So this week my wee man Jax went into childcare for four hours a week.
I sobbed as I left him; he on the other hand dealt with his obviously overwhelming emotions by picking up a slightly dirty toy and shoving it in his gob. I like to think he put it there to stop him from screaming out my name as I left.
But his placement into care coincides with a few articles I read last week on our national news website Stuff. They were to do with a recently elected councillor who was demanding the council remuneration included subsidy of childcare. Now, let’s be clear. This councillor is in the same position as many women across the country whose (combined with partner) salary crosses the subsidy threshold. For the life of me I can’t understand why she made it about her rather than about women in general, or at least her constituents. There is no reason why she should receive any special treatment or feel entitled to it.
But what shocked me was the lack of understanding in the comments section on the wider issue of childcare subsidy. An article on Stuff titled “Here’s what you need to know about childcare” attracted comments such as:
if you think what’s best for the children…a parent would be at home with them instead of palming them off into care and expecting others to pick up the tab…plan for your family and budget accordingly.”
If you have children – you need to raise them. That means thinking about work and childcare before you have them. Having kids is a selfish pursuit – you have them because you want them not because society does. Therefore – take responsibility.”
As someone without children, I struggle to understand why people who have children expect me to subsidise more than I already do so that they can have more money in their household. “
I completely agree that people have to understand that having children is a financial and emotional commitment and no one has a ‘right’ to childcare. However, I find it interesting that everyone seems to accept that we have a ‘right’ to primary school education which the government is responsible for providing. In a blog I recently read on The Guardian website on why early childhood care should be subsidised the author points out how as soon as a child turns four society says education as a must that should be provided free of charge. Increasingly evidence proves that early exposure to education can be vital in helping at risk children. So why is age four such a magical number?
At Jax’s daycare 80% of the teachers hold a qualification (which I lack) in childhood education. Of course my baby boy needs my time, attention, love and laughter but he also needs exposure to new things to equip him with flexibility, strength, social skills and imagination. The New Zealand Government’s own review into early childcare finds early care decidedly positive. With evidence proving kids gain advantages in mathematics, literacy and have a far better disposition to learning in general.
For at-risk kids the benefits to society can be even greater as getting them into childcare early can be vital to their future prospects. One American research organisation found that “Well-designed early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent on the program.”
In terms of economics, the Stuff comments regarding why the hell someone else should have to pay for my kids doesn’t really make sense to me. I’m sure if the Government subsidised a child $30 or even $40 p/week for childcare the taxes the parent would pay by not being at home would cover this subsidy – so no one’s picking up the proverbial tab. Additionally, we can look at it another way, if my kids are given tools to become tax paying members of society they are likely to be footing your bill for retirement and hospital care at a later date.
Just as crucially is the loss of brainpower to our society. Currently most middle class parents would need one parent to stay at home full-time for the first three years of a baby’s life. As it is generally the middle-class who are most likely to eek across the subsidy salary limit, which means they will have the most to lose financially, as it may be touch and go between money earned and money spent on childcare.
Now gender aside, those three years are likely to have a medium to longterm impact on a number of factors for the at-home parent, including their career prospects, their pay, their professional development and their tax input into society.
Being a geographically isolated society, it’s difficult for New Zealand to compete with other nations in primary industry trade. What we can have though, is ideas. The best money to be made for an economy is not in the fabrication of items such as a laptops or cellphones it’s having the ideas to design, sell and enhance products.
To make good ideas people have to be allowed to continue to develop their minds. And it is often through a workplace that skills and knowledge are enhanced. Stunting someone’s mental growth by giving them no other option than to be at home in an isolated environment, is no good for New Zealand’s economical development. In my opinion, we should let every able and willing New Zealander develop their practical and mental skills to enable them to contribute more to New Zealand’s well-being in the future.
My kid isn’t anyone else’s responsibility but mine. At the same time, neither is educating your teenager, or providing the increased healthcare necessary for our elderly or services for those with disabilities. However, a society which doesn’t protect, enhance and love is not one which in my opinion will thrive or in which I particularly want to live in as it sounds mean.
Meanwhile, while Jax was in childcare I managed to spend two hours working on improving my business and bettering my ability to provide for him and others in our society.