- “Affordable child care” is a buzzword that modern parents cite when explaining why they can’t have children.
- Quebec, Canada’s experiment in universal government child care, left children more anxious, aggressive, hyperactive, and prone to hostile, inconsistent parenting and lower-quality parent-child relationships.
- The fertility crisis demands a change of course, as the role of a mother is regarded as low and fungible.
Lack of “affordable child care” has become another in a growing list of buzzwords modern parents cite when enumerating why they can’t have children. The claim rests on a couple of assumptions baked into the euphemisms “affordable” and “child care.” We’ll start with “child care,” which is the crux of the issue.
“Child care” is the concept that remains when “raising one’s children” is left to someone other than the children’s parents. Sanitized and stripped of profundity, the term soothes the anxious parent’s (usually the mother’s) guilt for outsourcing her active love for her young children.
“Affordable” doesn’t simply mean low or no cost. It means being subject to the whims of bureaucracy.
While caring for children is certainly mundane in moments, to regard the activity as simply the supervision of food, waste, and basic safety requires that we implicitly diminish the relationship between a mother and her children. The relationship includes supervision, cooking, and cleaning but also involves a physical and emotional symbiosis. Mother and child coregulate, mentally and emotionally, for those early years, according to psychologist and author Erica Komisar. This coregulation, the stability that a mother’s presence renders, lays a foundation for psychological wellness.
Savvy child-care facilities have begun calling themselves “schools” instead of nurseries and their workers “teachers” instead of nannies, as if a 6-month-old child needs instruction instead of his mother. In doing so, the concept and practice of “child care” fools us into thinking that a mother’s constancy, her presence, and her affections can be not only seamlessly displaced but traded up for something more enlightening.
We are to believe that a mother’s particular, day-in, day-out love, in the form of caregiving, is not just secondary in importance but basically irrelevant, compared to what the facility renders in flowery, euphemistic language: “education” and “socialization.”
The supporting euphemism, “affordable,” does a lot of work of its own.
First of all, “affordable” means radically different things to different people. It has no universal application unless it means “no cost.” So what affordable really means in this context is “universally subsidized by the federal government,” and it is assumed that the subsidy is what would make high-quality child care accessible to everyone. Interlocutors must simply pretend they do not see the outcomes of the United States Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Transportation in order to believe the fantasy.
Quebec, Canada’s experiment in universal government child care, left children significantly more anxious, aggressive, hyperactive, and more prone to hostile, inconsistent parenting and lower-quality parent-child relationships compared to children who had not attended. As children grew older, these negative outcomes persisted and, in some cases, increased — particularly for boys.
“Affordable” doesn’t simply mean low or no cost. It means being subject to the whims of bureaucracy, which, in addition to devitalizing the relationship between caregiver and child, has a habit of introducing high-cost regulations without adding to the experience of the child, such as occupational licensing, zoning restrictions, and other random ordinances.
Taken together, “affordable child care” displaces the role of the parent entirely in favor of a literal nanny state. I’ll leave the policy wonking to policy wonks. The kind of Soviet attitude that diminishes the human spirit, love, and true flourishing in favor of money is more than a matter of policy; it is a cultural expression of value, or rather a cultural expression of nihilism.
If we continue to regard the role of a mother as so low as to be utterly fungible, why would women even make that choice? Why lower themselves? The fertility crisis demands a change of course.
It’s not that other things in life aren’t important. Money is important. Saving for retirement is important. One’s career can sometimes be important, especially because it enables a person to afford higher goods. But that we must pretend that raising and building a foundation of trust with our own children is not important by comparison should raise a red flag. This has become a cultural norm, encapsulated in Millennial parents’ call for the government to subsidize the child-care industry, and it is a lie.
Clear Thoughts (op-ed)
The notion of “affordable child care” has become a popular excuse for modern parents who feel they can’t have children. However, this concept is riddled with misconceptions and potential dangers to the parent-child relationship.
Firstly, the term “child care” implies that raising children is a responsibility that can be delegated to someone other than the parents. This detachment can lead to a diminished bond between a mother and her children, as well as a lack of emotional and mental coregulation, which is essential for psychological well-being.
Furthermore, “affordable” often translates to government-subsidized, which subjects child care to the whims of bureaucracy. Quebec’s experiment with universal government child care resulted in children experiencing increased anxiety, aggression, hyperactivity, and lower-quality parent-child relationships.
The call for “affordable child care” ultimately diminishes the role of a parent, leading to a cultural devaluation of motherhood. If we continue down this path, the fertility crisis will only worsen. It’s time to recognize the critical importance of the parent-child bond and prioritize it over the superficial appeal of “affordable child care.”
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