I read an article last week in the BBC. I genuinely don't remember what it was about, but one line stuck out in my mind, and has been turning over and over in my brain ever since:
"Many women blame the lack of adequate child care."
What exactly are they blaming on the on the lack of childcare? I don't remember, but it was probably something to do with either why so few women are in full-time employment, or possibly falling birth rates. It doesn't really matter, though. What is amazing about this statement is how blaze' it is. I bet few, if any, other readers of the article even batted an eye when they read it. Of course it's to do with inadequate child care. Duh.
And yet, this is an extraordinary assertion. I find it incredible that anyone, in any situation, should feel entitled to child care of any form. It really is an amazing assumption, completely new in the past couple of decades (which is but a pimple on the butt of the sum total of human history), that we feel entitled to give birth, spend a couple months with baby, and then go back to our careers, leaving someone else to look after the spog until he or she is 18 and old enough to leave home.
Ok, maybe not completely new. Extremely wealthy women throughout history were obligated to produce heirs to inherit their husband's property, but refused to engage in anything so bovine as actually feeding their own children, and after the first loud wail the bairns were handed off to be raised by wet nurses and governesses. But that is by far the exception, and even then it was never viewed as a government's responsibility. It was still a personal choice (either raise them yourself or spend your own money to hire other people). No one used other people's money to hire other people to raise their own children. Such an idea would have been preposterous. And yet, that's exactly what we do today.
Japan, Italy, and pretty much all of the developed world are facing major birth rate crises. The problem is that couples have been breeding far below the necessary 2.1 kids per couple to sustain the population, and the result is that in a few more years there won't be enough workers paying in to the social benefits scheme to support all the old people retiring and living off it. In both these countries women cite The Lack of Adequate Child Care as a primary reason for having one or no kids. Interestingly, when presented with a choice of raising kids or having a career, most people seem to be choosing the career. Fine. At least it's a choice. They are saying "I can't do both, so I choose one over the other." I can respect that.**
What I can't respect is the sense of entitlement, that the government has some sort of obligation to raise my children so I don't have to sacrifice anything to have them. And that kind of attitude is all too common. It's deeply reminiscint of people who want pets but don't want to do any of the dirty work, like walking the dog and scooping the cat litter. Can you imagine someone writing an article for the BBC, or giving a story on the news, saying "I'm completely entitled to have a dog, but I don't have time to take it out twice a day to walk and poop because I work full time. Clearly the government needs to institute more comprehensive dog-ownership programs to assist working dog-owners with their dog-walking and poop-scooping tasks. These programs need to be made especially accessible to poorer dog owners, who often have the most dogs but the fewest resources to look after them." Man, would I love to see that.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that a woman's place is in the home making babies. I am saying that you shouldn't even be contemplating having kids (and that's "you" meaning all of you, male and female alike) unless you're prepared give something up to have them (that is the nature of parenting) and are prepared to raise them your bloody self.
What do you think? There are a few moms and dads who hang out here. Do you think you are entitled to child care and after-school programs so you can continue to work? If so, why?
**Interestingly, no one has suggested a mass adoption campaign to move unwanted or orphaned babies from overpopulated countries like India and China to developed countries. If Italy is willing to pay its women cash to make babies, why shouldn't they just spend the cash to import and raise babies that would otherwise languish in a 3rd-world orphanage? It would help balance things out a lot. Everybody wins! I'm serious about this.