Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Just a week or so ago, I was discussing Mem Fox with some friends, over a copy of "Where's the Green Sheep?". We were discussing that her pro-reading stance is generally a Good Thing, but I expressed some suspicion of looneyism on the basis of her many many rules about reading to kids.

And then this weekend this appeared.

Ms Fox , 62-year-old author of books such as Possum Magic, Koala Lou and Where Is the Green Sheep, told News Ltd she believed society would look back on the trend of putting infants in childcare and wonder "how could we have allowed that child abuse to happen".

"I don't know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work," she said.

Mmmmm. I don't know what Mem Fox's definition of infants is, but the Australian Family Association (whoever they are) defined it as less than 2, maybe even 3.

Firstly, I am not convinced how exactly a children's author is qualified to have newsworthy opinions on the subject.

Secondly, while there is real validity in looking at all the various issues of child care - including making it viable for parents to stay home if they want to, and also ensuring real quality care is available for those who can't or don't want to - exactly what is to be gained by such ridiculous, unfounded, inflammatory statements? How dare she condemn a huge swathe of the population as child abusers.

Thirdly, my reading of most of the literature is that good quality child care ends up with different, but not better or worse outcomes than kids who stay at home. I am not sure about the situation for very young (less than 3 or 6 month olds), I haven't read enough to have an opinion. My gut says the answer could be different, but I don't know for sure. And it may just mean "good quality" means something different for very little ones.

And as for that "I don't know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work," remark. WTF?

I think I will be less reserved in my suspicions of looneyism in future...


  1. I remember being torn between being very annoyed and enthusiastic agreement with Mem Fox while reading "Reading Magic". There was something about it that was sending the message that if you did read aloud to your kids but they didn't magically learn to read as pre-schoolers without you actually teaching them you were somehow doing it wrong. But also, reading aloud YAY!

    Which is to say I too had an existing suspicion of looneyism and yeah, this stuff does nothing to change that.

  2. I´m sad to say that I am an advocate of stay at home mothers (although I must say that after 6 years, I am going mad).

    Saying this:
    -some mums can´t do it
    -the social and financial systems are not available for everyone to have this choice (I´m appalled at the cost of housing and how highly paid professionals say they can´t afford to have holidays). Most families need to have both parents working.
    -I get paid about A$1500 per month to stay at home for the first 2 1/2 years. Sure don´t get that in Australia.
    -A number of mothers at home suffer from financial stress which could override any benefits of having a mother at home.
    -you can´t make blanket statements about things without taking into account as many circumstances as possible.

    I still like reading your posts all the time when I am procrastinating. I´m studying 2 subjects this semester as well as building a house and working a few hours a week, so the time in writing my own blog has gone by the way side (but you bring enjoyment into my days).