I read with interest the musings of Dr Penelope Leach in the Saturday Times; the parenting guru first produced her book ‘Your baby and you’ 32 years ago and it has been a best seller around the world. However, she has recently published a new work as the result of seven years of research into childcare, entitled ‘Childcare Today: What We Know and What We Need to Know’.
I encountered Penelope Leach as an expert witness at one of the Government groups that I sat on last year and was fascinated to hear her observations on childcare, as I have certainly read her book and many articles that she has written more recently. Much to my relief, this new work concludes that good childcare won’t damage children!
“What seems clear,” she says, “is this: women who are satisfied with their work, whether that is staying at home or out earning, are much better parents, happier people and healthier than those who are under any kind of compulsion. On the whole, over most of the studies, what we find is that childcare is good for children, not bad for them.”
It is interesting that she stresses the importance of close relationships with key carers, whether parents, grandparents or other carers, as this is a major part of the key person approach required within the new Early Years Foundation Stage. However, she does also say that parents have nothing to fear about other people looking after their children, whether paid or unpaid, as “Absolutely the most important thing to a child’s development is the responsive, sensitive relationship that forms with mother in the first year. But the thing that’s difficult to get across is that it doesn’t mean you have to be with mother 24 hours a day.” As Sarah Vine and Ruth Gled write in their article, “this means that the common concern that children will ‘love their nannies’ more, is unfounded. That sort of thing only happens where the child really has no solid, meaningful relationship with the mother.”
It is a pleasant change to see an article in the media which recognises the benefits of childcare and the importance of each parent making a decision which suits them and their children, without the lashings of guilt that are often implied as part of using paid childcare. We certainly think that we can offer a great deal to young children and their families; we very much hope you do too!