Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Childcare In Quebec: Divorce and ... Atheism?

You know, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the National Post has been completely overrun by conservative columnists that actually belong in right-wing think tanks. Yes, some may think I'm being paranoid here, but honestly, more often then not the National Post seems to God's paper.

Childcare in the age of divorce and atheism

Judging by the placement of the word 'atheism' in this title, I'd say that columnist Tasha Kheiriddin, co-author of the assuredly gripping Rescuing Canada's Right: A Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution,  isn't a big fan of atheism.

In her article, she quotes a new study from the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada, which, as far as I can tell, exists as some kind of conservative think tank. Their site seems to bolster families and marriage - well, man-woman marriage that is. Here is the study.

Anyway, to boil things down, the study found that Quebecers are much more likely to prefer sending their children to daycare than to be cared for by relatives. In numbers, 34% of Quebecers prefer a family member over another caregiver, while this is 55% in the rest of Canada. Interesting, isn't it? I would agree, it's odd and worthy of more investigation.
Why would common-law parents prefer outsiders over relatives? Are they less connected to their own family? Do they view the bonds of family, and extended family, as less important? The study speculates on these reasons, but doesn’t reach any firm conclusions.
Now, as far as I can tell - and someone correct me if I'm wrong - Kheiriddin says "common-law" here simply because parents are several times more likely to be common-law in Quebec. This is likely a lasting reaction to the theocratic oppression of the Catholic Church. Anyway, a link seems to be made here subtly and I haven't seen where it's justified.

Anyway, all of these are pretty good questions! Maybe financial reasons also come into play or even demographic reasons. The model of mom staying home here in Quebec seems rare to me, anecdotally at least. Perhaps some would prefer to stay at home but are forced by financial reasons to work? Perhaps others simply wish to have careers of their own? I know a family where dad stays home with the kids and mom works.

As for the relatives, perhaps they also work or perhaps they are two old to care for the children properly. Who knows?

And in my own experience as a parent, there is more in Quebec than a set of grey monolithic day care centers. You know the picture that's being painted. Sterile hospital-like institutions run by the evil, secular socialist government. But in my experience this isn't the case. Our son was cared for in a small private daycare center. There are thousands of daycare options and some of them are run in private homes. We still got the tax break, and ours was still applying for $7/day status (although many have this status).

It's not all black and white.

The article talks about how 76% of those polled outside of Quebec believe a child should be at home with a parent until the age of six contrasted with 70% in Quebec. There is a notion that children who remain at home with a parent are better off than those who attend a daycare center. Age six? Perhaps Quebec is really different than the rest of Canada, because I do not know many parents who have the luxury of staying home with their children.

Here's one commenter's response to the article that mirrors a lot of what I hear in Quebec.  It's just a different attitude and it is not all that uncommon. 
"Outsiders have training in early childhood education.
Day cares offer socialization, experiences of enrichment, games, learning, getting out of the house-- all wonderful things for children.
My family is extremely close, and all of the kids were in day care. This is a bunch of poppycock."
In Barbados, from whence my wife's family hails, children as young as three or four are sent to pre-school and it has worked out fine. This is not to say I disagree with parents who stay home with their kids. If that's what you want and you have the means then go for it!

And that's where the article should have probably left off: Excellent Questions but more research necessary.  But instead she posits this, pretty much out of the blue.
Throughout history, blood and faith have been the twin ties uniting the family. Today, both of those are ebbing. That may cheer libertarians and atheists. But the state abhors a vacuum — and, as in Quebec, usually is all too ready to step in to the void once filled by family and church. Sadly, we are all too ready to let them.
Why's atheism there? It just sort of got slid in along with some fairly typical conservative talking points: "government - bad", "religion - good", "atheism - bad", "family(tm) - good", "church - good".

The last thing Quebecers need is more faith.

Here's one more exchange in the comments section of the article:


  1. I think that if Quebec families were just much poorer than the national average, we'd see that play out elsewhere. And I have trouble believing that Quebec women just happen to be more likely to want a career, or that Quebec extended families happen to be much older or also be working. Obviously, there will be individuals with these factors, but it wouldn't cause a statistically significant overall difference (unless, as with finances, there's something really big going on).

    I think it's more likely that it just comes down to the availability of affordable, quality daycares. Our first choice was to put our son in daycare, but the cheapest we found would have taken half my salary. It was a fine daycare, they take lots of outings so my son actually ends up playing with them at least once or twice a week when we meet at the park. The thing is, I'd be leaving for work just in time to drop my son off, and getting home right before his bedtime. Add all the household stuff like cooking, cleaning, etc, and we'd really only get to spend time with each other on the weekends. Getting just half my salary in exchange for that arrangements was so not worth it. Now, I'm loving being at home and I probably wouldn't switch, at least not until he's school-aged. But then? Having affordable quality daycares available would absolutely have tipped the balance. I assume that I'm not alone in that.

    I imagine that trust in relatives comes down to the same thing. If I have the choice between having my MIL watch my son - a woman who last took care of kids 25 years ago and who is getting a bit too old to be chasing a toddler around - or having a young, trained, and experienced caregiver, I know which I would choose if price wasn't a barrier.

    "The article talks about how 76% of those polled outside of Quebec believe a child should be at home with a parent until the age of six contrasted with 70% in Quebec." - Just a note, believing that a child "should" be at home with a parent is not the same as having a child home with a parent. Many people believe that kids should be home, yet are unable do so themselves, for precisely the reason you mention - affordability.

  2. Thanks for this excellent comment!

    Yes, I can remember talking to a colleague at my work who said that the cost of their nanny and all other childcare expenses were just covered by her salary. After all was said and done she was nearly working for nothing! But she just loved her job.

    I agree with all your points. The author seemed to ignore that Quebec has several different kinds of daycare as well. Not just the big centres but also private daycares and you can even start your own daycare (so long as you get trained) in your home. My wife was considering creating a special one for kids with autism awhile back. All these options get regulated by the government. I don't understand why this is missed since the author apparently is in Montreal.

    These daycares are painted as cold government run institutions. Whereas, they really likely run the spectrum. Now, as far as I know, they are all required to be secular (the government ones at least) - which may contribute to some hostility against them by "church and family" types.

  3. Oh yeah, if I were career minded, getting only half my salary or less would have been fine. But I've never been ambitious in that way - I've always worked in jobs that I liked, but I still only worked for the money. So if the money wasn't good enough to be worth the sacrifices (the loss of time for the things I *am* ambitious about, like my family or my hobbies), and I can afford to, then I walk. If that makes sense. I've even known people who were paying for the privilege of working - interns, especially - because it was counted as a career investment.

    The daycare situation is the same here in Ottawa. You can get licensed at any point, but you have to get licensed if you have more than five kids in your house who aren't related to you. We have quite a few household daycares around my neighbourhood - usually women who just left their jobs to be home with their kids and took on a few extra kids the same age to make the choice affordable. They will often close up the daycare and re-enter their previous line of work once their kids start school.

    But yes, there are many options. And I'm pretty sure that religious options are available as well - just not the state-funded ones, as you say.

  4. A rather interesting topic, but completely sullied by the puritanical tripe of a right wing think tank drone. The article merely mentions a thought-provoking phenomenon before going head-first, colon-deep, into an absolute old world, irrational and factually absurd diatribe.

    Forget her manifesto of rescuing the right wing. We need to rescue a genuine, humanistic claim to family values and life from the capricious whimsy of these far-right charlatans who've laid claim to an illegitimate monopoly over such concepts along with human morality. Out with these clowns!

    It stands to perfectly good reason that a majority of working parents are forced into work as a pair because of the destructive manner in which the laissez faire paradigm has engineered society to become one massively disjointed mess! Saving the right? LOL! Society needs saving some such absolutist dogma.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Kade. Yes, I keep delaying posting about right-wing think tanks like Cardus that seem to be popping up like weeds up here. I should really get to it. All these groups seem to do is manipulate findings of studies to fit their own pre-conceived political agendas.

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