OPINION by Lucy SullivanNews Weekly
Childcare debate has become 'cold and inhuman'
, August 2, 2014
The terms of reference for the Productivity Commission’s investigation into funded childcare strike an icicle to the heart. It is to show that institutional childcare is of greater benefit to the economy and to children’s development than care at home by the mother.
Ever heard of happiness and security? Or are these concepts now quite foreign to government and the modern world?
As every parent has observed, infants are greatly distressed if handed into the care of strangers, and make it known by their only means of protest — hysterical or miserable crying.
Individual observation is confirmed in every book on caring for your baby, and in countless psychological studies.
This, the instinct of attachment, was first described in academia shortly after World War II, when separation trauma had been suffered on a population-wide scale for probably the first time in human history.
Any childcare in infancy, and long day-care in the early pre-school years before the child can understand and communicate verbally, outrage this fundamental human instinct.
Childcare does not replace the mother with a stable substitute for love and trust. Staff change frequently and the new loved person may suddenly disappear.
Any child who has had the good fortune of a stable child-carer will suffer bereavement — equivalent to the death of a mother — when school age is reached and contact is lost forever.
The childcare debate has become cold and inhuman, turning only on long-term effects, good or bad.
But what about now? Do we ignore an adult’s bereavement if we can show it will have no measurable adverse effect 10 or 20 years later?
Suffering is said to endow wisdom, but who chooses to suffer merely for that end, and how would we feel towards someone whose response to our suffering was that withholding aid and sympathy will benefit our cognitive or character development?
How many of us would choose to work in intolerable conditions purely to benefit the economy?
Even if the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Child Care and Early Childhood Learning finds what it is directed to — which is unlikely in view of reliable past research — have we really fallen so low that we will inflict spiritual pain, fear and misery on the most helpless among us if it can be shown to enhance the economy in the future?
Some more than others, but most children cry when left in childcare until they have become “hopeless”, as described in the research of the 1960s which played a major role in achieving admission of parents to children in hospital.
They have learned helplessness — that the expression of their feelings is of no account to the adults around them.
This is the major deception of the childcare debate: ostensibly, it is about choice for women; whereas it should be about compassion for infants.
Lucy Sullivan, PhD, is an Australian social scientist. Her book, False Promises: Sixties Philosophy Against the Church: A Social Memoir Enhanced by Statistics, 1903-1993 (Windsor, NSW: Windrush Press, 2012), is available from News Weekly Books.