Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Baby winge

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.


FirstNations said...

Daycare isn't paying someone to raise your children, first of all. It's buying them safety and supervision for the eight hours a day you go out and help earn enough money to raise them.
Raising a kid is INSANELY expensive. eighteen years of expensive! In my daughters case, the cost of private pay daycare amounts to exactly the same amount of money she pays out in rent each month. for average, accredited daycare...which still does not come up to the standards of any single government funded daycare operation only 70 miles away in Canada.
we have social security, why should child care be exempt? everyone starts out as a kid, right? you have to grow up to work, right? I don't see a problem with paying into a child care system at all.

homo escapeons said...

Oh can I volunteer to run across this minefield?
dateline North America...
WW2: Men go off to war women forced to leave homes and work in factories...like having 'real' jobs
50s: Men come back and go to work for the same company for 25 years
women chained to the typing pool
60s: women start to enter University in huge numbers while men are out smoking pot or off fighting kommunizm and don't seem to notice
70s:the pill allows women to stop reproducing and start infiltrating workforce effectively halving the number of positions
80s: yuppy couples both working throw 1.9 kids in daycare and pick them up after stopover at Oxygen Bar
90s husbands say to hell with this and stay home to raise the kids let the wife go fight the other women on the corporate ladder, have affairs, and get stress related diseases
21st Century: couples stop getting married and reproducing altogether

Let's face it we just reversed 500,000 years of evolution in 50 years what did everybody expect?
The developing nations will never experience the luxury of those Baby Boom Experimental Equalization decades..EVER..
instead they will swallow us up with their DNA..
and I'm not being xenophobic..
know any Mathematicians?
It's a done deal.

Geosomin said...

"I am saying that you shouldn't even be contemplating having kids...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."

Damn straight. It's why we haven't had kids yet. I mean nature could play fun with us and bring one on unplanned, but we're being careful that if and when we lave little peoples, we are ready for it (crossing fingers)...It'll be a sacrifice, but something worth sacrificing for I think. Having said that though, I think childcare, for single mom's and people who can't work and pay bills and child care all together is important. I mean, why work if most your wage has to go to paying someone else to look after your child while you do it - but if you have to work and have no choice...well...it's not right. I've been lucky in life so far, so maybe I'd be a bit more prochild care if it was for those who needed it and not just yuppies who want to have a kid and go back to their lives like before. Both my parents worked, but my Mum took a break until I was 11 before she went back full time and my older brother could kee an eye out on me.
And I will say - I'm tired of scientific researchers in my field of work who bring their kids to work or ignore them for their research's sake. For god's sake - the lab is NOT where you let a child run about, you don' lock them i n your office with a PSP while you work and if you want a career in resarch to the point where you family doesn't see you, then don't have a kid...hell don't get married. It's not fair to those who love you.
I don't see why women can't have kids...but then I've never had any kids yet so I'm kind of talking out of my ass...

ZB said...

Population control matched to the sustainable resources of the country, (Britain presently 60 million and rising but should be 30 million and steady) everyone's name drawn out of a hat (a big hat) re who gets to spawn and the bottom line:

if you can't afford to or aren't prepared to raise it without state intervention/handouts YOU CAN'T HAVE IT.

IE - what everyone else said. In CAPS.

ziggi said...

It's never simple is it? I was working when equal pay for men and women became law and I was jolly pleased to get a payrise. But what happened in the company in which I worked was that gradually men's salaries became less (or didn't grow as fast) so that the company could afford to pay women the same, in a fairly few short years young men could no longer afford to keep a wife and child and women had to work to balance the books.

GreatSheElephant said...

I personally think the French have got it right. If the State wants people to work and pay tax and they also want people to maintain the birth rate then they have to provide state funded childcare. There are very few families that can afford to have just one parent working (apart obviously from the very rich).

The alternative is a very low birthrate and a rethink of racist attitudes to open immigration. That or we all forget about any chance of a pension in our old age.

llewtrah said...

I am frequently condemned for pointing out that babies are going to interfere with careers. If you aren't prepared to look after junior then don't have a baby.

My mum went back to work when we were in double figures. It wasn't that they were rich or anything, but working mothers seem to spend huge amounts of their income on paying other people to have the inconvenience of junior.

Children should be valued, not shuffled into creche, then nursery etc. If mothers aren't prepared to make sacrifices they should accept that work is their priority and remain childless so their career doesn't suffer those inconvenient children's illnesses, birthday parties, school holidays and whatnot.

Lorna said...

I may be in a minority, but I am looking forward to staying home with my children (as soon as we manage to reproduce, naturally!). For one, I earn a pathetic salary, which would be almost completely used up on paying for daycare leaving us no better off financially. Secondly, as Llewtrah has pointed out, I actively want to spend my time with them. For one thing, if they've got the Young Man's gene's, they'll be blowing things up from the age of 1, so they'll want keeping an eye on ;).

However, even before children, I'm getting a little fed up of people looking at me pityingly when I explain that I'd be happy do this.

Lorna said...

Ooh - just saw you have a new hamster - hurrah! Hope he doesn't bite too much.

Simon said...

I've been at home looking after my kid for the last 15 years.

We really don't need to worry about increasing the population of the planet. If we run out of tax payers we just import some.

Christine said...

Hope I'm not late to the party...

I think the difference is that we don't have the same support systems we used to have and even if we do, just living seems to be so much more expensive. For example, it used to be much easier to live on a single person's income as a family. Now we have exoribitant student loans, higher housing costs, gas and the list goes on, most families need two incomes. Second, I know I at least had my grandmother to take care of me when my mother was working. And my grandmother who raised her kids by herself had extended family - sisters and mother - to watch my mom and aunt while she worked.

I know there are people out there who still have these support networks, but I know fewer and fewer who have them personally. I don't necessarily believe that the government should subsidize childcare for those who choose to have children, but maybe they should if they're worried about a society that is waiting later to have children and is choosing to have less and less.

B said...

I agree that anyone wanting to have children should be prepared to look after them but I still think the state and sometimes big companies/organisations should be providing creches and help with bringing up children.

Firstly it is not the sole responsibility of the parents to bring up children. In todays world the old free sources of child care are drying up mainly due to the demands of a modern economy. Given this the state has a responsibility to help out.

Secondly as the state and other organisations put ever greater pressures on us they must provide greater and greater levels of support for us.

Thirdly creches are much, much more efficient at child care than parents ever could be in many circumstances. Of course good childcare must be highly valued but that does not necessarily mean parents do it 100% of the time.