Last week, Defend Europa received the below email about the separation of mother and child during early education/childcare. It was written by an online friend and reader of our website. The author has given her permission to share it with you.
Many years ago, I was due to spend a morning in a well-regarded nursery school and arrived just after the children had been deposited by the busy working parents. I watched as the staff shepherded the confused pre-schoolers into various corners, but there was one young boy who hadn’t moved from his position. He was sitting rigidly in a staff member’s lap and his eyes were fixed on the door that he had seen his mother depart through.
I knew the lady holding him. She was a middle-aged mother of six, and I knew her to be a very kind woman who was delighted to get a job helping out at the nursery. She was stroking his face and was trying to guide his head into her comforting bosom, but he was not to be comforted. His eyes were locked on that door and he was softly repeating “Mummy…Mummy” over and over again.
I’d never seen a child behaving like that before as there were no tears or tantrums, and instead it was a strange and quiet despair that left him oblivious to his surroundings and calling plaintively for a mother who had other priorities. But it turned out that this harrowing sight was a daily occurrence, as in response to me asking if he would be okay the lady replied “Oh, he’s like this every day when his mother drops him off”. I also asked if his mother would be told what he was like when she left him. I naively thought every mother would be told their child had not settled and was desperately unhappy away from her, but that was not the case as I was told there was no point telling his mother as “It would just upset her”.
I left an hour later, and he was still sat on that same lap and still quietly calling for his mother to come back to him. Perhaps he stopped whimpering her name later. Who knows, and his mother certainly didn’t because no-one was prepared to tell her.
Our experiences colour us, and my view on motherhood was permanently altered by this one event and I firmly believe children, especially in their early years, should be near their mother. The re-branding of childcare as ‘early education’ is particularly pernicious. We live in a distorted world where women are valued by society as workers and not mothers, and successive governments have steered children into nurseries at earlier ages. All three-year-olds in England, for example, can get free early education or childcare and some two-year-olds qualify for 15 hours childcare a week. Society has normalised leaving children with strangers.
Everything seems designed to separate mother from child at the earliest opportunity, and some mothers even think this separation is the best thing for their child. I remember a mother telling me that her nine-week-old baby benefited from nursery as he gained so much from the socialising aspect. I cannot imagine how much socialising she thought a static baby, little more than two months from the womb, engaged in but she had convinced herself that she had taken the correct path, as nursery is often presented as the best way to ensure a socialised child.
Fifteen years later, I can still clearly remember that little boy and his futile crying for his mother. I wish I could finish this article by saying I sat outside that nursery until his mother came along and that I told her exactly how upset her child was every day that she left him, but I didn’t. Sadly, I walked away just as easily as his mother had.