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Hey Working Mamas: Daycare Isn't An Empowering Nod To Feminism

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Few topics raise my ire like the never-ending debate regarding daycare and the supposed benefits offered by institutionalized care. Make no mistake, outsourcing child care is big business. And even when it doesn't make financial or emotional sense, parents are choosing to plunk their kids down in someone else's lap all day long.

Cost of daycare goes beyond money

This morning, I watched a Toronto Global News report regarding the high cost of daycare and listened to a mom of three young children admit that the fees are so high, she receives financial help from her family to help cover costs.

"When my daughters were infants, it was just over $5,000 a month. And now that they're toddlers, it's just under $5,000 a month," explains Megan Lee Shulman during the interview.

"Lucky for Shulman, she receives financial help from her family. But for most Toronto parents, daycare fees are financially crippling," states reporter Farah Nasser.

Why don't we, as a society, make it more acceptable for mothers to choose to stay home while children are young?

One might wonder why parents would make the decision to put children in daycare when the costs of doing so exceed the income earned. (And that doesn't even address the emotional cost to families when babies and toddlers are separated from mom for forty hours or more per week.)

"For Shulman, quitting her job to stay home was never an option," insists Nasser.

"I don't want my son to think women stay home and I get to go to work. Or I don't want my daughters to think, well if I want to have a family, I never get to work then," offers Shulman.

Well, why don't we attempt to change the narrative surrounding child care?

Why don't we, as a society, make it more acceptable for mothers to choose to stay home while children are young?

Why don't we make stay-at-home mothers feel valued and important so that women don't feel forced or compelled to leave babies and toddlers as soon as maternity leave expires?

Staying at home should be an empowering decision

If any working mother thinks that dropping off her crying or sick toddler is somehow empowering or a nod to feminism, she clearly needs a reality check.

You are not teaching your young child some philosophical lesson in egalitarianism.

What you are actually teaching your child is that even if he or she would prefer to be with you, mommy's desire to be out in the working world (even at a financial loss) is more important. Mommy's need to be around other adults is more important than her need to be around you.

Instead, we need to allow more women who choose to stay home to feel pride in that decision.

Stay-at-home moms can explain to their children (when their kids are old enough to understand) that they were happy to take a few years off (even if it meant accepting financial sacrifices) because raising children is a worthwhile and noble pursuit.

If Megan Lee Shulman feels embarrassed to say such things to her own children one day, then perhaps she can tell them that their mother is so smart and good with numbers that she realized it makes zero sense to be away from them all day when daycare fees exceed her after tax income. Rather than spending every dime she makes -- plus the monetary contributions of well-meaning family members -- perhaps Shulman can be a full-time mom and be confident in her decision because it is both financially and emotionally sound.

Or perhaps she can explain to her three children that mommy is a proud and strong feminist who would not want to accept financial donations from family in order to pay for child care.

Unfortunately, our society seems hell-bent on outsourcing child care, no matter the cost.

Cheaper daycare won't solve the problem

A new report commissioned by the City of Toronto is calling for lower daycare fees and greater subsidies.

The recommendations include fee subsidies for every qualifying parent, capping child care costs at 10 per cent of family income or charging no more than $20 per day, per child.

Rather than trying to get cheap daycare (which parents would still pay for through higher taxes) we should make it more acceptable and affordable for mothers to stay home.

Maybe we should ask why managers or those responsible for hiring would hold it against a woman if she chooses to be out of the working world for five or ten years. If stay-at-home mothers are in fact discriminated against when attempting to re-enter the work force, then that is a discussion that feminists should address and tackle.

There is something profoundly wrong with any society or government that wants to minimize the role parents play in a young child's life.

As for Shulman, I have no idea what her job is or what her exact salary might be, but according to the news story, she appears to be making some questionable choices.

Personally, I would suggest that women consider staying home with their young children if working is actually costing them money (and even if it isn't). Perhaps someone in that position could open up a home daycare instead. This would not only save you the high fees associated with daycare, but would also allow you to be with your child while also earning an income.

Let's ask the tough questions

There is something profoundly wrong with any society or government that wants to minimize the role parents play in a young child's life.

We need to do better and be better, for the sake of our kids.

Cheap daycare is not the solution.

Enriching children with present and engaged parents is clearly the better option.

Now we need to ask the really tough questions:

Why are so many working mothers perfectly comfortable in their decision to outsource their child's care? And why don't more mothers want to spend time with their kids?

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