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Oliver James - childcare under 3 is bad

46 replies

oliveoil1 · 02/06/2010 16:14

Did anyone listen to Oliver James interview on Womans hour on the 27th May, a chid psychologist discussed childcare being damaging for under 3's. Its left me reeling, I'm so tired of feeling guilty, always asking myself if I'm doing enough, doing it well enough etc. I love being with my son 1 year, he is incredible, the most beautiful thing in the world to me - of course! when I am with him we are creative, on the beach, always learning and laughing, with other children, at play groups etc - but I also need and want to work, I am an artist and lecturer, I am lucky that I can work (teach) only 3 days a week for 24 weeks, then (art work) for 2 days a week for the rest of the year. I feel this is balanced and healthy, and I am happy with it, when I am with my son I give him 100% of my attention, love and support. If I gave up my work for 3 years I would have nothing to go back to, I can't and don't want to give it all up,and bottom line we can't afford for me to give it all up. I love my mum because she's interesting and inspiring and a feminist as am I. Why can't mum's be celebrated for being rounded human beings. Oliver James seems to be taking us back to Pre - feminism.

OP posts:
posieparker · 02/06/2010 16:19

Oliver James is entitled to his opinion and fwiw I agree with him, from what I've heard, on a very basic level. Children that go to nursery full time from very early on, ie 3 months, must suffer. This is not to say if it's a choice between nursery or a very very unhappy parent(why? one only wonders) or socially disadvantaged then the ggod outweighs the bad. And a shit parent who spends all day watching TV and MNing would be worse too. But in a ideal world I think one loving parent would be best, followed by a loving gp, then Nanny, then Nursery, then childminder.

But that's a decision for me and my family.

ashinyhappyperson · 03/06/2010 21:10

In an ideal world mums and dads would be together forever and be utterly fulfilled to be stay at home parents whilst being able to pay all the bills...but life aint like that.

For too long mums have been made to feel guilty for earning a living. My team and I work so hard to provide a home from home environment for our babies and children at nursery, whilst it may not be as perfect as being at home, we try really hard.

I put a lot of emphasis on ensuring the right emotional for all of the children, and I know our children enjoy their time at nursery and have a strong bond with the staff.

Oliver James is entitled to his view, but frankly it doesn't help matters when ordinary people are just trying to do their best. Those who have the choice are the lucky ones.

mellifluouscauliflower · 04/06/2010 23:56

I read what Oliver James has to say with interest but I take it with a big pinch of scepticism.

Oliver James admits that his work is powered by a "nuclear rage" from his own childhood experiences. (One of 4 children under 5, mother found it difficult to cope, sent to Eton aged 13 etc). This is deeply sad but makes me feel that his theories lack objectivity and are not as scientific as they first seem.

He asks a lot of mothers - to give up their careers, their lives. But he is happy to continue needlessly killing himself by smoking (same interview in Independent). Even though he has children who no doubt need him and rely on him. So he's happy to preach to others, but as imperfect in execution as the rest of us...

LadyBiscuit · 05/06/2010 00:05

Unless he's proposing a solution (ie a real alternative to most of us who have to work to pay the bills) he's just giving WOHMs another stick to beat us with. And in a world with ridiculous housing costs which is structured around two parents working rather than the one parent model, it's just unrealistic. I think he's deeply misogynistic actually

secunda · 05/06/2010 00:08

Oliver James still blames his mummy for everything that's wrong with his life.

Mate - it's not her, it's you

nesomja · 07/06/2010 19:57

Hang on, I think some of you have misunderstood what he's saying. Firstly, it's not just his opinion - there is a lot of research which shows that nurseries are not the best environment for the under-3s. Secondly, he isn't saying that all childcare is bad, just that the evidence is that loving, non-depressed parents (dads as well as mums) are better, and also that childminders and nannies are better than nurseries for very young children - again the evidence bears this out.
I don't think it's misogynistic to say that children are not best looked after on nurseries, it's just reality. It might be inconvenient (and it certainly is for my family, I am back at work and am really struggling to find childcare which I'm happy with) but it doesn't help to ignore it.
Personally I think that nurseries for very young children let dads off the hook - if they weren't around maybe more fathers would go part time so their partners could go back to work.
It's a really emotive issue and I think it's a shame that whenever people start talking about the impact of nurseries for the very young they get accused of being anti-feminist - we need to talk about this sensibly if we are going to do the best by our children.

LemonDifficult · 07/06/2010 20:03

I agree with nesomja about talking sensibly.

Oliver James isn't trying to make parents feel guilty. He's trying to discuss childcare and he uses research to illustrate the discussion. He's not out to 'get' working mothers.

Al1son · 08/06/2010 09:51

I am a childminder. I make my living out of people using childcare.

I have worked in different settings and seen good and bad childcare in action. I have also cared for a large number of children over the years who have been cared for at home and in nurseries under the age of three. I can really tell the difference between these groups.

In general, children who have been in large group settings have learned to stand up for their rights at the expense of others around them. This is something I see much less from those who have been cared for in homes, either their own or a childminder's. Being able to stand up for yourself is not a bad thing. I just worry about what's happened to them that meant they needed to learn these skills in the first place.

I also know that however much I care for and enjoy being with the children I childmind, I do not have the same deep emotional bond with them that I have with my own children. That's a fact of life which applies to all childcare workers. For that reason I feel that under threes are, in general, better with their parents or grandparents than with childminders or nannies.

I know there are good and bad childminders, nurseries and parents but the conveyor belt process of nursery care does not feel like the best care you could offer a baby. They need close, personal, consistent relationships and that is much harder to achieve in a group setting than in home-based care.

This doesn't mean that parents who use nurseries are bad. For a start many children attend part-time which IMHO reduces the impact dramatically. Some parents work very hard to find childcare which works for their family.

Everybody is different, every child is unique, every nursery, childminder and nanny is different.

Everybody must make their own decision but it would be a shame if people didn't have all the information available about the impact childcare has on a child just because some people might feel criticised.

BettyTurnip · 08/06/2010 12:23

Excellent post Al1son, completely agree.

BettyTurnip · 08/06/2010 12:31

Excellent post Al1son, completely agree.

oliveoil1 · 08/06/2010 12:53

Of course the reality is every situation is different, whats best is that every family tries its very hardest to get it right for their loved ones which in my opinion is a balancing act, as with anything in life, where everyone is happy and considered both in the short term and long term, they'll be some periods where it works better than others - reality is hard for some people and I think these blanket theories don't help, they are too standardised - thats the real problem here. I think a week later - after I've calmed down about it and read and talked about it lots - I feel that publicity seeking psychologists and writers how ever informed or free to have their opinions can just play havoc with parents already guilt ridden emotions, it seems which ever way we turn someone is contributing to this and making money form this. If the government gave us more childcare, better more creative and positive childcare and longer better maternity pay then we could make very different choices for our children but in this country we are all juggling.

OP posts:
LadyCad · 08/06/2010 12:56


marvellouslly succint

LadyCad · 08/06/2010 12:57

oops, got carried away, sorry for typos but you know what I mean...

nesomja · 08/06/2010 20:03

Alison thank you for your post, it has made me think even more seriously about my childcare options!
Oliveoil1, I understand you feel attacked by people but would you prefer that this sort of research (showing that nurseries are not the best place for the under-3s) is not publicised? Wouldn't you feel cheated if in 20 years time people say 'oh well of course we've known for years that nurseries aren't good but we didn't want to upset people so we didn't tell them'. I know what you mean about all the guilt from the media but I actually think that this is something different - firstly Oliver James' message is more subtle than 'childcare is bad' and second, it is genuinely research based and not just his opinion. Other psychologists have said the same thing(e.g. Steve Biddulph 'Raising Babies', and people like Penelope Leach have been involved with huge studies which have found the same thing. I feel constantly guilty about putting my child in childcare but I do prefer to know the research findings so I can make an informed decision - and nurseries do come out worse than other forms of childcare for the under-3s.

I also feel that the government should support us more, but I think part of that should be support to stay at home if you choose to - my ideal childcare would be my partner but if he looks after our son I get no help with the costs, whereas if I have a non-related childminder I can get childcare vouchers and tax credits - that doesn't seem right to me, it's an incentive to go out to work.

I'm glad we have these kinds of debates in this country - my niece lives in America and was in full time daycare at 6 weeks (no maternity leave over there). That apparently is normal for professional parents to do, and seems terrible to me - I haven't had the nerve to ask my SIL whether she knows about the research but I suspect she will say that she thinks it's misogynistic - that way she doesn't have to confront the reality of it.

oliveoil1 · 08/06/2010 22:08

yes of course the research should happen but I think there are more responsible ways for us to hear that research and yes of course the government help should be towards families being given proper provision to care for our children and not strangers, of course thats obvious!. No my point remains that its the generalisation thats damaging not the research, some families just haven't got options and its not fair to make them feel negatively guilty without offering alternative positive options. I feel women have to suffer controlling forces on all fronts - their bodies are politicised, their mothering is politicised, we let it happen and do it to ourselves - is just not ok! we should support each other and that means people who have to use childcare and not make them feel guilty, there is no 'perfect childhood or person' Oliver James seems to be part of the thinking that Mothers can create a perfect person, its creating an unreasonable pressure, loads of love and support and childcare is ok if thats what a family needs to do.

OP posts:
BelleDameSansMerci · 08/06/2010 22:12

There is also research that shows it's beneficial for many children. This was in the Daily Mail (shock horror).

narmada · 11/06/2010 23:04

Secunda ha ha ha! you are spot on. It makes me laugh that he complained about his 'treatment' on radio 4's Woman's Hour. I don't think he likes women very much....

blueshoes · 11/06/2010 23:22

Secunda says it all, really.

Alison, CMs slagging off nurseries is hardly unusual or even surprising. Childcare preference is so personal. Some people prefer CMs, some people prefer nurseries, others nannies.

I would truly struggle to tell which of my dd's playdate friends spent time at home or in a nursery or with a CM or nanny in their pre-school years. But clearly you can - you must be totally unbiased.

blueshoes · 11/06/2010 23:27

There was a previous thread on Oliver James, questioning the integrity of his 'research' and dubious applicability to the usual family situation, including the unproven assertion that raised cortisol levels in nursery-attending children is bad.

I cannot really be bothered to rehash all that, except that those who think he is not just trying to sell his books off parental guilt should dig a bit deeper into his 'research' and analysis.

isittooearlyforgin · 11/06/2010 23:42

i don't think alison was slagging off any type of child care, quite the opposite - she was saying that all children are different and all carers are different, horses for courses

blueshoes · 11/06/2010 23:50

Itstoo, that's very generous. I would suggest you read her post again.

Slagging off might be too strong a word, but the prejudice against group care is clear to read.

Oliveoil, a working mother just has to grow a tough hide, particularly one who uses nurseries. You are the best judge of how your son is faring. The work balance you have sounds ideal. I am inclined to think your son has the best of both worlds. As do you, having a job you love and a son who has bags of fun at nursery and the attentive care of his parents at home.

In the light of that, I cannot really see the relevance of Oliver James to your life.

Al1son · 12/06/2010 23:46

blueshoes, I'm not biased against nurseries. In fact I sometimes work as a senior practitioner at a local nursery and I they offer high quality childcare.

I have worked as a childminder for ten years and have had many children in my care in that time. I have noticed some common behaviours in children who were cared for in groups settings for long hours from an early age. I'm not slagging anyone off. I'm stating a fact. I think this fact is relevant to the conversation and to the article being discussed.

I am happy to recommend our local nursery to parents who I can't accommodate and feel that they are particularly appropriate for pre-school children to experience a group setting before starting school.

There are disadvantages of childminders too (like the lack of cover for sickness) and I'm not sure what sort of setting I would choose if I had a small baby of my own and had to return to work.

As I said before there are good and bad practitioners and parents but, in general, I feel that it would be better for babies and toddlers to be at home with their parents or with grandparents if possible.

blueshoes · 13/06/2010 00:26

You are stating your opinion, not a fact, Alison. Let's be clear about that.

My ds is great at standing up for himself. My dd less so. Group care or personality?

Your views about parents/gps providing better care aren't particularly controversial. They are just generalisations, the biggest one is the assumption that parents/gps actually provide good care at home.

Working parents can afford to take a more nuanced approach based on their actual circumstances.

I chose nursery over grandparents' care - I have personal reasons for that. I chose nursery over nannies. I would not use a CM. Again, I have personal reasons for that based on the quality of nursery care and my ds' and family's needs.

littleduck · 13/06/2010 21:28

I've read what OJ has to say. Interestingly he only seems to focus on working mothers who choose to go back to work rather than those who only go back because of their financial position.

My DD has been at a nursery since she was 6 months old (she is now 13 months). Initially she went 3 days a week and moved up to 4 days a week after a couple of months. We tried to manage on the money from a 3 day salary for me but it became rapidly apparent that this was not going to work.

It would cost £2000 per month to employ a fully qualified nanny in my area, on a 4 day week. This is completely out of our reach financially so a nanny was never an option. I looked at childminders but there were none with vacancies in a convenient location when I needed to go back to work. Those that there were, would have been a long way out of my way and a practical impossiblity to manage. In addition none of those that were available seemed to speak very good English which was a concern. No grandparents live locally so that was not an option.

So nursery was the only option and we found a lovely family run place round the corner from home. Most of the staff are older women and all of them seem to take their role as carers very seriously.

I feel incredibly lucky and happy that DD settled well into nursery. She has developed a very strong bond with her keyworker and a couple of other staff members. In turn they genuinely seem to dote on her.

Yet I am being told that I am damaging my daughter because of the option I have chosen?

We don't all earn enough to employ nannies (one mother I spoke to who does use them says they rarely stay longer than a year anyway so where does that leave the children when the nannes go?) and don't all have family nearby who are willing, able and suitable to look after children. And not all mothers go back to work just because they want to. So what are mothers in those circumstances supposed to do exactly, Mr James? We make the best choices we can for our babies and it really doesn't help to be made to feel even worse than we might do already, when we have taken the best option available as far as our finances and circumstances dictate.

clemettethecoalitionbreaker · 13/06/2010 21:36

Both of mine went to the same nursery four days a week. DD went at 5 months and stayed for over four years. DS went at 8 months and is still there.
Amazingly, they are very different people, and behave very differently. I always wonder if those who say that "children who go to nurseries are generally..." also say "children of Mrs X are generally..."

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