Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, and a candidate for future Prime Minister (whose chances in making that job, somewhat fortunately, are bleak.. .I say ‘somewhat’ since, alas, and alas again, another more likely option is Justin Trudeau, but more on that later). Anyway, Mr. Mulcair wants to raise your children. Well, not him specifically, but the Canadian State over which he deems himself fit to govern. Although the most vocal of the candidates for the P.M. job in support of taxpayer-funded daycare, all three federal parties support a vast expansion of the current daycare program, so-called ‘universalized daycare': Harper and Trudeau have both proposed increasing the already-generous 2.5 billion dollar funding daycare already receives.
Ponder what ‘daycare’ means at a very basic level: Someone else is raising your children. And not just your children, but a whole lot of other children at the same time. The daycare providers may, in the current rules, be private, which means one can start a daycare in one’s home, but the State is creeping in. The daycares have to be licensed and monitored; of course, if one admits the necessity of daycare, some oversight is good. You don’t want the recently paroled sex offender setting up shop.
But even with the most maternal of daycare providers, there is still something fundamentally wrong with the whole notion, namely, the relinquishing of the duties, and the natural desires, of a mother to raise her own children, especially through the early formative years, and the rights of children to receive such love and care from their own mothers. Daycares now admit infants as young as three months, veritable babes in arms, barely out of the womb. To whom does one think these babies will bond, with the woman who feeds and snuggles them for six to eight hours of the day, or the woman who drops them off at 7 a.m. and picks them up at 5 p.m., for a quick cuddle, fit into the smartphone schedule, just before bedtime?
Of course, older children also bond with the daycare provider, and with the other children in daycare, with whom they likely share little or nothing in common, except age and the proximity of being dropped off at that particular daycare. Besides the lack of their own mother, who is to ensure the innocence of these children, who may be jostling day in and out with other children, who may come from broken homes, abuse situations, and so on? Should not children be with their siblings, and raised in the environment consistent with the moral values of their own family? But, I suppose, many of the children in daycare have no siblings.
Pope John Paul II once described emigration as an ‘evil’, not a moral evil, but sometimes a ‘necessary evil’ in the sense of a privation, or something less than ideal. People leave the land of their birth, to which they owe primary allegiance, to find work, or to escape intolerable conditions. So too it is sometimes necessary for mothers, especially single mothers abandoned by the fathers of their children, to utilize a ‘daycare’ service, and suffer the privations thereof. Even a babysitter is a kind of small, quasi-daycare, but few would argue against the desire of parents to have an occasional ‘night out’ together. If parents were to use such a babysitter every day of the week, well, then we’re into the realm ‘daycare’.
Even if sometimes necessary in certain, hopefully rare, cases, long-term daycare should, and must, not become the norm, nor should such long-term abandonment of children that daycare entails be expanded or, as the government lingo puts it, ‘universalized’. The philosophy of our benighted leaders is that it should. Their stance, apparently, is that women have the right to work, with which I have no disagreement in principle. However, sometimes ‘rights’ have to be relinquished when other ‘duties’ intervene. Women also have the right to marry and start a family, and with that follows the duties they have to their children, and the rights the children have from their mothers (and, of course, in a different way, their fathers).
Here are the words of Pope John Paul II, in his masterful encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), which he completed soon after the assassination attempt on his life 1981, and which are worth quoting an length:
Experience confirms that there must be a social re-evaluation of the mother’s role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons. It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother -without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women- to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age. Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother. (emphasis added)
One of the tasks of the State is to ensure that family life be protected and supported; sadly, our State is doing just about the exact opposite. I will give kudos to Mr. Harper for his recent income-splitting initiative, which allows stay-at-home mothers to claim their work on income tax, a welcome move. For work it is, one of the most important of all works: The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world…
We do not need the Church to discern that ‘universalizing’ daycare is not good, and will not have beneficial consequences for our society or future generations. Not only is it yet another fantastically expensive boondoggle that our society cannot possibly afford, but it will lead only to the further breakdown of the family. A generation raised by the State in State-approved-and-run daycare homes will not be a ‘civilized’ generation, but one ever-more conditioned to the coddling, yet distant, arms of the bureaucratic machine, rather than the loving, if haphazard and slightly more chaotic environment of a ‘home’, with a mother and father, a hearth and a piano, home-cooked meals and stories told by Mum and Dad, and, of course, the warm embrace of a mother from whose womb the child was begotten.
Why doesn’t our government try to universalize that?
January 24, 2015
Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church