A couple of weeks ago, Albertan Finance Minister Iris Evans led us to believe that she knew better how to raise our kids than we do. In her words:
“They’ve [her children] understood perfectly well that when you’re raising children, you don’t both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise. This is not a statement against daycare. It’s a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly.”
My initial reaction was to say, and I quote: “I’m thinking there’s a reason why we’re finding so many dinosaur bones out in Alberta.” Of course, that’s not fair to the millions of Albertans who don’t fit the stereotype. And, besides, Ms. Evans has since apologized for her remarks.
But I cannot let this remark pass without comment. Ms. Evans would have us believe that the number of two-income families out there, where the children spend a lot of time in daycare without parental supervision, could lead to increased mental illness and criminal activity. Now, I stay at home with the kids, and Erin works from home as often as not, and we would have to dispute this. If anything, I wonder if the correlation is less the number of daycare hours a child receives (or, conversely, the number of parental care hours the child doesn’t receive) and more the hours of television the child watches.
Here in this household, we have pulled the plug on cable television. We just don’t have it in the house. What television we receive either comes in off of an antennae (which means we get the CBC, CTV and TV Ontario), or through DVDs and downloads. So, what television Vivian has received has been strictly educational (or, as educational as Dora the Explorer can be).
Now, I have to confess, in moments when our parental juices have been in short supply, we’ve planted Vivian in front of the television with her favourite television show (currently The Magic School Bus) for an hour’s peace. And as educational as The Magic School Bus is, I have to wonder how much of the lessons take. Is she instead watching the colours and pictures, and not really taking in the science content? Because she can become a little anti-social after watching too many of these. And the experience she gets just does not compare to the richness of the experience received if she just spends time outside playing with her best friend Natalia, or at the University of Waterloo’s pre-school, where television sets are not in evidence.
So, I would have to say that I’m particularly irked by Ms. Evans’ (even if inadvertent) dismissal of the value of daycare. There are probably good daycares and bad daycares out there, but the thing children need the most isn’t specifically time with a parent. They need time being enriched. There’s a reason why they say that it takes a village to raise a child. Vivian’s best times are the ones when she’s socializing with other children. And that’s something that doesn’t come automatically just because one parent happens to be home.