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123 responses to “Feminism good for families”

  1. Melaleuca

    Right, so not longer after dismissing my material argument in respect of societal attitudes to the environment you’ve just constructed a materialist argument to explain the rise of feminism.

    I think your ideology contains some glaring inconsistencies. Having said that, so does mine! I agree with David Hume when he suggested this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  2. Kim

    We’ve had enough meta from you on four blogs in the last two days, Melaleuca! The human world is too complex to be reduced to either a “materialist” or an “idealist” perspective. I’ve cautioned against reductionism in the post, but I would point out that looking at things through a particular lens can shed light that might otherwise be hidden – so discussion of a “cultural” issue can benefit from its examination from a materialist lens, and vice versa.

    Let’s keep it at the level of discussing the issues raised by Coontz.

  3. Paul Norton

    Coontz highlights, once again, that a politics framed in terms of defending The Family is usually the exact opposite of what is necessary or expedient to support families and family formation in the real world.

  4. tigtog

    Exactly, Paul. Excellent post, Kim.

  5. Helen

    Yay, an op-ed on feminism by a historian, as opposed to some brainless twit who happens to be related to someone else in the media. (Haven’t read it yet, so I’m not referring to the text itself!)

  6. Paul Burns

    The variety of feminism I was exposed to took the form of :
    a.being abused and denigrated because I was a man by separatist lesbians.
    b. being abused for opening a door for a woman – which I never do any more. etc, etc. etc.
    While I’m certain feminism has had positive results for women, I didn’t need it to teach me men and women were equal, expecially equal in the way they were exploited and abused by the capitalist system.
    I do get the impression we live nowadays in a post-feminist world – intense discussions on feminist issues don’t happen nowadays the way they did 30 years ago – indded, its my experience men tend to avoid women who carry on like that. preferring to be with women who don’t try to impose on them an abusive and denigrating ideology.

  7. tigtog

    Well, separatist lesbians don’t speak for the feminist movement, Paul (many separtists online refuse to self-identify as feminists, even).

    Anyone who abuses someone for behaving politely is rude. I wish the man whom I held a door for a few years ago had realised that, instead of accusing me of treating him like he was a cripple and being out to embarrass him in front of his family.

  8. Pavlov's Cat

    How depressing that here we are in the 21st century and it’s still not universally regarded as a matter of simple human courtesy to open doors for other people, help them with heavy or awkward things, not push in front of them, give them a seat in the bus if they seem to be tired or in pain, etc etc etc. Gender has sod-all to do with it.

  9. Pavlov's Cat

    …. um, back on topic: top post, Kim. Those stats are very illuminating.

  10. Paul Burns

    Tigtog and PC,
    Thanks for your reassurances.I have to add, as an intellectual I found the work of Germaine Greer, Susan Faludi and Naomi Wolfe intensely enjoyable and thought provoking. Never read Bettey Friedan, and found Mary Daly quite hard. So its not that I’m unsympathetic – I’m very interested in some of the ideas – but it does seem very few new works are being written and that feminism has been successfully melded into the overall culture.

  11. Helen

    Paul – So, yes, boo to your separatist ex-friends and the anti door-opener and yay to Wolf and Greer and Faludi – yet you choose to take the words of the former as somehow representing feminism, despite reading the latter? How’s that again?

  12. Kim

    Thanks to everyone who liked the post. While I can understand that Paul might have had some experiences in the past that coloured his views, I don’t think that a post on feminism should be accompanied by a thread that relates solely to men’s views of feminism, and I’d be really grateful if people were to discuss the issues actually raised in it. Thanks.

  13. tigtog

    I found this contrast to a few decades ago especially interesting:

    In the US, divorce rates for well-educated women are now much lower than for less-educated women, and women with good jobs or who have completed college are more likely than more traditional women to be married at age 35. In the past, when a stay-at-home wife went to work, the chance that her marriage would dissolve increased. Today, going to work decreases the chance of divorce.

    I know there was still this stereotype when I was going to uni that getting a degree and pursuing a career was risking relegation in the “marriage market” (what a horrid term that was – does anyone hear it any more?).

    The couples I know who seem to have work/family egalitarian balance down are all ones where both parents are librarians or teachers who find that taking turns to be the SAH parent (perhaps with some part-time or casual shifts worked in) works very well for them so far as keeping pace career-wise goes and both getting the benefit of quantity time with the kids (can’t get the quality without sifting through the quantity). It’s a pity that more careers don’t make it possible/simple for more men to take some time out from a career to raise children without being relegated in the promotion stakes (to me it would indicate a person with a true grasp on ordering priorities).

  14. Chris

    It’s a pity that more careers don’t make it possible/simple for more men to take some time out from a career to raise children without being relegated in the promotion stakes (to me it would indicate a person with a true grasp on ordering priorities).

    I agree! I think when going part time or taking a break from work its inevitable that you won’t be promoted as fast as someone who doesn’t (after all you’re working less), but at the moment I think its worse for men than for women who do so because its still pretty unusual and you can be perceived as not serious anymore.

    Parental leave is most commonly taken by the mother at first for obvious reasons but after that is used up there is no mechanism available for fathers to take a turn and be guaranteed a job when they return.

  15. laura

    Tigtog: “I know there was still this stereotype when I was going to uni that getting a degree and pursuing a career was risking relegation in the “marriage market” (what a horrid term that was – does anyone hear it any more?)”

    It’s used all the time in my course on Jane Austen, by students rather than by me, and always about the books and their period, not about the more recent history they compare them to.

  16. Moniker Lewinsky

    “I know there was still this stereotype when I was going to uni that getting a degree and pursuing a career was risking relegation in the “marriage market””

    Yeah, cos the only reason to go to uni is to snag a high-earner, not to be one. Silly girl.

  17. FDB

    *sigh*

  18. dylwah

    I’ll say Yaa Betty Friedan and will raise my glass for a toast at the next oppertunity. thanks for the post Kim.

  19. Paul Burns

    Helen @ 11, Try to have an enquiring mind. 🙂

  20. tigtog

    Laura, I can see how the term is a useful one for Janeite discussions.

  21. jinmaro

    I much prefer and value Anne Manne’s polemical defence of the family or rather her defence of women as autonomous human beings who should be afforded genuine choice regarding motherhood and any necessary relationship to women’s current economically defined role as necessary paid workforce participants, than Stephanie Coontz’s bog-standard Marxist materialist exhortations which ignore the reality and repercussions of the privatised family and its everyday impact on women’s role within it, which are founded on women’s largely involuntary or highly manipulated choices.

  22. Adrien

    Thought provoking. I just puled these three quotes from Coontz and yourself:

    it’s always enlightened employers who deign to grant rights

    As women gain collective rights, and especially as men accept women’s changed roles,

    endorse any legislative change which would expand women’s rights in the domestic workplace,

    I have problems with this.
    .
    First up my problems are not to do with some post-feminist rhetoric or family essentialism. The assertions that feminism wrecked the family are, in my view, grounded in the high divorce rates apparent after the 60s. Remembering just one of the stories about a female ancestor of mine who was trapped in a loveless, hostile, unfair marriage to an absolute arsehole courtesy of the law, society and Holy Bloody Church (of course) my view is that the family can go fuck itself if it needs to ride on the back of a woman’s misery.
    .
    However the problem I have is with the conception of rights and the inference that there are legislative solutions to persistent inequality. Employers don’t grant rights for example. Rights are carved into the fabric of the State. Likewise when one deigns to assign ‘group rights’ what are you actually doing?
    .
    The problem isn’t that women need special classes of rights but that they may be prevented from enjoying the rights that they, like men, are entitled to. A man accepting a woman as his boss or believing that his duty includes housekeeping and child-rearing and the rest is not accomplished by ascribing ‘rights’ to women. Nor I suspect would it be accomplished by passing a law. How do you enforce such a law?
    .
    It’s accomplished by asserting the actual rights one has and maintaining: “this is the deal”.

  23. Kim

    However the problem I have is with the conception of rights and the inference that there are legislative solutions to persistent inequality. Employers don’t grant rights for example. Rights are carved into the fabric of the State. Likewise when one deigns to assign ‘group rights’ what are you actually doing?

    It depends how you define rights, Adrien. Collective agreements with employers have the force of law, and thus those who enjoy (for instance) long periods of paid parental leave at particular workplaces have that as a right which is legally enforceable through the state. What I’m referring to here is a basic structure of enforceable rights which individuals can have – to equal pay, to fair bargaining practices, etc. Now those may be “group rights” but I don’t see the problem with that. Any form of collective right – even those of citizens as a whole – has a horizontal as well as a vertical dimension.

    But if your point (and I’m a bit unclear as to what it is) is that you can’t change attitudes through legislative means, yes and no would be my answer. I think that the introduction of legislation making sexual harrassment illegal has contributed to a changing interpretation of behaviours and norms over time. But I think that it’s certainly true that cultural change is at least as important if not more so than legislative change, and that’s where you absolutely need social movements.

  24. Adrien

    I think that the introduction of legislation making sexual harrassment illegal has contributed to a changing interpretation of behaviours and norms over time.

    Yes indeed. Legislation can change society. The Romans put an end to human sacrifice for example. But, I think, only at a certain scale. If I’m a slob who expects my wife/mother to do all the cleaning, cooking, shopping, paying bills etc how does the law change this? There’s a law and my wife can call the cops and have me arrested? She can sue? Does that work, does it help? At some point a woman’s basically just gotta say ‘no’ herself.
    .
    I think the employment agreements to which you refer exist as terms of a contract. If they were ‘rights’ they wouldn’t need to be negotiated in agreement. Employment contracts don’t typically spell out that the boss is not entitled to kill you for example.
    .
    Indeed it does depend on definitions. My concern is that the term is acquiring a fuzziness which risks rendering it meaningless. This fuzziness, as far as I’m aware, is not necessary to enforce the rights of persons whose entitlements are diminished because of perceived roles or ethnicity etc.
    .
    I remembering hearing some draconian bore with a megaphone declaring he had a ‘right to be heard’ for example. No such right exists. If it did the government would be obligated to force us to listen to him.
    .
    Likewise at Melbourne University there’s a Student Housing Collective. I’ve been meaning to visit ’em to see if they could use my services. They have a sign about housing being a human right. It’s not. If it were, the government would be compelled to get everyone a house. As desirable as leaving homelessness behind us might be (no I won’t tell you the market’ll care of it) it may not be possible for government to supply us all with accommodation. If it weren’t then saying it’s a right renders the term meaningless. What else? Do we have the right to travel to other galaxies?
    .
    In any event it’s inaccurate for the MU SHC to demand University action on the basis of rights that don’t exist if for no better reason than it gives the lawyers on the University Council every excuse to dismiss them.

  25. laura

    “They have a sign about housing being a human right. It’s not. If it were, the government would be compelled to get everyone a house.”

    see artcle 25 of the universal declaration of human rights.

    Adrien vs. the United Nations….

  26. Mark

    Indeed.

    I don’t know how relevant some of those musings are, Adrien. The feminist movement can be just as easily seen as one seeking full participation in the gamut of social activities. It’s possible to understand social movements in other terms than those of seeking rights. Obviously that’s part of it, but it gives a somewhat distorted picture if we turn everything into a debate about rights claims as such IMHO.

  27. Megan

    “First, there’s a very striking issue here for those who would argue that the status of women in Middle Eastern societies is to be primarily attributed to religion (a discourse which itself disempowers and disdains the validity of the choices many Islamic women make)…”

    Yeah, I’m sick of western feminists saying that we should be converting our Other oriental sisters – don’t they realise that Feminism is in danger of becoming along with western democracy Bush style a kind of politico-cultural imperialism of the worst sort? Women anywhere should be respectfully left alone to make their own choices, apart from getting any support they request of course. I clearly remember Germie Greer saying that in the early 1970s. That the problem I find with a lot of ‘feminism’ these days. There are too many women in it who seem to have spent their entire lives behind a desk.

  28. Helen

    Yeah, I’m sick of western feminists saying that we should be converting our Other oriental sisters – don’t they realise that Feminism is in danger of becoming along with western democracy Bush style a kind of politico-cultural imperialism of the worst sort?

    Really, Megan, haven’t you read the lengthy threads here with multiple feminist bloggers arguing against this (strawfeminist) position? Jeebus. 99% of the time we’ve got Blair and co concern-trolling about our supposed lack of activism on behalf of our Islamic / Arabic / etc sisters, the other 1% we have you complaining we’re doing it too much. Sorry if I seem to be coming on too strong, but I’ve seen enough concern-trolling in the last couple of days to try the patience of a saint.

  29. Kim

    Hmmm, I think you’re reading Megan’s comment too much in the light of recent stoushes, Helen, with respect.

  30. Helen

    Yes probably!

  31. dylwah

    “see artcle 25 of the universal declaration of human rights.

    Adrien vs. the United Nations….”

    I’m fairly sure it was Eleanor Roosevelt who got that, and many other articles, into the UDHR.

  32. Kim

    Elsewhere: Skepticlawyer picks up on Coontz’ work to argue divorce may be a good thing.

  33. Kim
  34. skepticlawyer

    Kim, economist Betsey Stevenson did the research showing a link between education (for both partners) and lower rates of divorce. She’s very generous with her papers (my post piggybacks on her research very heavily, as does Tim Harford’s work on the effects of the pill on female labour market participation). A list of her recent papers (full text available) is available here. Her work showing a strong correlation between female participation in school sports and later participation in the labour market on a high-paid, college-educated level is fascinating.

  35. Kim

    Thanks, SL.

  36. J.Bentham

    The UNDHR does not provide anybody with any “rights” for housing or otherwise. It is not a legal document that has application to Australia. It is merely a shopping list of desirable things decided by unaccountable functionaries. As far as I am aware no Australian parliament has passed it into legislation.

  37. skepticlawyer

    Natural law is ‘nonsense on stilts’ in 3, 2, 1… 😉

  38. Kim

    Whoever thought Greenfield was a utilitarian?

    Anyway, back on topic, please!

  39. Adrien

    Laura –

    Adrien vs. the United Nations….

    The UN is not a state, Laura, and therefore cannot grant ‘rights’. J. Bentham is correct. As far as I’m aware no actual state subscribes 100% to the UN charter nor do they even indulge in rhetorical support for such. It’s simply seen as an alternative to war in solving international crises. In my opinion they would best be attending to that and not indulging in optimistic Utopian extravagance.
    .
    As it pertains to the post my argument is that it simply might not be appropriate for the political system to intervene in an arena where private ethics have both jurisdiction and a chance of success.
    .
    Trying to establish some sort of social progress by declaring something a right whether or no we are actually able to grant it is worse than useless.

    Natural law is ‘nonsense on stilts’ in 3, 2, 1…

    Who? Me?

  40. Adrien

    I’m sick of western feminists saying that we should be converting our Other oriental sisters – don’t they realise that Feminism is in danger of becoming along with western democracy Bush style a kind of politico-cultural imperialism of the worst sort?

    Bush’s politico-cultural imperialism has, I suspect, very little to do with spreading democracy. I’d be a little more reassured of the sincerity of the neocon political agency if it practiced what it preached. There’s been some viable discourse about the extreme cultural relativism of feminists who argue that ‘their culture’ no matter how nefariously misogynist is something precious to be left untouched and uncriticized.
    .
    Strategically speaking this is a wedge aimed at splitting the Left. The extent of this extreme cultural relativism is exaggerated I suspect and takes place it sems mostly in the UK where people perhaps suffer some post-colonial guilt.
    .
    However some of it is apt. And not all of it comes from the Right.
    .
    The idea of ‘conversion’ of Oriental sisters by which I presume is also meant African sisters and so forth is a bit of a tricky business. No-one likes outsiders telling them what to do. However I believe both that the world would be a better place if women were not born the vassals of their menfolk and that women generally speaking would assert their rights if the economic situation allowed them to do so. Indeed one of the biggest factors in resistance to modernization is that the boys will lose their privileges.
    .
    Personally I think such social revolutions need to come from within to succeed. Western feminists can and should criticize these cultures – respectfully. They shouldn’t attempt ‘conversion’ by coercive means however. Not that that’s easily done or being attempted.
    .
    Conversion? Will politics always remain religious?

  41. skepticlawyer

    Indeed one of the biggest factors in resistance to modernization is that the boys will lose their privileges.

    I wonder how much this is the unspoken subtext to the recent Greer imbroglio. AFAIK available research indicates many of the Aboriginal societies were very male-dominated. I do suspect at least some of the ‘male rage’ that Greer discussed has its origins in a loss of male privilege.

  42. Helen

    In poorer countries, women’s access to paid labour is a better predictor of children’s well-being than the stability of marriage. In parts of Africa and Latin America, children are better nourished and have more access to education in female-headed households where the woman has a job than in two-parent households where the man earns the income. Children from female-headed households in Kenya, Malawi, and Jamaica, for example, do as well or better than children from male-headed households in their long-term nutritional and health status, despite lower household income.

    I liked the way she addressed this topic. It’s a favourite tactic of the antifeminist noise machine to claim that feminism is purely and solely a movement by and for upper-and middle-class white women. Which I believe to be untrue (and some of the US women of colour bloggers have bought this kool-aid, unfortunately.)
    Yes, what struggling women need is more feminism, not less. I was glad to see this point made for a change.

  43. Adrien

    I do suspect at least some of the ‘male rage’ that Greer discussed has its origins in a loss of male privilege.

    I believe Jack Strocchi was saying something similar altho’ the way he put it was terribly dishonest. It conflicts however with anecdotes that ran hot in the media about cultural exceptionalism granted on the basis of tribal law where, say, fourteen year old girls were compelled to marry much older men on the basis of prior arrangement thus basically denying them the protection of the law and their rights as Australian citizens in favour of the dictates of tribal decree.
    .
    Given that the Aboriginal peoples being discussed are not exactly enjoying the fruits of modern society I’m not certain the male rage Greer talks about stems from the independence of their womenfolk altho’ I don’t think Jack’s entirely inaccurate in suggesting that the loss of prestige might be a factor. He’s wrong when he says that that’s what Greer is talking about.
    .
    It’s worth pointing out of course that many Aboriginal Australians are not fringe dwellers of course.

  44. Megan

    ‘Personally I think such social revolutions need to come from within to succeed. Western feminists can and should criticize these cultures – respectfully. They shouldn’t attempt ‘conversion’ by coercive means however. Not that that’s easily done or being attempted.’

    I agree Adrien, but when the Iranian Revolution swept in the Ayatollah Khomeini, the women donned their hijabs with glee and western feminism and western liberalist cultural influence was associated with all that was corrupt about the Shah’s regime. What’s to be done about the perception in places like Iran, that western liberalist thinking has been thrust upon them? They hate us – and honestly if you came from a cultural background where your country had been the meat in the parcel for generations of British imperialists, you would hate them too and their ideology.

    But hang on I’m not talking laissez-faire post-modernist cultural relativism here – I so don’t understand those terms – I’m just saying assistance and support when asked – er how do you say that?

  45. Megan

    ‘It’s a favourite tactic of the antifeminist noise machine to claim that feminism is purely and solely a movement by and for upper-and middle-class white women. Which I believe to be untrue (and some of the US women of colour bloggers have bought this kool-aid, unfortunately.)’

    Sigh, Helen – you only have to look around in the Australian newspapers to find it. If you want me to name names – for instance Adele Horin who has a wonnerful full-time job working as a high profile high flying journalist while bringing up I think two boys whose column once was most scathing about all those ‘gym bunny’ mums who were so lazy and vacuous as to work part-time. Jesus, if she only knew what kind of jobs there are out there in the real world… Besides the term ‘gym bunny’ is most offensive. I don’t need to justify myself – I just want respect!

  46. laura

    I don’t know much about it Megan – but weren’t a significant proportion of Iranians less than enthused about the Islamic Revolution? Or very likely I have a wrong impression there because of the kinds of Iranian and diasporic texts that get translated and put about (Reading Lolita in Tehran and so forth) being the ones that by definition Westerners are interested in reading.

    “I’m just saying assistance and support when asked” – sounds really good to me – how to tell what’s being asked? I suspect some of what reaches us is unrepresentative (to choose a neutral term.)

  47. Laura

    Helen – It’s a favourite tactic of the antifeminist noise machine to claim that feminism is purely and solely a movement by and for upper-and middle-class white women. Which I believe to be untrue (and some of the US women of colour bloggers have bought this kool-aid, unfortunately.)

    Yes, I agree. I liked the part of the op-ed you quoted, too. But paradoxically the charge that ‘feminism’ is blind to its own race and class privileges has some legitimacy when it’s focused on The Feminine Mystique. The book is demonstrably blind to the fact of working class / nonwhite women working outside the home (as domestic servants, farm labourers, factory hands and so forth) for long before the period it identifies as when women began to work outside the home.

    But hey – feminism has moved on. It’s a progressive movement.

  48. Kim

    The thing is Megan, I don’t think some columnist at The Age = feminism. Lots of women in the unions, in feminist orgs, ngos and other social justice groups are actively involved in working with women who are recent immigrants, on low incomes, etc. The fact that it never makes the meta “feminism is dead” debate (!) in the MSM doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So, like Helen, I was pleased to see some recognition of the truth of what’s happening in Coontz’ column.

  49. Adrien

    …when the Iranian Revolution swept in the Ayatollah Khomeini, the women donned their hijabs with glee and western feminism and western liberalist cultural influence was associated with all that was corrupt about the Shah’s regime.

    There was a similar move back to traditional dress amongst feminists in Egypt. It’s illustrative of differing values. The hijab may be regarded in the West as oppressive but many Muslim women regard it differently. You can think of it as a way of avoiding the primary judgement of women via appearance for example. I don’t see it that way, I’m a Westerner after all.
    .
    When the Shah kicked, yes, a lot of people welcomed theocracy. After 30 years of it they’re not so enthusiastic.

  50. Megan

    ‘The thing is Megan, I don’t think some columnist at The Age = feminism.’

    Maybe not Kim, but one comment in a mainstream publication from a well-known mainstream columnist is enough to make me angry and conclude that she thinks that just because one way of life works for her, that it should work for every other woman too. It is hard to combine work and family and the reality of many women’s lives who have children is that they work part time. I’ve read that some stats indicate they are quite happy doing that – actually happier than the groups who either stayed home altogether or worked full time. I guess it depends on how one defines feminism. If it means the right for women to get a decent education and to make a decent living, then I’m all for it. And if it also means that men should be taking an equal responsibility in bringing up the children then I’m all for it too. And if Coontz’s stats are right – it works. How women achieve all that equilibrium of happily combining work and family responsibilities however is none of anybody’s goddamn business.

  51. Yaz

    Good to see a thread so well moderated/facilitated, Kim. Nice job!

  52. sublime cowgirl

    Any thoughts on Mem Fox’s comments today?

  53. Helen

    Well, SC, f**k me rigid if the silly cow hasn’t made a pronouncement based on what she “thinks” happens, plus one conversation with a disgruntled childcare worker who was obviously talking about a poorly run CC centre. How much do you bet it was ABC Learning? Before that mob came along we had proper community child care centres which were not for profit and for world’s best practice.

    If she had any integrity she would be campaigning for parental leave. Beyond that, proper childcare with properly paid and qualified staff, not for private profit. Otherwise what she is saying is “everyone should be upper-middle class, with a well-paid partner in situ”.

  54. Kim

    Why doesn’t she argue that the dads should be staying at home with the kids? No, it’s all mothers’ fault.

  55. sublime cowgirl

    See i think its quite a complex and interesting area.

    Having worked in child protection, i can assure you child care is a way better option for a raft of kids, developmentally, emotionally and physically,, then staying home with drugged up parents and/or domestically violent men.

    ON the other hand, i know a bunch of child care workers and teachers who can ‘pick’ early ‘institutionalied’ kids, by their long term socialisation and behaviour traits. And while its not ‘abuse’ , IMHO its pretty poor option to stick a 6 week old kid in 50-60 hr a week daycare, when one has genuine alternatives, like giving up the 4WD.

    At 18 mths i sent my kid one day a week to daycare, for her and for me. I had no family around and needed the break, I’m not hardline against it.

    However when i wanted to get out of the house and back to work, my partner, took time off and became the house hubby instead.

    I didnt think Fox was being gender specific, was she?

  56. Megan

    ‘Before that mob came along we had proper community child care centres which were not for profit and for world’s best practice.’ That’s right Helen, before Howard levelled the playing field for the benefit of the private sector and now we have a virtual monopoly in the childcare industry headed by a rich suit with a fat, vacant babyface hugging a dubious looking purple teddybear. No wonder Mem Fox is crying child abuse.

    But personally I’m concerned that

    ‘The Australian Family Association (AFA) said it was “largely supportive” of her comments.

    “She’s right, large amounts of research are coming in showing that – particularly for children under two but also under three – childcare is generally likely to be harmful to them,” AFA spokeswoman Angela Conway said, pointing to research from the US and UK.’

    OMG! More bloody childcare research! Just when I was at the point of thinking well my child is not growing up in some war-torn trouble spot in the world or has drunk or disorderly parents so she must be allright. Some people seem to lose perspective on constitutes a stable, happy upbringing for a child in the world. Why does upbringing have to be totally perfect anyway? It’s not the only part of being a person – as adults we make our own choices.

  57. Chris (a different one)

    IMHO its pretty poor option to stick a 6 week old kid in 50-60 hr a week daycare, when one has genuine alternatives, like giving up the 4WD.

    I really don’t know how childcare workers manage to adequately look after a room full of babies with a staff to child ratio of 1:4. Looking after 1 or 2 at the same time is difficult enough!

    As for “genuine alternatives” – the difficulty is with this is when people have babies later in life it requires a lot of forward thinking with respect to financial commitments. If you already have a mortgage and lifestyle from a few years back based on two of you working full time then you end up having to both work when the children come along.

  58. sublime cowgirl

    Biddulph in the SMH

    The developmental process of early attachment and the neurological development of an infants brain is seen as so fundamental, it is rightly the focus of much medical and scientific research.

    In retrospect there are a myriad of stupid mistakes i made through my pregnancy and parenting that i wish i had the insight or awareness to change/choose at the time.

    I don;t think we have anything to lose by thorough debate, and think its in all our interests to measure these issues up more than just economically, before making up our minds on them.

  59. sublime cowgirl

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/day-care-is-bad-for-babies–biddulph/2006/03/17/1142582520873.html%3Cbr%20/%3E
    sorry – link above not working.

    I kinda object to the idea that most of us educated first world types “have to” do anything 🙂 we have so much choice its incredible. We’re more righly slaves to our own (and others) expectations.

    [Try this – Ed]

  60. Helen

    And while its not ‘abuse’ , IMHO its pretty poor option to stick a 6 week old kid in 50-60 hr a week daycare, when one has genuine alternatives, like giving up the 4WD.

    See, there’s two assumptions there.
    One, that one “sticks” (emotive term) a kid in there at six weeks. I think you’ll find most of us child care supporters also support parental leave, and think parental leave for the first year is ideal. But there are some times when that is not possible. People die, SC. They become incapacitated. Or their circumstances just make being a SAHM impossible. We must have some properly regulated alternative for people who can’t stay at home.
    Two, the assumption that I have a 4WD to give up. see, I see this argument so often. I’m supposed to give up the 4WD and the plasma screen and the overseas holiday for this, that and the other (including private education, If I Really Care About My Child™. That’s actually multiple 4WDs. Where do I get them all from? In reality, I have no 4WD in the first place, nor do we have money for overseas holidays or a plasma screen.

    SC, you and Mem Fox are making arguments for people with options, that’s the long and the short of it.

    Lastly, you and Chris (a different one) are ignoring an important part of the equation – dads.

  61. Chris (a different one)

    Helen @ 60 – I don’t think I’m ignoring Dads in the equation (I work part time so I can spend more time with my daughter). The way that Mem Fox puts the burden on mothers rather than both parents is wrong and I don’t think the way she has described childcare as abuse was at all helpful.

    I agree with the need for more paid parental leave, but at the same time to suggest that parents looking after their child for the first couple of years may be better than childcare is not to be anti-childcare. Just like to say that breast feeding may better than bottle feeding does not have to be critical of mothers who bottle feed – there are obviously reasons why this is not always possible – but it is useful to give more information to parents so they can make better informed decisions.

    From a government point of view it is also useful to know the advantages and disadvantages of childcare when deciding where government subsidies go (eg more support to help mothers/fathers stay at home longer or more support towards subsidising childcare).

  62. Helen

    Of course!
    But “childcare = child abuse” makes a so much more interesting headline, doesn’t it.
    I think MF might have become a bit of a media whore since the Mark Latham “reading to the kids” conversation went away- maybe she’s missing being at the centre of the national conversation?!

  63. Brian

    sc, I’ve inserted a link that works at 59 to the story about Steve Biddulph’s book Raising Babies – Should under 3s go to Nursery?.

    That was 2006. The book wasn’t published in Australia apparently because he thought Australia is not ready to debate this issue. That sounds a bit paternalistic but I have a vague memory that he said he’d want to bring out a different edition for us with references to Australian research and childcare provisions. I assume it still hasn’t come to the top of his in-basket, so what are we to make of his claims made in the British context?

    On ABC Learning I tend to agree with what Steve Mayne said back in June. The latest is that ABC failed to submit it’s accounts within the mandatory reporting period which finished last Friday. Some analysts were saying that the company hadn’t made any money for the last four years. So the guy in the rich suite with “a fat, vacant babyface” isn’t even a competent capitalist.

    Gillard and Rudd should consider buying the joint and restoring it to community/public ownership to correct the errors made by the previous mob.

    Which reminds me that we still don’t know exactly what is going to happen with the Government’s preschool initiative. I know that Maxine Mckew consulted some very competent people who I respect a lot, but I don’t know what became of it all.

  64. Megan

    Orright Kim,

    What research does anyone think we should believe???????????????

    Coontz’s research: ‘In poorer countries, women’s access to paid labour is a better predictor of children’s well-being than the stability of marriage. In parts of Africa and Latin America, children are better nourished and have more access to education in female-headed households where the woman has a job than in two-parent households where the man earns the income.’

    Or the Australian Family Association’s statement that:

    ‘…large amounts of research are coming in showing that – particularly for children under two but also under three – childcare is generally likely to be harmful to them,” AFA spokeswoman Angela Conway said, pointing to research from the US and UK.’

    I mean both sides – the Mums At Work and the Mums At Home brigades seem to be at war with each other here, each brandishing contradictory Research findings. Help!

  65. FDB

    I wouldn’t describe those findings as contradictory, for a start. Pretty different terms of reference.

  66. Chris (a different one)

    I’d also guess that in poorer countries children are much less likely to go into childcare centres, but to be looked after by a close relative instead.

  67. Yaz

    I’m fortunate enough to work at a University Child Care centre, but even then our ratio with babies can be as low as 1:5. So last year two of us worked with ten babies on many days. Many Mums came in to breastfeed, and others expressed milk.
    Nonetheless, I think we managed generally to help those children become the happy productive two-year olds they now are.
    Mostly this childcare debate gets oversimplified terribly. The ratios should definitely improve – 1:3 would provide much better quality care for the up to 12 months age group.
    Otherwise, like most things, it is all down to the quality of care. Babies do not need parents, but they do need care, attention, respect, and all those important things, and they don’t have much capacity to understand why you are not hugging them when their feelings are hurt, because you already have two other children in your arms!
    Much of the research about childcare is highly problematic, done with very small sample sizes (15 children for some from memory), but the results are still splashed around the MSM. I take seriously the research that measures children’s stress levels, but I am always puzzled as to why we assume that this means childcare is bad. No it doesn’t, it means that children are stressed, so perhaps we need older, better educated teachers/carers, smaller group sizes, better ratios and all those things that research confirms endlessly are better for children.

  68. Laura

    Megan said ‘Just when I was at the point of thinking well my child is not growing up in some war-torn trouble spot in the world or has drunk or disorderly parents so she must be allright. Some people seem to lose perspective on constitutes a stable, happy upbringing for a child in the world.’ (56)

    This reminds me of the English paediatrician Donald Winnicott’s theory that what children need is a ‘good-enough mother’ (excuse the gendering there, he said this in the 50s and said elsewhere the ‘mother’ is the primary caregiver regardless of gender or relationship). Meaning a mother who is there but not continually, who goes away and comes back. A mother who is present all the time and responsive to every demand of the baby’s doesn’t help the child develop a sense of the difference between his own personality and needs, and the outside world and the existence of other people. The British infant psychologists were shaped by the experience of war, and as we all know, the patriarchy let women out of the house in wartime. Feminism is good for children, it helps children individuate.

  69. Chris (a different one)

    Laura – parenting does seem to be a minefield of contradictory advice. Some literature I’ve read says that you can’t spoil them when they’re less than 3-6 months old – eg always go to them when they cry. And then a community nurse told us to do controlled crying with a 3 week old baby (disposed of that suggestion pretty fast).

    With older babies, I’d tend to agree that an always-instant response may be building trouble for yourself in the future, but everyone seems to have their own opinion!

  70. sublime cowgirl

    Everyone, not sure where you think i’m being gendered about this. See my comment at #55. My partner and I role swapped for over a year early on, because i wanted to work, but we also felt the kids needed a parent at home.

    I”ve brought this issue up before, but the concept of Attachment THeory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory seems to be conveniently missing from these childcare debates.

    Helen at #60. Did i say childcare was a bad option for everyone? Of course not. I am in total agreement that its a right we are all entitled to, but that within that right its up to us to wisely discern, each according to our circumstances, firstly how that can first benefit the child, and then the parents, and broadly, society.

    And where i am in agreement with MF is that for those priviledged enough to own the 4WDs and the plasma and the italian frikken coffee maker, that the excuse that 'i have to work' to support my globally unsustainable lifestyle, therefore i'm going to stick my 6 wk kid in 60 pw childcare, is one in which the developmental needs of that infant appear to have been relegated behind that of materialistic trappings.

    DO i think i'm a perfect parent? Hell no. Just ask my kids.

  71. Helen

    Laura #68 – I read an article a while back by a homeschooling parent who kept her kids at home because “other people can’t possibly love them or understand them like us”. I’m not sure what will happen once those poor things hit the workforce. Maybe the parents will buy a franchise or something!

  72. Helen

    Brian #63: I read an article by Steve Biddulph which I’ve got somewhere meaning to blog it but never did. The central defining story of the entire article is when he is in a depressed part of town and walks past a child care centre and it’s all run down and he looks thru the windows and imagines them all being miserable. So! Child care bad! Disingenuous in the extreme. (Houses and families look pretty scruffy in those places too. Therefore, the home is bad for children. Discuss.)

  73. adrian

    If they are born into the Bretheren that’s exactly what happens.
    Unfortunately for the children, their whole life is a franchise.

  74. Megan

    Actually forget the baby, what about the poor mother having to go back to work 2 or three weeks after the birth? Honest to God four months is not enough time to get a decent rest!

  75. Helen

    No Adrian, just incredibly precious helicopter parents!

  76. Brian

    From sc’s link on attachment theory:

    During the later part of this period, children begin to use attachment figures (familiar people) as a secure base to explore from and return to.

    I remember some years ago (about 10?) a child care study interpreting separation anxiety as evidence of attachment, hence children in child care who showed more separation anxiety from parents were deemed to be better attached. Exactly the reverse of what they should have been thinking.

    I’m pretty much with what sc has been saying. My wife is one of these:

    ON the other hand, i know a bunch of child care workers and teachers who can ‘pick’ early ‘institutionalised’ kids, by their long term socialisation and behaviour traits.

    As an early childhood teacher she tells of young ferals who avoid eye contact with adults, habitually ignore teacher instructions, have little concept of how their behaviour affects others etc. If you have 5-6 or more of these in your class you’ve got trouble.

    But it’s not all kids from child care and the ‘products’ of some centres are better than others.

    It’s my impression that the consistency as well as the quality of adult interactions matters.

    I left a reasonably senior job in the public service at age 51 to look after a 4-year old while my wife was working half time. I remember when I pushed the trike past these bushes for the 45th time and the dog jumped out to great peels of laughter wondering just what I’d let myself in for.

    Helen, I’m not disbelieving you about the Biddulph article you mention and I’m not a total fan of his, but I can’t believe there wouldn’t be more substance to his views. The article sc linked to talked about bioneurological studies on brain development in the first two years of life. That’s the sort of thing I recall him going on about in interviews at the time.

    The early childhood period is very important to later development, to life chances and life trajectories but again I understand that children are more malleable than Biddulph and co make out up to about 8 years old. Hence adverse experiences tend to wash out as it were.

  77. wbb

    The child-care debate in Australia is more emotional than any other in my experience.

    It’s still too hard an issue to discuss quietly. We need more time and more research.

    Until then it’s each for him/herself.

    But one topic that can be politely discussed is bloody ABC Learning. The government has got to take this sector over. It wouldn’t let Eddie Groves run our primary schools, so why we let him run an even more important institution has me staggered.

  78. sublime cowgirl

    Thanks for inserting the links Brian – you’re a gem!

    Always a hot-button topic i guess.
    THing about it, and parenting in general, is that you can’t go back and change things later, so you want to be as sure as you can that you’re making the best and most informed decisions – without ending up (too) neurotic.

    YOu’re right about kids being generally quite robust, and studies into ‘Resilience’ are facinating. Professionally I remember reading quite a bit some time ago into why , for example , different children who experience a traumatic childhood will be impacted in vastly different ways, and a lot of can be explained through their level of innate and imparted resilience.

    Wiki has a messy article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resilience#Resilient_children

    I also note a quick search of Google and found a nice synthesis/defence of attachment theory in the context of childcare -

    Rethinking Attachment for Early Childhood Practice: Promoting Security, Autonomy and Resilience in Young Children
    By Sharne Rolfe Published by Allen & Unwin, 2005

    " This accessible and lively exploration of the importance of attachment for infants, young children and their parents, should be essential reading for all professional caregivers and for policy makers concerned with the mental health and well being of our future generation.'

    In heated debates about whether childcare damages young children, attachment theory has been seen as anti-childcare'. Rolfe rethinks this perception, demonstrating instead that understanding attachment is essential to good childcare practice. Rethinking Attachment offers a thorough explanation of attachment theory and explains how security, autonomy and resilience in young children can be promoted in childcare settings through a sound understanding of attachment principles."

    I've not read it, but reading between the lines, it appears that we ignore these issues at our childrens peril, and you want to be damn sure your alphabet Centre has these concepts in the forefront of their mind, before you hand bub over.

  79. hmpph

    Brian, The federal government agenda is currently being discussed with stakeholders, They’ve put together a discussion paper and are taking submissions until the 19th of September. Linked text
    It’s messy and difficult business with the all the states being different, and child care and preschools being different in each state. I went to a discussion meeting last week, so many agendas, so little time!!!

  80. hmpph

    Alright, I can’t do links!

    [fixed ~tigtog]

  81. Laura

    Helen #71, re homeschooled children, my partner manages a community arts centre where some of the kids taking classes are homeschooled (three families book out some of the after-school classes and do them together.) He says the kids are full of beans, intelligent, confident, and friendly, but the 9 & 10 year olds write (and word process) at the level of five and six year olds who go to school.

  82. Adrien

    In consultation with Merriwinch and Leechblood Economic Analysis, The Bland Corporation has undertaken a study on the costs and benefits of child-rearing and has found that it is rational to eliminate the process altogether in the interests of growth.
    .
    It’s simply an irrational and inefficient allocation of resources.

  83. adrian

    Will someone please cook Roger’s bacon?

  84. jo

    Stats. are always helpful – ABS – Childcare Australia 2005.

    Child care usage varied with age, particularly for formal care. The use of formal care for very young children was low (7% of children under one year), but increased from age one (31%) up to age three (53%). From age four, when many children have started preschool, the proportion of children using formal child care dropped to 38%, with a further decrease for five year olds (22%) when most children have started school.

    Use of informal care was highest for one year olds (43%) and then generally decreased as the age of children increased. Overall, 38% of children aged 0-4 used informal care compared to 29% of children aged 5-12 years.

    Table 4 shows that many children used relatively small amounts of child care. Of those children who used formal care, 47% used it for less than 10 hours in the reference week and, of the children who had used informal care, the proportion who used it for less than 10 hours was 58%. In contrast, the proportion of children who used care for 35 or more hours in the reference week was 7% for those who used formal care and 12% for those who used informal care. The overall proportion of children who had used any child care for 35 or more hours (be it formal, informal or both types together) was 13%. The median number of hours for all children aged 0-12 years who used child care was 10 hours in the reference week.

    For the majority of children for whom additional formal care had been required, just one or two days had been required over the four week period (table 17). For 30% of children for whom additional formal care had been required, parents reported needing one day of care in the previous four weeks, and for a further 24%, two days of care in the previous four weeks had been wanted. The mean number of days for which formal care was wanted over the previous four weeks was 3.5 days and this tended to be longer for older children (a mean of 3.3 days for children aged 0-4 years, 3.6 days for those aged 5-8 years and 4.1 days for those aged 9-12 years). Of the 188,400 children for whom formal care was wanted, a little over half (54%) involved children where the main reason given by the parent was related to their work. The other main reasons were ‘personal reasons’ (31%) and reasons related to the child’s development or the child’s wants and needs (12%).

    http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/4402.0Main+Features1Jun%202005?OpenDocument

    So, the percentage of babies under 12 months using formal care is very small – and the amount who use it every day and/or for long days even smaller – (although, it is hard to ascertain the exact figure as the ‘usage stats’ quoted above are not differentiated and include all children 0-12 in formal care which includes Before & After school care etc.)). But one could assume that the 7% of babies under one year, utilised care at least in line with the formal care usage as per the figures in Table 4. Therefore the percentage of babies being cared for in formal care – full-time is even smaller than 7%.

    Formal childcare and parenting payments and parenting leave etc – have been an ideological football for over a generation. There was some “full-time career working mother” bias built into the system by the Keating (Anne Summers’) administration, which was then pulled some way over to the stay-at-home-mothering ideal – with corporate cowboys as the preferred formal alternative, by Howard & Co.

    Meanwhile, the overwhelmingly majority of mothers who use formal childcare do so on a part-time basis, only after after 12 months of age, and only for short periods increasing the hours each year until pre-school age. Likewise they work part-time jobs increasing their hours as formal child care hours increase.

    So without explicit Govt. or Business support, Australian women and families have organised their parenting and work options based on their own best judgment, which not surprisingly coincides with best outcomes for both children AND the mothers.

    And for the small percentage of families who want, or must place their babies and or pre-school age children into formal care and/or for long five day weeks etc., the very highest standards of care must be available to ensure that these children do not fall behind on any important developmental indicators. Reducing the staffing ratio is the only way to provide better care for babies under 12 months.

  85. Fine

    “Then why are so many feminists so unhappy, humourless, and childless?”

    Why are so many men called Roger Bacon such pompous, dull, attention-seekers?

    (With apologies in advance to any other Roger Bacons out there.)

  86. jo

    in the sin bin.

    and posted twice, sorry.

    [I deleted the second one, jo – Brian]

  87. Adrien

    A new memo from The Bland Corporation recommends that humour and happiness also be eliminated from the production process as externalities. They are also an irrantional and inefficient use of resources.

  88. Helen

    1. As long as anyone uses the word “stick” (children in childcare), they’re dog whistling.
    2. Looking after sprogs should be a portfolio of maternity leave, parental leave, extended family if you’re lucky, and childcare.
    3. “Debates” about childcare always seem to go to the extreme worst-case scenario where the mum goes to work at say three weeks (insert descriptions of uterine leakage, ew ew ew we can’t have these leaking wimmin out in the world) and thereafter they have the sprog in there from 5 AM till 11 pm. The fact is that most kids are not in child care so early or so often.
    4. Any criticism of child care based on Eddy Groves’ ABC centres is completely missing the point. It’s like a completely crap badly run hospital leading to the abandonment of medicine.

  89. Mark

    #83 and #84

    In this case, I think Roger Bacon is actually called “John Greenfield”. Wave goodbye to him on his way out…

  90. Fine

    … and hope the door smacks him on the arse.

  91. jo

    Helen,

    re: your third point at 9.44pm

    I posted a very rushed dinnertime duplicate comment at 84 & 85 (if anyone LP person wants to delete choose 84) with all the stats. to back up your point.

    My own bits were rushed, but yes, it would be almost a miracle if the nature & patterns of formal childcare usage in the country were actually ever acknowledged.

    [jo, I deleted 85 as i thought it was identical – sorry! Brian]

  92. Mark

    jo, if you get stuck in the spam bin, try not to post a duplicate comment – it tells the algorithm you’re more likely to be a spammer because one of the characteristics of spam is repeated identical or very similar comments.

  93. sublime cowgirl

    Helen “SC, you and Mem Fox are making arguments for people with options, that’s the long and the short of it.”

    Um, yes. At least that is the point i was making.

    I”m still trying to figure out where you have the idea I’m against childcare per se. Did i forget to mention i’ve actually licenced one or two of them (when i worked for Dept of Communities) in the past? In an aboriginal community even.

    Helen , it seems that you (and i think all other commenters here) are willing to assert that currently a myriad of centres (you cited ABC) are privately run for profit where staff ratio’s for infants are poor (1:5) , and substandard to best practice, yet you seem to struggle with the plausible concept that (in the small number of times it happens) as things presently exist choosing to place a 6 wk old infant into such a situation could be a poor choice for that infants developmental wellbeing when the only motivation for doing so is to pursue excessive financial gain.

    I apologise for the needlessly provocative use of the term ‘stick’ 🙂

    Jo, if i recall i think the figures quoted this week were around 10 000 kids in 50 to 60hr a week care?

  94. Kim

    SC, what evidence is there that parents are putting kids into childcare to pursue “excessive financial gain”? It seems to me you’re back in the mindset that for a lot of people there’s an option. There can be very good reasons – aside from financial ones – why there’s not an option for a lot of folks too.

  95. sublime cowgirl

    How many childcare centre’s have you been in? How many child care workers do you know? Would you like me to name names, or would photographs suffice? 🙂 Ask around K, it does sometimes happen.

    Seriously, can we revisit what i said at the beginning at #55?
    I didn’t intend it to be interpreted as a universal statement – that anyone who puts their kid in care at 6 weeks was making a poor choice, but as i said, or thought i meant to say, is that given genuine alternatives (such as giving up the 4wd, in this context shorthand for highly affluent middle class demographics) i do think its a highly questionable choice to maintain a highly affluent lifestyle at the risk of developmental disruption vis a viv attachment etc.

    Perhaps its even slightly insulting to those parents who have to work to feed the family, who would jump at the chance to stay home with their infants instead of work a check-out 38 hrs a week.

    (Which is consistent with my opposition at compulsory welfare to work obligations for single parents when their child turns 8 – i’m a strong advocate of parental involvement in the school community.)

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24286012-5006784,00.html

  96. Kim

    SC, to be honest, I’m not even sure what you mean by pursuing “excessive financial gain”.

  97. Laura

    Talking about ‘giving up the 4wd’ is pretty narrow whichever way you look at it.

    Let’s talk as well about the choice between losing the job, or not having the contract renewed, or not being promoted, and staying out of the workforce to look after a child who would actually be fine in childcare if that childcare is run properly.

    And let’s talk about that in terms of the harm it does to the wider community to have fewer women/parents in senior roles, as well as unsupported allegations about personal greed.

  98. Fine

    Isn’t the ‘excessive financial gain’ a bit of a red herring? If you think child-care for very young kids is potentially bad for them, then it’s bad for them regardless of the reason for placing them in child-care.

    Is there any evidence that people paying-off 4 wheel drives place their kids in child care earlier than anyone else? I don’t think this argument makes a huge amount of sense.

    I don’t have kids, so I’m always a bit unsure about contributing to discussions like this. But all my girlfriends who have had kids went back to work part-time when the kids were less that a year old. Their kids seem fine to me. The reasons weren’t only about needing the money, but also about being bored at home and really missing work. That’s another really important factor.

  99. sublime cowgirl

    COuple of questions: a)

    1. Do i take it that everybody here believes that full time childcare for 6week olds is developmentally equivalent and as beneficial to the child as full time or part time parenting?

    2. Am i the only one that thinks that perhaps couples earning $150 000 pa or over with infants in long day care may be choosing financial or career gain over optimum child development?

    Call me idealistic, but i am of the old school left that favours collective wellbeing over rampant capitalism and individualism. (And note with interest Eddie Groves decision to axe 1000 chldcare staff jobs today, for business reasons.)

    I believe in paid parental leave up of two years. I support the Swedish right to 6 hr per week work for parents until their youngest child is 8. But, if i currently have the choice, i aint going to wait around for the state to do this, at the expense of my child.

    Its not the end of the world to own one car. In fact it may just be the saving of it, and a couple of kids along the way.

    BTW Helen – found that article by Biddulph you wanted to blog, the one calling for parental leave instead of infant childcare that you described as ‘disingenuous’ at #52

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/paid-care-for-babies-a-pale-imitation/2007/07/15/1184438146584.html

    I actually think Biddulph makes fair points.

    **********************
    sorry double links in a post put me in the spaminator.

    * from the australian may 15 2008
    Ms Gillard produced figures showing that a high-income family earning between $130,000 and $150,000 with one child in fulltime care would save $1646.32 ayear when the rebate rises to50 per cent, even after the loss of the benefit is taken into account.

    And families earning $110,000 a year would save $2485.86 a year.

    Previously, if you had one child in care and reached $110,000 of combined family income and above, you could still receive $1511 a year for your childcare costs. Now it will cut off completely at $126,000 combined family income.

    The benefit subsidises parents who put their kids in childcare. The maximum a family can get is $9000 a year if they are earning less than $40,000 for one child.

  100. Helen

    Let’s look at a couple of the positives in the equation.

    I’ve said this once before but my kids are proud alumni of a properly run community based child care centre which was set up in the 1970s as part of the community child care movement (Big cyber-pat on the back for those people). Both of them acquired something wonderful which have lasted up to the present day: friends. Not friends selected for them by mummy for a playdate, which is all good, but friends they chose themselves. In both cases their friendships have remained firm all through the years. It’s wonderful.

    And of course this has cemented our links to the community as we in turn became friends with those kids’ parents.

    Here’s another, related point: the (modified) rough and tumble of kids together. So many kids are singletons, or like mine, spaced so far apart they might as well be. I think a singleton at home is no more ‘natural’ than a bunch of kids in child care, and I think they benefit from the peer contact.

    Here’s another: At child care, kids are routinely and daily exposed to books. This is of course the case for middle class kids at home, but not necessarily for the rest. That might be their only chance to experience what Mem Fox and Mark Latham considered so important.

  101. klaus k

    “1. Do i take it that everybody here believes that full time childcare for 6week olds is developmentally equivalent and as beneficial to the child as full time or part time parenting?”

    The question is too broad to be meaningfully answered – there are too many variables. What quality of care? What are the staff:child ratios? What is the financial situation of the parent or parents? What other support or potential support do they have? What are the parents experiences with children? What is their level of confidence and state of mental well-being?

    A parent who is raising a child or children full-time by themselves, especially in a situation of financial or other stress, is not always going to be in a good situation either. Also, it depends what you mean by full-time childcare: 9-5, 5 days a week is still less than half of your waking hours for the week. Even 8-6 is less than half. The rest of the time, presumably, the parent is with the child.

  102. sublime cowgirl

    Hey F, not having a shot at you, of course, but just responding 🙂

    FIne “Isn’t the ‘excessive financial gain’ a bit of a red herring? If you think child-care for very young kids is potentially bad for them, then it’s bad for them regardless of the reason for placing them in child-care.”

    Actually its not. If a child comes from an at risk family , consistent attachment and high standard food, is better than the alternative. Most of the studies extolling the b’benefits of childcare are studies into improved welfare of kids inchildcare from impoverished backgrounds, which are then extrapolated onto the general population. As Laura pointed out above, ‘good enough’ parenting, is pretty good for kids at home. Bad parenting is not so.

    Fine “Is there any evidence that people paying-off 4 wheel drives place their kids in child care earlier than anyone else? I don’t think this argument makes a huge amount of”

    Higher incomes families use early childcare proportionally at higher rates than lower income families. Check AIFS etc.

    Helen, i’m sure your kids are wonderful articulate and highly functional people, though at a stab i’d give you far more credit in this outcome then the Centre.
    (When i used childcare, I used a Community Child care centre as well.)

    Secondly i’d also take a punt that you weren’t also partnered with two cars and living in a (70’s comparitive) million dollar house. (note i said house, not mansion – a million dollar house is not necessarily a mansion), and kept the kids in full time care, even during your holidays from work (which does happen at times now).

  103. Helen

    SC, we only have one car, and if we were very lucky we might get $1,000 for it. People have to give up on the rhetorical trope “if everyone just sold all those SUVs/BMWs and gave up their holidays they could easily live on one wage AND send their kids to private school.”

    Call me idealistic, but i am of the old school left that favours collective wellbeing over rampant capitalism and individualism. (And note with interest Eddie Groves decision to axe 1000 chldcare staff jobs today, for business reasons.)

    Do you see that bad childcare and the neoliberal ethic is to blame here, not childcare per se? Of COURSE childcare run that way was a disaster. If I started up a private corporation to run a private school where the science teachers were ordered to teach creationism, for instance, would you blame “education”? Of course not. You’d blame the school and the running of it.

    You’re also fixated on the baby of six weeks. Mem Fox was complaining that all child care was bad.

    Most of us agree that there is a portfolio of measures needed including parental leave (which is repeating what I’ve already said.) However there will always be a minority of children whose circumstances dictate that their parents can’t care for them during the day, and I mean circumstances, not maternal greed and slothfulness SC. Such as illness, disability, death, incapacity, mental illness, addiction, car accident, or hanging on to your livelihood by the skin of your teeth and being one pay packet away from homelessness.

  104. Child rich but car poor

    Oh, I just remembered that that’s our current car. When Girlchild and Boychild were in child care we had the 1962 Renault 12. ‘Nuff said!

  105. Chris (a different one)

    I think a singleton at home is no more ‘natural’ than a bunch of kids in child care, and I think they benefit from the peer contact.

    Some parents are feeling pressured into putting their children into childcare at least some of the time because they are being told that its needed for socialisation purposes. I don’t know if this is true (I doubt it – I think its a bit of a myth that children don’t get sufficient peer contact unless they go to childcare), but its another reason that we need to be able to discuss research into this without it turning into a pro or anti childcare debate.

    Its always going to be about a compromise around what is best for the family as a whole. Its easier on parent’s minds if they think it better for the children in childcare compared to home-care, but it would be nice to know if thats actually true.

    The benefit subsidises parents who put their kids in childcare. The maximum a family can get is $9000 a year if they are earning less than $40,000 for one child.

    Well it may not be popular, but a means tested payment based on family income independent of whether the child goes into childcare or not would be better. Parents can decide to spend the money on childcare so they can work and earn more money, or to use the payment to partially offset the forgone wages.

    Here’s another: At child care, kids are routinely and daily exposed to books. This is of course the case for middle class kids at home, but not necessarily for the rest. That might be their only chance to experience what Mem Fox and Mark Latham considered so important.

    Isn’t this something that can be just as well addressed with better community groups, education and facilities?

  106. sublime cowgirl

    Obsession with 6 week old is because that is specifically what i was questioning, and as i said in my fist comment at #55

    ” And while its not ‘abuse’ , IMHO its pretty poor option to stick a 6 week old kid in 50-60 hr a week daycare, when one has genuine alternatives, like giving up the 4WD.

    At 18 mths i sent my kid one day a week to daycare, for her and for me. I had no family around and needed the break, I’m not hardline against it.

    However when i wanted to get out of the house and back to work, my partner, took time off and became the house hubby instead. ”

    I didnt say i totally agreed with Mem Fox, did I ?
    I didn’t say i was blanket anti childcare either.
    I specifically spoke to the issue of 6wk old infants in long day care of 50 to 60 hours as being a poor choice for an affluent person who has no finacial compulsion to do this. I specifically stated in my first comment that i did not think it was ‘abuse’.

    Further Mem Fox might have rambled on about quite few things outside her areas of expertise, but i didnt get the picture she was blanketly criticising childcare per se either.

    Fox: http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,,24268220-2682,00.html
    “I don’t know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work.

    “I know you want a child, and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? I don’t think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that’s incredibly controversial.

    “I was talking to someone in childcare in Queensland earlier this year. She said that we’re going to look back on this time from the late ’90s onwards, with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours, and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen.

    “It’s actually child abuse. It’s just awful. It’s awful for the mothers as well. It’s completely heartbreaking.

    “You actually have to say to yourself, `If I have to work this hard and if I’m never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?’

  107. Fine

    SC, I wasn’t talking about an at risk family. I was talking about a family who wasn’t wealthy. Not the same thing. It still doesn’t answer my question.

  108. klaus k

    Part of the problem we’re always going to have with assessing different ways of raising children is that the ‘object’ we’re trying to locate is in process. If we took a number of adult human beings and put them through a series of different experiences, we could probably get a sense of whether one or the other experiences is ‘better’ for them.

    But when it comes to raising children, we can’t assume that we have a person there in advance of the process we’re trying to assess, who we can use as a yardstick in order to quantify the benefits of the process. The problem is that they are emerging and being created by that process. So it is not particularly useful for Fox to ask “but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks?” Mostly her intervention just seems like a lot of ill-thought out assumptions wrapped in this emotive rhetoric, and I don’t know what she is trying to achieve really.

  109. sublime cowgirl

    “Part of the problem we’re always going to have with assessing different ways of raising children is that the ‘object’ we’re trying to locate is in process.”

    SOunds like the prob with Climate change data.
    We can only go on past research and project it onto likely outcomes for future cohorts. We could be wrong and its all just a beat up. Wanna gamble?

  110. sublime cowgirl

    Sorry, unnecessary analogy. Kinda typing out loud.
    But Klaus, where do you stand on the Cortisol studies (measurable) and the Attachment theory issues (arguable) for infants in care?

  111. Child rich but car poor

    “You actually have to say to yourself, `If I have to work this hard and if I’m never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?’

    You see this is the sort of statement that makes me gag. “Never going to see my kid.” SO dishonest. It kind of frames the statement so that someone who hasn’t had kids yet has this mental vision of a child in care 24/7 whereas in fact that kid is picked up by a parent and taken home for dinner, bath and bed. Besides the fact that “tremendous stress in childcare” is just assumed.

  112. Chris (a different one)

    Besides the fact that “tremendous stress in childcare” is just assumed.

    have no references handy, but I thought there had been quite a bit of research into that (modulo the tremendous bit).

  113. klaus k

    I think the recent cortisol research supports the use of high-quality childcare in a lot of different contexts, and suggests that it is not markedly worse in others. It tends to support what experts in the field argue about what is and isn’t ‘quality’ care as well.

    I don’t think we have any alternative but to gamble, frankly. Given the extent of documented abuse and maltreatment before this recent proliferation of childcare, I would say that maintaining traditional arrangements are at least as much of a gamble. At least in childcare there’s accountability, there’s the chance that problems will be recognised and addressed – especially in high-quality services.

  114. Laura

    “I specifically spoke to the issue of 6wk old infants in long day care of 50 to 60 hours as being a poor choice for an affluent person who has no finacial compulsion to do this.”

    It sounds bad –
    But is there any such situation actually, or has somebody just thought this up as an emotive example of why mothers should be ‘encouraged’ to not work for two years?

  115. Chris (a different one)

    Laura – I don’t know about six weeks, but there was a letter from a mother in the smh the other day who said she put both of her children into full time childcare at 3 months and 6 months respectively, not because they had to for financial reasons but because they thought it would be better for everyone overall (and it turned out well).

    Letter is buried in here

  116. klaus k

    The community and university centres I’m familiar with aren’t even open 60 hours a week. In my partner’s centre there are only a couple of children enrolled at any given time who would be there consistently for longer than 40 hours a week, each week of the year. It’s pretty rare. The majority of children are enrolled either two or three days, arrive well after the centre opens and are collected well before closing time.

  117. sublime cowgirl

    Laura its not an urban myth, its not particularly common, but it still happens

    Try this exercise out right now.
    Grab a white pages, pick an affluent suburb.
    Call a centre, and ask about booking your 6 wk old child into full time care.
    Say you’re 6 months pregnant and just exploring your options about when to return to work.
    Say you’re worried your baby will be the only infant in there.

    See what they say.

    Now seek out a childcare worker privately. Ask them off the record if it happens.
    Then ask them if they would ever do it for their own kids (if they weren’t working there).

  118. jo

    SC, it would be good to see the actual figures re: babies under 12 months in care and for what time period.

    The ABS stats work out at 49,000 in formal care for over 35 hours per week & includes all kids 0-12, not just babies.

    Secondly, all these stats are quoting usage are based on what is being ‘paid for’ and ‘claimed for’ and not actual usage – you’d have to analyse the sign in/sign out registers to produce real usage rates.

    When my daughter was 4yo and was in care for 3 days per week – I was charged for and paid for 30 hours – when in reality she was dropped off after 9.30 and picked up at 4.30 and some weeks I only worked two days per week, but paid to keep my regular spot- or would drop her off for a short time for an appt etc. on that day etc. Therefore the actual usage was mostly 21 hours or less per week, not the 30 paid for. And this is replicated across the nation. This centre in particular had a lot of stay at home & part-time working mothers on the books. The place mostly emptied at 3pm when school came out, and nearly all picked up by 4.30pm etc.

    For those who don’t have kids and or use formal childcare: nearly all childcare centres charge a daily rate which is claimed to Centrelink for a rebate as amounts of hours – often the daily opening hours i.e.. 10 hours – no matter how many hours you use. Before and After School Care is charged in 3 hour blocs for morning and 3 hours per afternoon – no matter if you pick up your kids 30 minutes after the bell – so the stats. already show more far hours than what are being used.

    I actually couldn’t find any qualification of this on the ABS data – but one would assume that no-one is punching in the ‘sign in/sign out’ book data for little Flynn and Tallulah – rather what is being is collected, analysed and then reported is what is being processed via the CCB system etc.

    So, assuming that if all of the 7% who use formal care over 35 hours is applied to the 7% of the total who are babies under 12 months = equals 3,486 babies at the most. Then assume that the 35 hours per week figure could be inflated by up to 20%-40% -yadda, yadda – you’d have to agree that the numbers of these ‘poor wee bairns’ is not being accurately reflected in these type of debates.

    And in consideration of these actual ‘poor wee bairns’ – i.e.. the babies under 12 months who are in formal care for over 35 hours per week – firstly ,the families who have no other options as Helen points out – sickness, death, financial etc. need for us to provide the very best care, but also need us to provide real options and choices, which is what I hope your point is – ie. these families don’t have choices and would more than likely choose to parent their baby at home in the first 12 months. Agreed.

    For some mothers who do have many options, and still choose to book their baby into formal care for long hours on multiple days, I would think that this means ipso facto – a much greater likelihood of attachment problems. Therefore opting for formal childcare is a symptom of a problem not the cause.

    And this where community and council run centres have a such an important and vital role to play – ie. the qualified Centre Coordinator who has an Early Childhood Degree liaises with Community Nurse and Council Social Worker……..and may arrange to have a chat to see how things are going with the new baby, and what’s happening at home and how the other siblings are and so on.

    And possibly this where we should be looking at supporting more Family Day Care place for babies under 12 months, to support these women and families, who do require multiple long days for whatever reason.

    And for career women who are unwilling to set aside their career, well our society and state is often arranged around the shortcomings of men : ) …..more seriously, Childcare centres are open for specified hours, and any person can enrol their baby/child into a centre if they meet the guidelines blah, so unless you legislate to restrict the amount of hours a service can care for a particular baby per day or week, which then would discriminate against those that have no options, but whatever – you are always only ever left with a very small group of mothers who for career/financial gain or whatever – are happy to co-parent their baby with a childcare centre.

    And I would think that many of these women would prefer options like Family Day Care if available. And for most upper middle class career women & families – nannies are the go, not childcare centres.

  119. Brian

    Fine at 98:

    Isn’t the ‘excessive financial gain’ a bit of a red herring? If you think child-care for very young kids is potentially bad for them, then it’s bad for them regardless of the reason for placing them in child-care.

    That’s pretty much what Steve Biddulph is saying:

    Care-raised babies don’t all become psychopaths, but they are measurably more anxious, aggressive and disobedient as they move through preschool and the primary grades. We even know why this is so. The stress hormone cortisol, measured in a baby’s saliva, doubles if they are placed in care, and it is still elevated even months after they start.

    It also rises as the day goes on, whereas it falls away in home-raised babies. Australian studies have replicated this. Elevated cortisol suppresses growth, including brain growth, and reduces immunity.

    And:

    Quality care – from university-trained carers, stable staff in high ratios – is helpful, but does not eliminate the damage.

    Biddulph is saying this is true for children under 3.

    For children over 3, certainly 4-5 there’s another whole pile of research that says quality preschool education will give markedly better developmental outcomes and life chances. From memory economists have calculated the return on investment as about 8:1.

    I talked to my wife about this who has had 40 years experience teaching kindergarten, preschool and now prep. She hasn’t worked in childcare. She did do time as a governess in a rich and somewhat posh home in England where she stayed the course as distinct from her predecessors who tended to escape early.

    She reckons that quality of parenting is a more important factor than childcare. So children of brilliant parents will do fine whether they attend childcare or not.

    My wife favours family day care against institutional care and this is the path we took with our son. First she stayed at home and took in 3 kids of friends who were working. The pay rates were pathetic.

    Then when she went back teaching half time out of economic necessity she hired a young woman who had done a governess course to look after him at home. Rather expensive but more or less OK. Finally she made an arrangement with one of her preschool mums. They exchanged kids every morning and afternoon. The mum had younger kids at home and it worked well.

    Of course you do have to be careful about standards with family day care.

    Apart from that my wife reckons there should be a lot more help in parenting skills. Gerald Ashby, the first and late, great director of Preschool Education in Qld initiated free parenting help in a trial program at Humpybong and some other underprivileged areas. But the money couldn’t be found to sustain it although it was probably an excellent social investment.

    So klaus k the claim by Biddulph and co is that the research is in. Yet as Chris (a different one) said we make compromises in the interests of the whole family. Childcare has a place as one of the options and those who work there can do so with honour.

    I think, however, that the ‘best interests of the child’ must be a guiding principle and generally trumps the needs of business. Generally speaking to act in favour of the best interests of the child is to the public good in the long run.

    Most people are prepared to make some sacrifices to further the best interests of their children. I think sc is (rightfully) objecting to cases where the wants of the parents are placed ahead of the needs of the child. How often that happens is another matter and it’s not an argument against childcare as she has now several times pointed out.

  120. Laura

    Jane Austen and all her six siblings lived with a village wet-nurse from eight weeks until they could talk.

  121. Chris (a different one)

    Brian @ 119 said:

    For children over 3, certainly 4-5 there’s another whole pile of research that says quality preschool education will give markedly better developmental outcomes and life chances. From memory economists have calculated the return on investment as about 8:1.

    Its interesting that the starting school age seems to be going up – I started
    year 1 at school when 4.5 and whilst the youngest in the year, was not the youngest by much (a couple of months). So its not surprising at all to me that they’re finding that it would be useful to start more formal education earlier.

    jo @118 said:

    For some mothers who do have many options, and still choose to book their baby into formal care for long hours on multiple days, I would think that this means ipso facto – a much greater likelihood of attachment problems. Therefore opting for formal childcare is a symptom of a problem not the cause.

    However, if you believe that childcare is superior (for socialisation reasons etc) then its a logical decision to put them into childcare as soon as possible even if you’d prefer to look after them yourself. Even if you think that childcare is just as good as the job you’d do, then financial issues are going to have more influence than if you thought it was suboptimal.

    And I would think that many of these women would prefer options like Family Day Care if available. And for most upper middle class career women & families – nannies are the go, not childcare centres.

    A very expensive way to go, but having a nanny removes some of the attachment issues, its much more similar to a close relative being the carer.

  122. Helen

    Jo – bringing sense into discussion threads, one fabulous painstakingly put-together post at a time. Thank you.

    I would also like to point out that where the actual deaths and traumatic injuries occur is in the nuclear or extended family, which is being treated as the Gold Standard here. Don’t take from this “OMG Helen is saying families are bad!!1!”, because I’m not. It’s just that if we’re going to go into the minutiae of everything that could go wrong with formal childcare, it’s only fair to point out that… well, children get killed in family care all the time. Or starve to death. It’s very rare that that happens in day care.

  123. Brian

    Yes, jo’s done well and fair point, Helen. Personally I don’t regard the nuclear family as the ideal state of affairs. It hasn’t been the dominant form for most of our time on earth as a species.

    Chris, when you say “they’re finding that it would be useful to start more formal education earlier” you have to be careful about what you mean by “formal”. In northern Europe (Scandinavia and I think Germany too) they don’t start formal teaching in the sense of teaching the 3Rs until age 7 and the Finns in particular are consistently world champs in academic achievement when measured at age 15.

    The ‘preschool education’ that researchers found beneficial was, I understand, based on make-believe or imaginative role play, but I’ve only seen reports of the studies, not the studies themselves.