not pretend it doesn’t matter.

    • Herb Wiseman says:

      This post is really about the parent’s needs not how the child is actually affected. Like many things there has to be a balance and the family is just not that important to how a child turns out. As a senior who raised three children, I became increasingly aware of how little I had to do with how my children turned out. Their genetics and “community” were far more important. My role was basically ensuring that they had good genetics insofar that was within my control and that they grew up in a decent community. Unfortunately, too many children have parents who are unable or unwilling to provide them with a good community and social policy limits the options of parents. So we place people in ghettos.

      As a professional family counsellor with 45 years of experience now, I am aware of research that also supports the above statements about the role of genetics and the social group and culture to which the child belongs. The role of the parent is to shape these factors as much as possible. The debate about home vs. daycare narrows the discussion too much and misses the essentials.

  6. Nicky says:

    P.S. forgive the spelling mistake,just noticed I wrote ‘pre-schooller instead of pre-schooler’ – blame my computer!

  7. Mommabigfish says:

    Babies sleep a lot. When a parent picks a baby up from daycare after work, how much time is actually being spent “raising” when the baby goes to sleep at most a few hours later? I understand that for financial reasons many people do not have options. If “raising” means ultimately responsible for ones well being, then yes, you are “raising” your child. If ” raising” means teaching, bonding, consoling, mentoring, etc., then if your child is under the care if someone else for the majority of waking hours, others are raising your child. Ultimately, human beings will justify their actions to limit negative feelings (guilt).

  8. Herb Wiseman says:

    Interesting question. What does “raising” mean? I do not agree with your second definition. Raising to me means making sure that I arrange for my child to mentored, emotionally connected appropriately, consoled when hurt and taught skills and knowledge. Hopefully those decisions will place the child in the community where they will acquire the values and sense of security that I want for him or her. Di I have to do it? No. Does someone? yes. Is it parents? Not usually. Your second definition would do away with schools. children have always been raised predominantly by the culture and community in which the spend their waking hours. Parents have always had much less an impact than our culture would have them believe.

  9. annielfox says:

    It’s not helpful to kids or to parents who are doing their best to provide for their families, to turn this into a discussion of good vs. bad. Children benefit from spending time with caring, trusted adults who take very seriously their responsibility as educators and childcare providers. That is the truth whether those caring adults are parents or not. Likewise, the social and emotional development of kids is negatively impacted by time spent with adults who are ignorant or and careless about attending to the needs of kids. That’s true whether those adults are parents or not. Let’s just agree that children deserve to be listened to, understood, and treated with kindness, compassion, respect. Let’s also agree that children deserve to be in a safe environment that offers intellectual stimulation. That can and should be provided in the home and in every place where children play and learn.

    • crystal_B says:

      My 2-year old goes to bed between 7 and 8. Pretty frequently at bedtime I’m struck by the fact that if I worked a regular job, I’d be picking her up between 5 and 6, feeding her supper, and putting her to bed, and that would be it. I’m beyond thankful that I’ve been able to stay home with her and watch her grow. I’m not judging parents who work outside the home at all. In fact, on bad days, my go-to self-disparagement is that a daycare provider would be doing a better job. But it’s glaringly obvious that the experience of raising a child when you stay home with them and raising a child who is primarily in the care of someone else during the work week is different — not better or worse, just different in all kinds of ways.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s