I met the new neighbor boy’s nanny last week, out in our culdesac. She asked if I was my kids’ nanny. Do we really now assume that a thirty-something watching four children play in front of their house is more likely to be their nanny than their mom?!
The heartbreak of the conversation didn’t end there. So far, her own 19 month-old daughter has been coming along to watch the four-year old neighbor boy. But the nanny is now thinking that she needs to get her daughter in daycare, at least part-time, so that she can “be socialized” and be used to not being around her all the time. I stood there and watched her baby playing happily in the yard with my 22 month old. I thought about how I am pretty much the center of my 22 month old’s universe–and that is totally, completely fine with me. What is wrong with a 19 month old (who is still nursing) enjoying being with Mommy all day?
I found myself explaining my decision not to put my kids in daycare (and why we homeschool). It appeared that my lifestyle was one she’d never encountered before.
How tragic that this woman whose career is childcare has bought the lie that she needs to hand her own child over to someone else to “socialize.” Such an attitude is unsurprising when we hear our president say that non-parental childcare is a “national economic priority.” This is essentially the Scandanavian ideal, where egalitarianism is promoted via government subsidized daycare. But as James Taranto points out, “total gender equality” actually hurts those lower on the totem pole (like my neighbor’s nanny):
But think about the low-status female worker–the day-care employee. In a more traditional society, she would work in her own home, caring for her own children. In our brave new world, a government committed to equality pushes her to take a job caring for other women’s children. Is she really better off now than she would be then? True, she gets a paycheck now–but that also means that the government takes a bite out of her earnings.
Ultimately, it just doesn’t make sense for a childcare provider–of all careers!–to work caring for someone else’s child and pay someone else to watch her baby. This nanny mom says that her daughter loves being with her, is so sweet, and loves being with the neighbor kid. Her only compulsion to break down the mother-daughter bond is a misguided idea that her baby can’t be socialized by her own mom.
Hogwash. The home is a perfect place for age-appropriate socialization. Plenty of research shows that first and only children have lifelong advantages from those early years of one-on-one nurture. My husband and I, firstborns of stay-at-home moms, both live out every firstborn tendency, from good grades to leadership skills to confidence to organizational skills. Our oldest child already shows similar fruit of those 27 months of uninterrupted reading, puzzles, coloring, singing, and socializing with me before his sisters came along.
A child home alone with “just” mom has a wonderful gift, and a houseful of brothers and sisters is another kind of amazing gift. Kids who grow up with siblings have the advantage of built-in playmates with whom they learn to share, negotiate, compromise, apologize, and forgive. I’d much rather have my younger kids “socialized” by my older kids, who have learned our family rules, who have acquired (some) maturity and responsibility, and who love her, than to “be socialized” by a room full of children their exact same age who are just as immature as they are! At 22 months, my baby is already playing house with dolls and the play kitchen, at a way higher level than two year olds are supposed to be able to pretend play, because she plays with her big sisters all day, every day. It was my three year old’s big brother, not other three year olds, who taught her to say, “Please stop! You’re exasperating me!” because my big kids have learned how to communicate without throwing a temper tantrum. My five year old has had no formal education until this school year, yet can rattle off dozens of Bible verses, poems, definitions of parts of speech, and geography facts, purely from listening in on her brother’s school time. What an advantage she has, essentially growing up in a one-room schoolhouse! Whether your kid gets to be home alone with you or spends all day with siblings of varying ages, there is plenty of emotional and social and intellectual development going on in home life.
The first few years are so incredibly precious! If you have the choice, why give the best hours of your baby’s day to someone who can’t possibly love your child as much as you do?!