Recently I’ve been thinking about child care. Not just the daily 7-7 kind of child care, but child care in general. And working mummies.
Firstly, two childcare centres walking distance from my home had open houses (and I missed the last one with the one just in my estate!), and not that I need child care services, but because I’ve been reading up on homeschooling and education in general, I was really interested to see how child care centres are run. One centre, LifeJourniz, was impressive in that they consciously instill values from Di Zi Gui. The other one Mulberry, has an in-house sand and water play area. You gotta see it to believe it! They also have a pretty impressive curriculum, and sometimes I wonder if it’s better for kids to go to child care where they’re engaged by professionals the whole day, rather than be at home with a clueless mummy.
Then, last week, we were at the hospital waiting for the doctor, and Abacus was playing in a Little Tikes house (which is not so little, he can go through the door frame without having to bend over), when three girls of around 5-7 years old, who seemed like sisters, all came around and tried to get me to move him away. I was having none of it and subsequently they were even a little rude, saying “Why is your hair so short?” “Yah, I don’t like short hair”. As if I care what you think, you weasel. This was at the hospital, just outside the echo room, and not your regular playground, and they got a little nervous when I asked where their mother was. “Why?” “She asked us to come here.” was all I got from them, but in hindsight, what I was really thinking was, “Does your mother look after you? Who looks after you?”.
Sorry I know that was totally judgemental and probably uncalled for, but it was really what set me thinking, about how women, especially graduate women, are encouraged to go back to work, and how much we actually need them (or at least a parent), at home. I can somewhat see the argument of the government that educated women can contribute to the economy, but the truth is, that children need their mothers, educated or not.
So perhaps it’s time that the policy makers rethink their strategies. Do we want a vibrant economy, but a society whose values are questionable and perhaps even undesirable? I think a win-win situation for all, would actually be to push for more acceptance of flexi- and part-time work, or work from home situations. Women can still be productive, and yet visible and on-hand to their children. And, earn a little on the side for themselves, as many educated women lament the lack of personal spending money (and hence, power in a relationship), when they give up work.
There is also definitely a need to push for a better work-life balance in many industries, as I’ve mentioned before. Although our working culture is far better than some other Asian cultures where it’s seen as undesirable to go home before your boss, everyone needs to start understanding that there are certain times, e.g. dinner time, which are important to a family. In Finland, many office workers start their day early, at like 8am, leave the office by 4pm, go home for some good quality time with their young children, and then log back onto the office network after the kids’ bedtime if necessary. A Canadian friend who used to work in Finland, once remarked that the Finnish are, during office hours, the most hardworking people he’s seen. They get into the office, they get the job done, they go home early to enjoy the rest of the day.
Policies aside, I see this as the easiest and only way for us to move forward and progress as a society.
P.s. If you’re in the same thoughts as me, do check out Mums@Work, or like them on FB for updates. They are doing such great work at encouraging employers and being more active in understanding the need for change. Kudos to them!