{ Transcript }

More families than ever before have both spouses working, and that leaves a growing number of children being raised in daycare centers.

As the change becomes a political issue, daycare is being labeled as everything from a savior for parents to a serious harm to children. Today in the WKSU series "New Work New Families, America's Juggling Act," WKSUs Mark Urycki looks at the daycare debate...

Earlier in our new work new families series we met Robert Lubell who worked for an ad agency in Sylvania, Ohio until the 50 and 60-hour weeks drove him to quit.

Robert: The fact of watching that our 4-year-old, now 8 years old--growing up around me, having a live-in nanny so we could manage our child.
Lubell and his wife both quit jobs to start their own company and work out of their homes. Lubell works just as many hours now but schedules it around his daughter's life. He says he and his wife had been working hard to afford their nanny but not getting the return on investment.
Robert: You can't buy yourself as a parent. You can't buy that quality. If you are lucky enough--then the kid will think whoever is raising him are the parents.
Around the country more and more parents struggle with the question of whether dropping the kids off at daycare is doing any harm, and the issue is wrapped up in layers of politics. Conservatives have argued that high taxes force both parents to work to the detriment of the family. Feminists fear that criticism of daycare could lead to an erosion of the gains that women have made in the workplace. It is predominantly women who will stay home to care for kids. Two thirds of married women with children now have jobs. Bebe Moore Campbell, Author of "Successful Women, Angry Men" says that means one thing for children...
Bebe: Children will be in daycare. That leaves us, as a nation with a lot of catching up to do as far as daycare is concerned. More and more studies are showing that daycares are very poorly paid, not likely to have as training as much as they should have. We are a nation that is very dependent on outside daycare workers because the grandmothers that used to be around the corner are now fifteen hundred miles away.

Mark: Do women feel guilty about that?

Bebe: They still do. Even after 20 years of being in the workforce, the major guilt falls upon the women. The "good-mother-syndrome" is still alive and well. Even though, we now have another view of women.

A couple years ago a conservative Baptist church in Arkansas shut down its daycare center, saying that working mothers "neglect their children, damage their marriages, and set a bad example." But liberals, like former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen also wonder whether daycare is always necessary. She posed this question in a speech at Kent State University...
Anna: Are there a significant number of parents who are instead choosing to work outside the home, even when they know that at some period this may not serve their kids? I don't know about you, but I find raising children much harder than writing a book or giving a speech. Are we expecting government or industry to do things for our kids that really only can be done well by ourselves? Are we unwilling to sacrifice our present for their future?
The answer is obvious for Jennifer Fuss of Barberton. She stays home to care for her three young boys and newborn daughter...
Jennifer: I feel that if you are going to bring children into the world, you should raise them yourself and not have somebody else do it. If you are conscience enough to have children, you should be conscience enough and willing to care for them yourself.
Kent State Psychologist Steven Hobfoll says there's nothing to fear from good daycare...
Dr. Hobfoll: Studies, especially of girls, show that girls, quite remarkably, benefit from having a mother that is in the workforce. For young boys, it is mixed. Boys tend to be more aggressive with both parents in the workforce than those that aren't. Then again, we don't know if that aggression is a good thing. Maybe fighting for a toy in preschool, they also learn to fight for a job a little later.
And a comprehensive Rand Institute study found that "Head Start", the government funded daycare for low income kids, does have long lasting benefits--especially for White and Hispanic children. But other psychologists have argued daycare can damage a child's bond with parents and lead to later problems--particularly if it's used in the critical brain development period of the first three years. Dr. Hobfoll admits good daycare is often hard to find...
Dr. Hobfoll: Daycare in this country is still in the Stone Age. Daycare is extremely expensive. If you have money, you can get good daycare or hire someone to take care of your children. If you don't have money, it's a challenge for the parents of young children. In studies, we found that when children in daycare for 8 or 9 hours--when the child is in there longer than one adult shift, that begins to be a problem.
A study by four universities rated only 15% of daycare centers as "excellent" with the next 70% rated "barely adequate." One thing daycare is good at is freeing parents to pursue careers. Stay-at-home mother Jennifer Fuss says parenting is a responsibility that too many couples shirk for the extra income or the recognition...
Jennifer: The parents had the choice to have the children or not. And I think that they should sacrifice five years off of their career to take care of their children.
While mothers are sometimes made to feel guilty by working, Bebe Moore Campbell says society adds a contradictory burden...
Bebe: This is a country that thrives on people making money. So when you are not part of that working force--you know, when someone asks you at a cocktail party what you do--you say, "Well, I stay home with your children," you can sort of see the eyes glaze over.
In fact, says Dr. Hobfoll, women who stay at home with their kids sometimes suffer for it...
Dr. Hobfoll: Certainly, a full-time homemaker has higher risk for depression, about 2 times higher risk for depression as women who are working at least 15 hours. There are never any good studies of men because there aren't enough men to compare. But for women, it's clear, that if they work 15 hours a week--it will shield them from depression.
And even when women have jobs, they continue to do most of the work around the house. Yet for both men and women--a job is a haven from the hectic, non-stop duties that full-time parenting demand. In the last two decades many American families have seen it takes two incomes to make up for losses in real buying power, but wealthy parents also claim they both must work to make ends meet. Balancing work and home life is a goal but despite all the public support for family values, Anna Quindlen says so-called family-friendly policies too often end up a shell game.
Quindlen: Many, many employees, particularly male employees, don't take advantage of them because there are clear messages from the top taking paternity leave or taking off flex time. Or even knocking off early one day a week just doesn't send the right message about having the right stuff. Shouldn't we be asking more questions about top-down management? And whether executives should be setting the tone--shouldn't also start to think about setting a tone for life at home by actually having one?
Steven Hobfoll, along with his wife Ivonne have a book out called "Work Won't Love You Back". He consults with companies, and says they can build more loyalty among employees if they recognized family needs...
Hobfoll: I still know firms that have policies that you aren't allowed to have family pictures on the desk, which is certainly a drastic symbol. It's not uncommon. The best of their attorneys were leaving at the end of 2 or 3 years. They were keeping the best. It's very common. It doesn't just bite the family; it bites the employer as well.
In Sylvania, Steven Lubell decided his family needs meant quitting his job. His wife told him no one lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at the office...
Lubell: Life is short. Your children grow very quickly. It is important to work hard for them. Provide for them a good education and a good solid life. It's important to be present and to enjoy them being there.
Columnist Anna Quindlen went on leave at the New York Times when she first started having children, then arranged a schedule that allowed her to work from home. Not everyone can do that but she says every parent has to ask themselves tough questions about work...
Quindlen: Jackie Kennedy once said, and I'm paraphrasing her..."that if you mess up the raising of your kids, nothing else you do really means much." I think she was absolutely right about that.
I'm Mark Urycki, 89.7 WKSU.
Print This Transcript
Back to Feature
Back to Topics
WKSU Home
Copyright © 2001 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.
Send comments & suggestions to: letters@wksu.org