A children’s writer and literacy advocate has caused an uproar in Australia for criticising daycare for babies. Mem Fox, of Adelaide, said last weekend that she trembled at the thought of it and wondered “why some people have children at all if they know that they can take only a few weeks off work.” She said: “I know you want a child and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? I don't think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that's incredibly controversial."

She said a Queensland childcare worker had told her earlier this year: "We're going to look back on this time from the late '90s onwards – with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours – and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen". "It's just awful. It's awful for the mothers as well. It's completely heartbreaking," Ms Fox said. "You actually have to say to yourself, 'If I have to work this hard and if I'm never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?' Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare."

Throwing petrol on the flames, Ms Fox added that parents were sometimes distracted by "the trappings" of having a baby, such as designer clothing and decorated nursery. "When they have the good house, the good car, the good job – we're talking about very advantaged people – they have everything and they think, 'Now we need a baby which we can dress up and make look perfect'," she said. "But do they realise that child needs love more than anything else in the world? It needs love, time and attention."

A Federal Government census of childcare services released this year found 757 children were attending long daycare services for at least 60 hours a week in 2006. A further 9426 children were in care for between 50 and 59 hours a week. An Australian study that measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in more than 100 children in childcare found children in centres with lower standards became more stressed throughout the day. ~ News.com.au, August 31

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet