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May Saubier: Babies have to work hard to survive the stress of daycare

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TCW interviews May Saubier, a conservative political blogger, about her book  Doing Time: What It Really Means To Grow Up In Daycare?

Why did you write your book?

While working at my first nursery job, I knew I would never leave my future children in daycare.  I was sitting on the floor holding a child and observing everything going on around me.  I realized the children’s parents were unaware of the challenges their children faced each day without them.  When small children spend long hours in a group setting before sharing is developmentally appropriate, and much one-on-one time is still necessary, it places upon them a tremendous amount of stress.  Parents work hard at work, but their children work hard too.

As the years went by and I focused a career on caring for and teaching children, I saw daycare was being passed off as a perfectly fine alternative to parental care.  In the 1990s, when I began taking childhood development classes in college, the pitfalls of daycare were only briefly discussed and the “benefits” were lauded.  Only someone who had spent much time in this setting could speak the truth.  I became increasingly frustrated as the modern feminist movement really took hold and every discussion centered on what adults were feeling.  Meanwhile, few people were speaking up for the children.

Daycare is a business and children are the product.  When you take a tour of a daycare center, the director will not tell you there have been three gastrointestinal outbreaks in the last two months.  Or that the child crying on the worker’s lap has been crying for hours since she was dropped off.  Or that toileting and feeding becomes an assembly line-like process.  Most of all, no employee will stand up, interrupt the tour and tell you she wishes she had more arms for holding and helping the children.

What has been the reaction to your book?

It has been very mixed.  The most interesting reactions have come from other daycare employees who tell me – Yes! I too have witnessed what you describe and it is very sad for the children!  I know there are a lot of parents who have made big sacrifices to avoid daycare and I like to think my book has helped confirm their choices.  On the flip side, there are also those who are very angry with my writing.  People who are using daycare most often believe their center to be a good center.  But… I worked in “good” centers and I believe parents have a right to all the knowledge they can acquire before deciding how their children will spend the majority of their waking hours.

What makes you qualified to write the book? 

I taught elementary school for several years and have an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a Master’s degree in special education.  I have also worked in various licensed daycare centers in two states with the very best staff to child ratios offered in our country.  I cannot begin to imagine the worst.

Until recently I do not believe it was common to leave under-ones in daycare, or nursery as it is called here in the UK. But now it is becoming increasingly common making Doing Time, unfortunately, just as relevant here in the UK. What are the particular concerns with under-ones in group care?

Where to begin?  First, there are safety concerns for infants.  SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) occurs three times more often in daycare.  Respiratory illnesses can be extremely dangerous for babies.  Childcare supporters often tout sickness helps to build up an immune systems.  I say, I would rather have children fighting illnesses when they are not so vulnerable.

This is the time when mother-baby bonding needs to occur.  I could cite copious studies on the importance of this early bond.  It has been described by many as a dance between mother and baby.  It cannot and will not occur between baby and an over-worked employee.  Because daycare is an expensive business, there simply are not enough employees available to tend to everyone’s needs.  Bottle feeding, diapering and tending to crying babies is a lot for any employee to handle.

I also caution parents on the difficulties of being an older child in daycare.  It is particularly grueling on toddlers and two-year-olds.

What is the way forward to try and turn the tide against children “doing time” in nursery/daycare?

First, we need to talk to young women and our own daughters.  The younger the better.  When I was growing up the feminist mantra was – you can have it all!  You are replaceable as a parent!  It was a lie.

Now, I say if you hope to one day become a mother, plan for it because it alone is a full-time job.  Choose your career path wisely.  Maybe that means opting for a different specialty within a field or choosing one for its flexible hours.  Technology has changed the face of parenthood.  Many of us have home offices around the corner from our baby nurseries.  This really is a wonderful time to be a mother.

Second, I ask women to never apologise for putting their children first.  Motherhood must be respected.  When else in life can you say no one else on Earth can take your place?

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May Saubier
May Saubier is author of "Doing Time: What It Really Means To Grow Up In Daycare", and contributes to BabyCenter as their conservative political blogger. She lives at home with her husband and two children (aged 9 and 6).

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