Sunday, October 15, 2006

Baby Possums

In Australia, childcare facilities or, more precisely, the lack of them have caused much rift between working mothers and those ladies who just need some "me" time to catch their breath from motherhood.

In Buenos Aires, a large proportion of porteñas remain in the workforce after childbirth. For these ladies, sending their young children to a childcare centre or guardería is a necessity not a choice. However, in certain sector of this society, there are many young mothers who do not work yet pack their young bubs off to el jardin at 1 year; yup, babies only 12 months old.

When I first arrived, I was surprised by this custom. Our young nephew of 18 months was already a veteran at his jardin, and our young niece who was yet to turn one was going to join her cousin after her first birthday. Neither mother works. My mother-in-law explained that it was for the good of their children's "social life".

Meanwhile, Guillermo's expert knowledge in early intelligence and my mother's professional expertise and experience in early childhood education converge that benefits of group care in children younger than 3 years of age is, at best, uncertain.

Both Guillermo and I have effortlessly reached a consensus that our children, when we have them, will only go to half day kindergarten on a weekly basis after 3 years of age, if I am not working at the time.

We feel that nurturing a sense of security in children and stimulating their cognitive development and intelligence are best handled by parents; of course, provided the parents are willing to learn how, have the luxury of time off work, and are actually interested in doing so.

I worried our belief and approach would be too strange for and different from La Familia when the time comes. However, to my relief, an article in this Saturday's La Nación essentially reported the same findings, supported by psychologists. Heading of the piece was along the lines of "they (the psychologists) advise no kindergarten for kids before age 2".

The experts say that ratio for group care should not exceed 3:1 to ensure each child is adequately taken care of. The experience of children, in the first three years of life, impacts their behaviour at school age (Age 5). Poor quality care in the early stages may cause concentration and learning difficulties, low self-esteem, insecurities, etc. when they reach school age.

The 3:1 ratio is close to impossible for any commercially run childcare business. What it points to is that a child needs a lot of attention in their first developmental years and that intense level of care is generally not for sale.

One may think a full-time nanny is the solution. Well, the psychologists quoted in this report also mentioned that children tend to form their closest bond with the person(s) they spend the most time with. If the principal carer is not a parent, children may develop a less than healthy relationship with their parents when they are older.

It has also been confirmed in this report that full time care, even after age 3, is not the best for children. Children over 3 years benefit from some group activities but prolong period away from their principal carer (ideally parents or grandparents) have not yielded positive results in their studies.

Take from this what you will; there are situations which the parents have no choice because they have to work to put food on the table. However, when a non-working but socially busy mum told me how wonderful that her 2 yr old girl baked cookies at school with her teacher, I thought wouldn't that be a really nice bonding experience between mother and daughter? I suppose she would never find out.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home