Posted by: eileenandrory | June 9, 2009

Growing a Sustainable Community – from the kids up

After stirring a veritable hornets nest on Facebook by posting the clip about daycare I thought I would seek to clarify my position.  I am not anti women working.  I didn’t do a degree in Women’s Studies and be branded a ‘feminazi’ for a lot of my life to end up, suddenly, after having kids, on the other side of the fence.  No, I am still firmly on the side of if a woman wishes to work she should.  However, and it is a big however, when we choose (and I am talking about more affluent societies here) to have children we make a choice not JUST about our lives, but about the lives of the as yet unborn.  If you go into parenting thinking that your lifestyle may have to change a little, but not much, then I am sorry, but you need to rethink your desire to have children.  It turns your life upside down, not a little bit – a whole lot.

Parents MUST not refuse to look at uncomfortable truths about childhood development because it makes them feel bad or guilty. We do need to work together to produce real solutions, but we cannot be afraid of looking the truth in the eye.  What we need to look at is what in society does not support parents – and mostly women – to be the best parents they can possibly be?  Why is it (and I am speaking about NZ here) that we have paid maternity leave for 6 months, then unpaid up to twelve months.  Ok, so that’s not much, but you do have a job to go back to after 12 months.  The research however states that daycare is not beneficial for children under 2.  It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, on the whole (and there are exceptions which I will explain) its bad for under 2s.  So what is a woman, or couple who is already struggling to do?  In NZ we have 20 hours subsidised care from the age of 3 till when they go to school.  That’s fabulous, but what are parents meant to do between 1 and 3??  There are only two choices here.  You either stay at home and lose your job or you go back to work and put your bubs in day care where the government PAYS the daycare a portion of the fees so you don’t have to pay as much.  That’s right.  They would rather pay a stranger to look after your child than give you the money.  The reason?  Mothers in the workforce are more ‘productive’ than mothers at home.  I say ‘productive’ because of course it depends on your value system and what you determine to be productive.  And mothers who have their children in daycare are doubly productive, they are helping employ another person.  

The research is compelling, we cannot afford to be putting our babies into daycare, yet we do.  What would be the result of giving the parents the subsidy that went to the daycares?  Real choices.  Mums could still have a day off.  Perhaps they could use that money to give to a trusted friend or relative to look after the kids for a couple of hours over the week so they can have some time out.  Whatever they choose to do with it, they would have a real choice.  One that would mean far fewer babies are put into daycare to their detriment.  

So when is daycare good for under 2s?  Well, unsurprisingly its when their home life is that awful that coming to daycare is a blessing.  But, fortunately, that’s not the case for the majority of children.  For the majority, they do come from loving homes and they are the ones who suffer.  They are the ones who get the cortisol stress hormone kick.  The one that wires your brain for stress response – neurons that fire together wire together.  So if your neurons are firing cortisol continually your brain gets saturated in it and you are less likely to respond well in stressful situations.  The child’s brain is being wired to expect stress.  Remember how it feels to be amped and stressed, that’s how most of the kids feel in daycare.  

I read about a farmer who is changing the way he feeds his cattle.  He talked about making sure the worms under the grass are happy and growing well.  His rationale is that if you look after what goes into the cow then you produce a better quality meat, milk etc, and therefore a more nutritious meat.  He was talking about sustainability on his farm.  How he can ensure that the soil supports his cattle and that everything works in harmony.  A child’s mind is like that.  We have to watch what we put into it or we risk creating ‘under fed’ brains.  You may think I am scare mongering, fine, thats your opinion.  But you think about little things that happened in your childhood and how that has created your quirks and affectations.  Do you ever wonder about the things you don’t remember, about the impact of the first two years on your life?  The time when your brain grows faster than at any other time in your life?

To grow sustainable communities where we are looking after and out for the future we have to look after more than the worms under the soil.  We have to grow smart, healthy and loved children.  At the moment our society is not providing parents with the choices they should have to make the right decisions.  It’s time to put the ambulance at the top of the cliff.  Suck it up and spend the money supporting new parents.  In 20 years time you will see a difference.  Yes, it is time for parents to be working together, not apart, and lets not be afraid to look at the truth.

E xx.



  1. Have you read The Real Wealth of Nations by Riane Eisler?

    ” The great problems of our time such as poverty, inequality, war, terrorism, and environmental degradation are due in part to our flawed economic models that set the wrong priorities and misallocate resources. Conventional economic measures, policies, and practices fail to give visibility and value to the most essential human work the work of caring and caregiving. We can’t expect more caring policies and more life-affirming practices as long as our underlying system of values and social institutions devalue caring and caregiving. That is the argument in this provocative new book by eminent social scientist and bestselling author Riane Eisler.

    This powerful book proposes that we need a radical reformulation of economics, one that supports caring and care giving at the individual, organizational, societal, and environmental levels. This “caring economics” takes into account the full spectrum of economic activities from the life-sustaining activities of the household, to the life-enriching activities of caregivers and communities of all types, to the life-supporting processes of nature. Eisler exposes the economic double standard that devalues anything stereotypically associated with women and femininity and how this distorts our values and our lives. She reveals how the current economics are based on a deep-seated culture of domination and shows how human needs would be better met if economics were based on caring. And she provides practical proposals for new economic inventions new measures, policies, rules, and practices to bring about a caring economics that meets human needs.

    About the Author
    Riane Eisler is an eminent social scientist, attorney, and futurist best known as author of the international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade, translated into 21 languages, and the award-winning The Power of Partnership and Tomorrow’s Children. Her other books include Sacred Pleasure, a daring re-examination of sexuality and spirituality, and Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life, which statistically documents the key role of the status of women in a nation’s general quality of life

    • Thanks Lee, this looks awesome, exactly the sort of stuff I have been thinking about. Have asked the library to purchase it 🙂 can’t extend to book buying anymore -sad but true!

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