parents

Doesn't anyone look after their kids anymore?

James with his daughter

by JAMES WILKINSON

Doesn’t anyone want to look after their kids anymore? Is it my imagination or is it now the norm to palm them off to childcare as soon as we are able, so we can get on with our own lives?

As a stay home dad, I fully know what a thankless, exhausting and alienating job full-time parenting can be but does that mean we should give that responsibility to someone else?

I know that for some parents there really isn’t a lot of choice these days, with the cost of living skyrocketing and the amount of money required to be part of the great Australian dream of home ownership means that two incomes are almost absolutely essential.

I also know that some parents really don’t want to be looking after kids all day. They have their lives and their careers and why should they give up what they like doing when you can call in the professionals?

Many people I meet are surprised when I tell them we have decided to keep our child at home with one of us until at least the age of three. “Why?” they ask, “when you could both be working and getting ahead?”

Getting financially ahead? My wife and I agree that we would happily sacrifice a little getting ahead to be able to spend some beautiful time with our growing little bundle. After all she is our child and the responsibility is ours and ours alone.

What I can’t understand is that the amount of money required to send a child to child care (up to $150 AUD per day per child) can, in a lot of cases almost negate the income earned from the second parent working!

In other words, if the second income is solely for the purpose of sending your kids to child care then there seems to be little financial benefit for the consequence of spending less time with your little ones.

Grandparents’ houses are often used as pseudo child care centers and this can help with the financial burden as well as encouraging bonding –  but as it is in the nature of grandparents to spoil their grandkids, discipline can become a problem when the child is back in the family home.

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The arguments for child care range from the benefits of social interaction (kids spending time with other kids) to getting them used to a structured day. I am sure that these things can also occur within the parameters of dedicated parenting. That’s what regular play groups, sporting and social activities are for.

Some also say that when your kids finally get to kindergarten (around age five) that the ones who had spent time in child care are more developed in terms of numeracy and literacy than the ones who didn’t.

There may be some truth in that except that a recent study showed that most kindergartens have a wide variance in these skills and the whole first year is dedicated to getting all the kids level for the beginning of year one when the serious learning starts!

Childcare is a booming industry in Australia and I believe that the marketers of this industry have a lot to answer for by scaring parents into thinking that their kids will fall behind academically and socially if they do not get into child care as soon as possible.

While this philosophy may go a long way to easing the guilt of those parents who need or want to use childcare there is simply no evidence to prove it is more beneficial for your child than dedicated parenting.

So… who wants my kid for the day?

James Wilkinson is a stay home dad, the husband of a corporate wife, a writer and a musician.You can find his blog here.

How does your family balance caring for children and earning an income? Do you use childcare? Would you continue to use childcare if one parent wasn’t working? Do you think childcare is beneficial for children?

Please remember that James is reading these comments. Any abusive comments directed at him (or any other commenters) will be removed. Please remember there is a way to disagree without having to leave the dinner party.

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