Feminist Mothers: What is Daycare Doing to the Child

“Working parents want daycare. What children want… is their parents.”

~ Wendy Dreskin, author of The Daycare Decision: What’s Best For You and Your Children.

Now I turn to the second program demanded by feminists. So-called “universal daycare” has been promoted by feminists from the start as an essential government service that would enable all women, regardless of income, to free themselves from the natural consequences of their own biology – the responsibilities (to many of them, the burdens) of homemaking and childrearing. As men cannot bear children, feminists set themselves the target of equalizing the parental work of childrearing. But they cannot force men to stay home and share that load. So instead, they seek to force all taxpayers to share it via tax-funded daycare. Then, free of their own children at last, feminists would be free to sally forth and compete with men as equals in the capitalist jungle. So this is at bottom a program of unknown expense – estimates range from $5 to $10 billion per year – designed not to give children the best care, as we shall see, but to level the gender playing field that radicals are convinced is stacked against women.

So my immediate concern, once I understood the depth of the attack on traditional society this would mean, was then to ask what it would mean for the nation’s children? Right after the original of this book appeared I got busy researching, and published The War Against the Family.[1] What follows is a revised segment that addressed this very issue. I present it here as a critique, not of normal and reasonable use of good daycare, but of the feminist notion of long-term daycare as a tax-funded woman’s “right.” There was no need to update the alarming science, because nothing has changed – the story has only gotten worse. Readers will find all the relevant references, and more, in War. And it’s not as if radicals have given up, or that the ideological war against the family is over. Far from it. In the 2009 Pink Book of the Liberal Party of Canada’s Women’s Caucus, over which then leader Michael Ignatieff gushed enthusiastically, a national tax-funded daycare program was once again promoted. Now the current PM, Justin Trudeau is at it again. They never give up. Such a plan may be a dream come true for radical feminists, or for androgynists, and for socialists; but … is it the best thing for the nation’s children? Read on, and decide.

We are in the midst of a terrible impasse, whereby in a pursuit of economic survival that is very real for some (the truly needy), a matter of economic comfort for most (yuppie daycare mothers), and endemic in a consumer society’s pursuit of a flashier lifestyle, we are forcing children to pay a terrible price. This is going to haunt us as long as they live. For as the old Jewish saying goes: “If you aren’t there for a needy child when he’s young, you’ll be there when he’s old.” That quote came from an article by Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Elliot Barker, who spent many decades working with angry killer psychopaths. I spoke with him. From his window he watches their anguished parents bent with sadness as they arrive to comfort their criminal children, and says “I cannot help wondering where they were when it mattered most.” He says that the psychopaths he treats invariably have the same history: shortly after birth the child is separated from his mother and given into the care of a multitude of surrogate parents. From Barker, from criminologist Stanton Samenow, from legions of researchers, the evidence has cascaded off the presses in a crescendo of damnation. It is a finger of shame pointed at a society that is rapidly breaking the bonds of the natural family, that has succumbed, encouraged by the shrill goading of tax-funded radicals, to an increasing abandonment of its children.

What all honest researchers are re-discovering, however, is what the popular wisdom has always known: young children need an uninterrupted, intimate, continuous connection with their mothers, especially in the very early months and years of life. We all know that there are a lot of excellent daycare centers and dedicated childcare workers. What follows is not a critique of any particular facility or person. It is a critique of the notion of daycare as an adequate substitute for mom and dad, a report on some of the scientific findings concerning the effects of extended daycare on the behaviour and health of young children.

Breaking the Bonds: Women Oppressing Children.

Quite contrary to the radical feminist insistence that “parenting” is a gender-free matter (either parent, or even a surrogate, will do), or that “mothering” is an oppressive role constructed to trap women and recruit them as slaves for a patriarchal society, highly respected social scientists such as John Bowlby have been tirelessly reiterating the obvious: that “the attachment relationship that a young child forms with its mother is the foundation stone of personality.” We are discovering much too late that when this primal attachment is missing, or inadequate, children, especially young boys, develop into adults who lack any ability to form meaningful relationships with other people. In Attachment and Loss, and again in A Secure Base, Bowlby insists that “the young child’s hunger for his mother’s presence is as great as his hunger for food,” and that “her absence inevitably generates a powerful sense of loss and anger.” Woe betide us.

A veritable avalanche of “attachment” studies has shown that although fathers are crucially important to any child’s development, attachment bonding is overwhelmingly a matter of the quality and continuance of the relationship between the mother and her children in the early stages of life. Through a variety of current experiments based on the “Strange Situation” used by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 196Os, it is now devastatingly clear that when babies are placed in “other than mother” care during the first year of life – even very good quality care – “about 5O percent are insecurely attached to their mothers.” Ainsworth’s technique of asking mothers to leave their children in a room with a total stranger abruptly and without explanation to the child (the strange situation), to reappear some minutes later, were decisive. During the mother’s sudden absence, and on her reappearance, the children demonstrated clear differences in attachment, ranging from callous indifference and anger, to joy on re-uniting. Penn State’s Jay Belsky, who originally argued for the harmlessness of daycare, now says that daycare erodes a child’s sense of trust and order in the world, and Belsky, Barglow and others argue that when mothers leave children in daycare as infants, especially for more than 2O hours per week, children read this as parental rejection. Belsky argues that daycare weakens the father-child bond as well, because when full-time working mothers get home, they monopolize the child’s attention during evenings and weekends.

Belsky says he has since been “smeared” by feminists for turning against daycare, but that his newly-critical perspective is shared by many specialists who are fearful of incurring the wrath of daycare partisans. This truth, shared quietly by many Canadian specialists, is being hidden from Canadians through an academic and media blackout. Chillingly, Ainsworth has discovered that whereas only 3O% of children demonstrated poor attachment in the 196Os, by 199O fifty percent did so. She concluded that “It’s very hard to become a sensitively reponsive mother if you’re away from your child ten hours a day, it really is.” Recently, work by Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, and Alan Stroufe, researchers from three major but different university research centers, has clearly and consistently shown that the pattern of attachment developed in infancy and early childhood is profoundly influenced by the mother’s ready availability, her sensitivity to her child’s signals, and her responsiveness to the need for comfort and protection.

Jay Belsky now calls extensive daycare in the 2O+ hours range a “risk condition” for children – and therefore, for society as a whole. Why? Because – there is near professional unanimity on this point – poorly attached children are sociopaths in the making. They feel anger and aggression toward their parents and other children. Study after study shows that the ranks of the aggressive, of angry children, of drop-outs, of detention centers, of welfare and unemployment roles, of drug and drunk tanks, of the homeless hordes, and the jails, are increasingly occupied by those – who missed out. Mostly, who grew up, first without full-time mothers, then without a father model, or both. As young children they are less cooperative with adults, more aggressive in their play, fight more, cry more, hit more, cling more, are more rebellious, have far less tolerance for frustration, and are far more at risk for personality disorders in later life. Predictably, those in the lowest quality daycare had the highest number of such disorders. And such profiles are very common in low-income strata. But even children from affluent homes, left with one-to-one nannies, showed significant attachment insecurity. Psychiatrist Graeme Taylor, of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, concluded what all natural mothers already know by instinct, and can deny only by self-deception: that the infant-mother relationship is “an interactional system that organizes and regulates the infant’s behaviour and physiology from birth,” including such intimate and sensitive matters as heart-rate, enzyme levels of growth hormone, thermo-regulation, responsiveness of the immune system, and upwards to psychological States of mind. This regulation comes about through the mother’s direct and intimate attention and holding behaviour, and if it is lacking, can result in conditions of physical and personality inadequacy that endure for a lifetime. The point here, simply put, is that prolonged daycare serves to negatively restructure the mother-infant relationship, and thus may be dangerously restructuring society itself. A clear sense of this can be grasped from the turnover rates of childcare workers – sometimes 4O to 6O per cent per year. “Attachment” is impossible under such circumstances. Some Swedish researchers report that in Sweden the average Swedish child may have 50 to 1OO different “caregivers” by the age of ten (perhaps the word should be “caretakers”). Because of this, we can be sure that extensive daycare facilities will be matched by increases in the number of divorces, social violence, psychiatric beds, and jail cells. That’s why Dr. Burton White, of Harvard University’s Pre-School Project, once America’s leading authority on the first three years of life, declared daycare to be “a disaster” for children, saying that it is impossible in daycare centers to manufacture “large doses of custom-made love.” After more than thirty years of research on how children develop well, he said “I would not think of putting an infant or toddler of mine into any substitute care program on a full-time basis, especially a center-based program…I urge you not to delegate the primary child-rearing task to anyone else during your child’s first three years of life ”

Breaking Their Bodies

As if the production of generations of children who grow up lacking empathic capacities were not enough, daycare facilities, by their very nature, are also hosts for all sorts of illnesses and diseases, some of them extremely dangerous to children and their families. Dr. Harrison Spencer, Chief of Parasitic Diseases at the Atlanta Centre for Disease Control (CDC), describes a fascinating Minnesota experiment in which researchers created a video showing how a disease organism can start in a child’s diaper, and travel to other children and workers. They placed a tablespoon of tapioca pudding combined with a dye that becomes fluorescent under a black light, in just one child’s diaper. Eventually the diaper oozed. One child, then another touched it, “and pretty soon it spread all over the whole room.” They’ve got a video showing exactly how this happened. They took pictures at timed-intervals which showed “a gradual progression as the dye spread onto the daycare worker’s hands, the furniture, and so forth.” Dr. Harrison said that daycare children “are at risk anywhere from two to eighteen times as much for certain infectious diseases that run the gamut from diarrheal diseases to respiratory and flu-like illnesses,” and that “as many as 😯 per cent of children in daycare excrete cytomegalovirus (CMV) in their urine and saliva.” Other studies show 1OO per cent for daycare children (compared to 5O per cent for all children). Scandinavian children have higher rates than others, likely due to more widespread daycare there. CMV is a herpes-type viral infection that doesn’t seem to bother young children much, but can cause a mononucleosis type illness in older children and adults, and if contracted by a pregnant woman, can cause deafness, birth defects, mental retardation, and even death in her newborn.

Joanne Braithwaite, an infection expert with the city of Toronto Health Department said daycare centers are “high risk institutions, just like hospitals,” they act as “a community reservoir” for infection – a place where bacteria and viruses are always present, ready to infect others. Winnipeg disease expert Dr. Ron Gold said the 2OO,OOO plus Canadian children in daycare are twice as likely to get sick as those cared for at home (Canadian Press, February 2, 1988). And … there’s a horrible litany of “Daycare-Related Illnesses” (DCRI’s) as they are called: over 7O per cent of clinical cases of Hepatitis A can be traced to a daycare setting, as can so many other fecal-oral enteric (bowel) diseases, including viral gastroenteritis, salmonellosis, shigellosis, giardiasis (found in 3O-5O per cent of daycare inmates, with an estimated 6OO per cent increased risk in centers with children under two), and pinworms, many of which have their highest “attack rates” for children under one year of age. It’s the same story for respiratory diseases, the various forms of pneumonia, Influenza B, the various pathogenic “strep” bacteria, and the deadly meningococcus diseases. In most cases it is useless to “isolate” such sick children in a daycare setting, because they are often badly infected long before symptoms show up, and may well have already infected dozens of other children (and thus their families). Even worse, anxious mothers often resort to “masking” a child’s illness with drugs so the sickness or fever will be undetected until after Mom is at work. Studies show up to 12 times greater risk for such diseases in daycare children, and many of these bacterial and viral conditions can have sequelae like scarlet fever, nephritis (kidney inflammation), rheumatic fever (inflammation of heart), septicemia, meningitis, septic arthritis, and osteomyelitis.

Enough said. So alarmed are some authorities, that even the cautious US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that “large, licenced daycare centers…are major transmission centers for hepatitis, severe diarrhea, and other diseases.” Dr. Stanley Schuman, of the Medical University of South Carolina blames daycare for the outbreak of all sorts of illnesses, saying that the situation “is reminiscent of the pre-sanitation days of the seventeenth century.”

Daycare centers can also be magnets for certain types of workers: one study of sexual abuse in Michigan said 75 per cent of the victims were daycare children (it didn’t say whether the abuse occurred in the centers or not). But some does. U.S. Senator Hawkins told of a daycare center in Florida where “dozens of children were found to have gonnorhea of the mouth.” The University of New Hampshire reported that from 1983 to 1985 there were 1,639 confirmed cases of sexual abuse of children in U.S. licenced daycare centers; in some cases, the children were used for the production of child pornography.

The current fear is that many unnattached youngsters, utterly lacking in empathy, in a truly vicious social cycle are becoming the angry radicals of tomorrow. Disappointed with the real world, they understandably become dependent on illusory utopian goals for the reformation of society, trying to force society to give them what they missed, and punishing their parental generation at the same time. Radical feminists, I’m afraid, are rather cornered, and will not succeed in negating or reconstituting human biology or gender or reforming society to their liking through daycare, no matter how many children they sacrifice to it. A nation-wide Globe and Mail-CBC News Poll (November 5, 1991), revealed the deep feelings of the public on this issue: a huge majority of anxious Canadians (76%) said “children’s well-being is being sacrificed” because both parents have to work. The poll said “they have tremendous nostalgia for the way the family used to be run.” So radicals would be better to reform themselves. In writing on this point for Harvard Business Review, no-nonsense feminist Felice Schwartz said that some women are “career primary,” but that following this urge “requires that they remain single or at least childless or, if they do have children, that they be satisfied to have others raise them.” Pretty honest, even though she refrained from commenting on the satisfaction of the children. At any rate, we cannot prevent radicals from forcing their own children into heavy-duty daycare, but we ought to prevent them from restructuring society with our money in order to normalize this practice.

[1] William D. Gairdner, The War Against The Family (Toronto: BPS Books, 2008). The book is available directly from www.williamgairdner.com

Leave a Reply

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.