From a listener to my radio program:
Dr. Laura, I want to thank you for the special moments that you helped me have. As a listener, my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our 2 month old baby boy even before he was born. I must admit that it’s hard financially, but we understand that our son is more important than luxury.
Yesterday, I had a “tear-jerker” moment. After feeding my son, I got up and started to clean the room. After a while, I saw him moving. He was putting his little hand above his head, feeling for the place where my arm had just been. Then he stretched his arms and legs in front of him where I had been lying before. I realized he was looking for me. His little face began to prepare to cry. I then placed my hand on his side. “I’m right here, baby.” He then opened his eyes. On seeing me, he smiled his gummy smile.
I stayed there, smoothing out his hair, until he fell back to sleep, but I couldn’t help thinking, what if I had been at work? What if he was with a sitter or at day care? I wouldn’t have had that moment, and he wouldn’t have been comforted. I know, because I used to work at a day care center – he would have been left crying, because he had been fed and his diaper had been changed.
As an ex-day care worker, I know that children are not cared for lovingly. They just have their physical needs met, but not their emotional needs. There were so many kids who called me “mommy,” and that was only because I was doing her job while doing mine. The fact was, “mommy” wasn’t there. But I was and am here for our son. Thank you.
I recently wrote a column for a publication in which I reiterated my position on day-care, and one of my comments was: “Tearing children away from their homes and families [for day care] is somewhere between sinister and cruel.” A reader of the column wrote a letter-to-the-editor taking exception to my comment and countering with: “…there are many benefits to day care, including health screenings, nutritious meals, socialization and active play away from the TV.”
Could not agree with her more! Where mothers and fathers can’t or won’t provide their children with food, medical care, friends in the park, and attention and play, being shunted over to an institutionalized setting may definitely be a godsend!
I’m still waiting, however, for the proof that children do better or equal in day-care than with a loving, attentive, involved mommy or daddy.
More than half of American children between the ages of 3 and 6 are in child care centers or preschools, so the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recently released the results of a study of children’s physical activity in day care settings. (NY Times, 5/6/08)
The researchers surveyed staff members at 34 area child care centers to find out more about how kids spend their time while they’re in day care, including the reasons why they may or may not spend time outside. They presented the findings recently at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Honolulu, Hawaii. The findings may surprise you.
Children are kept inside by day care workers if they show up in flip-flops rather than sneakers, or if they don’t have a coat on a chilly day. If only one child doesn’t have the right clothes for outdoor play, the whole group may be kept indoors. Occasionally, parents will deliberately drop off a child without a coat, because they don’t want the child going outside that day.
Mulch is often used to landscape playgrounds and outdoor spaces at child care centers. The researchers found that kids eat the mulch, get it caught in their shoes or use it as weapons, so day care staff indicated that outdoor play can sometimes be troublesome.
Also the feelings of teachers and parents influence whether or not children play outside. Children learn important motor and social skills by learning to kick a ball or negotiating with another child for a turn on the swing, but teachers said they felt pressure from some parents who were more concerned with children spending time on academic skills.
In addition, some day care workers said it was just too much trouble and took too much time to bundle up the kids during cold weather, while other workers said they just didn’t like going outside.
What more can be said about institutionalized day orphanages?