Outsourcing the Family

So, I stumbled across this very articulate article, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject of daycare/preschool (really, any school). This, as I am researching preschool for Maya:

Here is another take on the lessons our day care center child may absorb: Her learning and play, her growth and development, need to be structured and facilitated by professionals. There are no mentors for her, nor are there any young ones that she can in turn help usher through the months and years. She will not get a sense of her intrinsic worth as a member of a community that has a reason for being and a set of daily tasks that have varying degrees of meaningfulness, and that incorporates her at whatever developmental stage she might be, provides a variety of models for her, and invests her with a sense of the rhythms of everyday life. Instead, she gets the rather profound message that her role is to be entertained (educated, enriched, etc.) until someone picks her up and takes her home for some quality time. The lesson is an early one in consumption: She may be missing out on finding meaning in organic relationships but she can always come into the day care to consume some stimulation and entertainment instead.

Furthermore, she learns about class position and hierarchy. Rather than absorb the needs and values and cultural norms of her community, she integrates herself into an institution—learning to please the caregivers, compete with her peers for attention, divvy her day into structured activities, accept the rules and guidance of the authority figures, and mark time by her movement from the infant room to the toddler room and on to the pre-school room. Just as the U.S. educational system produces young adults schooled to take their place among the powerful, or in the office, the factory, the service sector, or the permanent underclass, so early childhood education will help produce the workers we need. Yes, some day cares promote cognitive development, teach positive social skills, and empower young minds, but you can be sure that class position is a key determinant of who learns what.

The author suggests the alternative of home-based care, not exclusively by mom’s: but dad, extended family and friends too. You know, COMMUNITY care. Until now, I’ve been blessed with home based care for Maya between myself, her grandma, and a friend with a four-year old boy. Now, I am called to return to more hands on work at Dandelion and other special projects while my friend heads off on a year-long adventure in November. Grandma is out of town indefinitely.

I can’t do it by myself, and I don’t beat myself up for that. Yet I do worry about outsourcing Maya’s care away from the home while also recognizing that bringing Maya to work with me as a three year old is not the best solution either. At least not in this paradigm where she is the only kid being brought to work (and I am lucky to have a business that is very vibrant and diverse and a great example of the kind of place I would be proud of her to work someday, unlike, say in an office on Wall Street or god forbid a BigAg lobbyist or something twisted like that). If most people brought their kids to work in our community, and children were more integrated into the workplace, that might work better as we would create space for them. While she would have many chances to interact with adults at the cafe, she needs and desires relationships with babies, kids, teens and elders too. You know, the VILLAGE, the one it takes to raise a kid, the one that has been dismantled, right along with families and tribes in this long slide from a creative existence (by that I mean, each person creates/produces food, clothing, household goods, equipment, art, music) to a consumer existence where all those things are “outsourced” to other people, like childcare.

But it’s not about just mom staying at home in isolation from the rest of society either in order to raise my child. Where’s dad? At the office. Where’s grandma? In the nursing home. Where are all the people, for goodness sake? Everybody is busy earning money to afford someone else to take care of each other.

First, men were enticed to leave their homes for war, then jobs “in town.”

Then, women said, “Hey you can’t leave me here, I want in on that too!”

For a time grandparents took over the role of parents, but now everyone has scattered across the country in pursuit of a better opportunity and grandma is no longer next door.  Now that mom and dad are at work, and grandma is in a nursing home, children as early as six weeks are forced to leave their homes and families as well.

Okay, it’s past two in the morning and I must end rant which is only half thought through. Sigh.

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