Once upon a time most of the early childhood (pre-school) raising was done by parents with support from family or friends. Kindergarten started at age five (perhaps four in some instances) and was only for a few hours a few days a week.
Societies change and raising children has become devalued compared to other parts of our lives-work in particular. Virginia Trapscott writing in the Weekend Australian notes.
“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a quarter of families with children under four have both parents engaged in paid work full time. That figure increases to 75 per cent of families with children under 15, almost double the rate of dual-income families in the 1990s. The increase in paid work hours performed by a family unit, mostly out of necessity, has encroached on the hours they have available outside of work”.
Trapscott bemoans that fact that the response to societal factors has been for government to hold inquiries and look to expand formal childcare rather than look into reasons as to why parents may not be able to care for their own children – especially at an early age. Three major reports over the last six years concluded that we need to support parents to parent.
There are, of course, many reasons why parents seek childcare with economic ones being at or near the top. Most of the discussions around childcare focus on support for parents to work rather than what is best for the child. Throwing more money into the sector is seen as the solution. However, no matter how much formal training a childcare worker has, this person will not become the child’s parent and neither can the same level of attention be given in a centre compared with a home.
What never seems to get any airplay is the notion of tax relief for a parent staying at home. In other words instead of government throwing money at providers to subsidise the expense incurred by parents who need to work, how about letting the parents keep more of their own money.
There are two obvious advantages to this model which could offer another option to parents. Before you all scream, I accept that it will not work for everyone nor will it appeal to everyone.
The two advantages are firstly it enables a parent to spend more time with their child. This could equally apply if the person caring for the child is the biological parent or not. There are benefits to both child and parent. The second is that is a less expensive option. Rather than collect more tax, send it through a separate department and then send subsidy to either the parent or centre, you simply leave the money where it started – with the parent(s). It is also, over time a less expensive model as there would be less need for new buildings and lest be honest, parent care is less costly than running a childcare facility. And that is quite aside from a parent being (in the vast majority of instances) the best person to care for their child.
However, the simplicity is what will see it rejected as it reduces the role of government in people’s lives and reduces the number of bureaucrats needed. It also is potentially non PC in an era where children can be seen as property of the state.
It is not a perfect world and no system is perfect. Some people are not fit to be parents. There is no absolute one size fits all. However, the best environment for a young child is with two parents who love and nurture the child. We need systems and policies which support rather than impede this.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.
Through all this he continues to see patients as a GP each week.