On the women’s show at the radio station where I work today I heard a really interesting debate. It was sparked from a small article in today’s Metro (free commuter newspaper) on 24 hour childcare. According to the article parents could soon drop-off their children at 24-hour crèches because of increasingly antisocial work hours. Apparently, the idea follows the growing popularity of nurseries in India, some of which look after children for up to a year at a time as their parents seek work abroad.
As I listened to the debate that followed during the on-air phone-in I had very mixed feelings. My gut and initial reaction is that this is an awful idea that children should be away from their parents for so long. I sometimes struggle with the fact that my son is in nursery and it’s only for two days! I’ve always felt that a having a child and then putting them in nursery full-time from 8am-6pm 5 days a week is a bit like having a dog and then keeping them outside all the time – I just personally don’t see why you have them then! However, on the other hand and as a single parent I completely understand the need to work and the difficulty in finding flexible and reliable childcare.
During the phone in there were pretty strong arguments on both sides and these are some of the comments that came through:
‘This sounds like a good idea for those who work at night e.g. doctors, nurses, police etc. especially if they do not have family/friends to help support childcare. I am worried though that this may result in a negative work life balance. How will this affect the child in the long-term? Also will it take away employers duty to try to provide employees with working hours which fit around the family? e.g flexible working patterns. I’m worried that we are heading more and more towards a culture of ‘extreme work’ i.e work first and then family second.
‘I can see many things against this, but also some occasions in which it could be useful – e.g. for awkward working hours, family sickness etc. However, the parent(s) have taken on a responsibility for having children. I feel that parents should only be able to book children in for a limited number of hours – whatever those hours are, and that a certain amount of space should be reserved for short-term – e.g. parental sickness – care.’
‘I don’t think that it is a good idea to have nurseries which are open for 24 hours a day. Isn’t the whole point of having children to spend time with them? I think parents would miss out on such a lot of their children’s lives and important milestones, such as their first steps etc. I think the children would miss out on time with their parents too. Also, what will happen about the staffing of them? I can’t see many people wanting to work overnight, as what happens about their own families then? I think it is a bad idea. I appreciate that it can be hard to get the right work/life balance especially in the recession, but I think we should be emphasising the importance of bringing children up together and the need to spend time together as a family. I used to work in day nursery and think they are open long enough now.’
‘We have had this ‘day care’ for centuries. They’re called orphanages!’
‘I am listening to all the discussions and it is disappointing to hear people’s opinions are so negative. I think it is a fantastic idea especially for those of us who have no alternative especially for night and evenings if we need it. It is not about abandoning the child but on occasion or when you have no alternative I think it is a great idea to have an option available when you have to leave your child in a professional environment rather than with anybody where one is amazed at the negative things that they learn that you would never ever have taught them! I think once it is not abused and there is some form of regulation as to how it can be used it can be a welcome option to people like me.’
‘Children aren’t disposable items for our life…they need love and care otherwise people shouldn’t have them.’
‘I would like to know who in India can afford such care. Obviously only those who are well enough off to pay for it….ie. the new group of people working in IT industry etc…. possibly working long hours etc.’
‘It is such a wrong road for the UK to go down. We are already worried about family breakdown. We think our society is in a bad way, this would be disastrous – leaving our little ones totally in the care of others. I know it is difficult being a single Mum etc. and working long hours but, to open the doors to 24 hour care?! If parents/mums need help there needs to be a better way.’
‘As long as its only in emergencies it would be ok, but we need to have rules and things in place to make sure people don’t take advantage of it.’
‘As one without local support , I would welcome this. I am a homemaker but sometimes require childcare. Like all things, it’s a question of balance and there will always be irresponsible parents. It would be great to have access to childcare, whenever it was required, with restrictions on length of stay.’
So a real mixed bag of opinions on a scenario that I could see happening in this country in the future. After all it has already just happened in the States:
Sweet Dreams 24/7 Child Care Centre, believed to be the first child-care facility in the Reno area of Nevada to be open around the clock, is scheduled to open June 1. It’s in a 6,280-square-foot space and a 6,700-square-foot playground has been developed behind the centre.
Founder Mike Fenn, experienced in business management as well as business start-ups, estimates that nearly 4,000 children in Washoe County need non-traditional care — care during late night or weekend hours when their parents are working. He says, ‘While some existing centres stay open into the late evening, parents are strapped if they need to work overnight.’
24-hour nurseries are probably coming our way here in the UK whether we like it or not due to the increasing demands on the workforce and breakdown of family life. However, I can’t help but feel that it’s the responsibility of employers and companies to come up with flexible work solutions to enable parents to have a reasonable work life balance and not for parents to ship their children out to strangers and work all hours to make ends meet!
So let’s have our own debate are you for or against and why? Could you relate to any of the comments expressed above? Did any of these opinions change your mind or make you think differently about the prospect of 2 hour daycare?