Who is to provide day to day care for our child? This is the most significant and fundamental decision we take as parents.

 

The most fundamental and crucial emotional, psychological, physical and intellectual human development occurs in the first three years of a child’s life. During these three years the child absorbs all of the attitudes, behaviours and feelings that he or she finds in his or her environment. He either develops or fails to develop the part of the brain responsible for empathy and for the control of emotional impulses such as anger and fear. (For further information on the research into this topic see the excellent summary of recent research by Sue Gerhardt in her book “Why love matters”).By the age of three, his or her relationships and experiences will have formed  the child’s view of the world and of himself. It is on this unshakeable basis that the rest of his or her development will build.

 

The person who spends most of a child’s waking hours with him or her, is the person who is bringing up the child. Parents are uniquely suited to meeting the needs of their own particular child; they are programmed by nature to prefer his smell to that of any other child, to modulate their voice to exactly meet his or her needs and to go on providing quality care, even when distracted, bored or tired. Being a parent is indeed a challenge, but God in his Providence has equipped each of us to do the parenting our own unique child requires. We can do it and do it really well, if we choose to.

 

If we decide that a surrogate carer genuinely can and should provide the day to day care that our child needs, then no one else can query that decision.

However many parents find themselves railroaded by social expectation into returning to paid employment and into consigning their child to an alternative minder without a chance to consider the issues and the long term implications. It is not impossible for a surrogate to provide adequate substitute care, but few parents have the chance to ask themselves; “Isn’t it a job I would rather do myself?” Or “if someone else is to do this important job, will they give my child what he really needs?”.

 

A young child needs a one to one carer who is fond of the child and really committed to finding out what he or she needs and to providing it.

Nurseries do not even attempt to provide such a carer; they typically allocate 4 or 5 children to one adult. If a mother has 4 or 5 children she will be well equipped to meet their needs. The children will be at different stages and she will have developed an intimate individual relationship with each one right from birth. This is not so with a randomly assigned carer at a nursery. The children will all be of a similar age and at a very dependent stage and she will have no long term bond of affection with each of them. She is aware that next week or month, the children she is dealing with could be different, indeed she may have decided to move on.

 

But let us imagine that you have decided to entrust your young child to a childminder and one at that who is committed and genuinely loves children. Think about it.

Imagine; you are tired; the child has been rather whiny recently, but you have finally after what feels like a rather long morning achieved peace and settled down to a coffee and to a read of the paper. There is a wail. You look up to see him standing there, probably with an un-endearingly runny nose, crying, just having bashed another child on the head with a toy truck (again!). But this is the child you carried for nine months. Whose scent you love above all others. Whose first little kicks you felt, whom you sang to, whom you went through labour for, whose little face you were one of the first to see, whom you have held close and watched grow. You may sigh, but you put down your drink, wipe that nose and sort out the problem as best you can. You hold your children close once again and both they and you feel alright about the world again.

 

Imagine that this child was not yours. His scent is unfamiliar; the sight of his runny nose may or may not excite compassion. It may be your child he hit.

How would you react? There are such things as living Saints, but it would be foolish to expect your child to be cared for by one of them.