Childcare centres should not extend their operating hours
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As an early childhood educator working in a child care centre, I am personally saddened by the recent letters written to the press by some parents requesting for MCYS to call for the extension of operating hours of child care centres. Two letters have been forwarded to me by Jacob, you can read them here and here.
The call, in my opinion, is a very selfish one that benefits nobody else but the parents and probably the economy. Here are the reasons why.
1. Children will then get to spend lesser time with their parents
Parents play an important role in nurturing their own children. They are immediate role models who will in turn pass down to their children the concept of what makes a family unit and they are the ones the children are naturally emotionally attached to. From my experience working in child care centres locally, I see that more children are spending time away from their parents and grandparents. Some children can spend up to 12 hours in the child care centre, being the first ones to arrive and the last ones to be picked up.
Socially and emotionally, these children do not feel as secure as those who see their parents more often because they will always long for more quality time with their parents but they are often disappointed when they see their friends being happily picked up earlier than them. Eventually the feeling of “my parents do not want me” will slowly emerged although never fully articulated. In many cases, this will in turn cause a child to feel a sense of frustration due to the jealousy felt towards those who get to be picked up earlier and it affects the child’s attitude in terms of socialising with the other children negatively.
Many a times, children will ask me if their parents are picking them up and why they are so late. I am always in a dilema to answer such questions because I do not want to come up with lame excuses for the parents, neither do I want to encourage the idea of workaholicism and materialism by telling the children that their parents need to spend long hours at work in order to earn more money than they already have, to provide for them. Telling them such a ‘reason’ will shape their worldview that money weighs heavily against family relations eventually and that is against my personal beliefs. I doubt anyone will encourage such a concept to be passed down… or maybe I am behind times?
2. Where and when do children have their dinner?
Do not forget that children are growing little human beings too. They need food when they are hungry and the time for them to be hungry is not based on when their parents get off work. If childcare centres do relent and extend their hours, they will have to provide dinner too for the love of the growing needs of the children. Then it will mean that the children spend at least 2 meals at the centre, and for some, all three meals.
Where then is the responsibility of the parents?
Does anyone ever consider how a child feels, only seeing the parents when they wake up and just before they sleep?
3. Child care staff are human beings with families of their own too
Another reason why Singaporeans generally make selfish parents is due to the complete disregard that child care staff are human beings too. They also have families of their own that they need to spend time with as well as the fact that they need their daily rest too.
You can say that shift work can be fairly arranged to ensure that the teachers do not overwork but let me give you a scenario.
Let us say that childcare centres operate from 7am to 8pm and each teacher works on a 9 1/2 hour shift as what it is now in most cases. So the teacher working on the closing shift works from 11am to 8pm, providing that the parents come promptly by 8pm to pick their children up. The teacher goes home at 8pm to have dinner. If the teacher eats out, she will probably reach home at 9.30pm. If the teacher has to rush home to cook, the family will probably be having dinner at about 9pm. Now will there then be much time for the teacher to spend with her own children or family members or even to meet her friends? The answer is no and hardly. She will then have to get ready for the next workday, rest and wake up to get ready for work and go to work again and the whole cycle begins.
Now is this humane? Who says that if one is dedicated to the profession, one has to bear the downside of the profession? The dedication in this profession is towards the development of children in their early years, not a high class nanny or slave for Singaporeans who have time to make children but no time for their children.
Now it is a fact that we are living in a workaholic and materialistic society, and it is a natural desire of most human beings to have children.
Nevertheless, child care centres should not be seen as dumping grounds for parents to put their children in while they work hard to earn the bucks to pursue their materialistic and professional desires. Dumping the children in the child care centres for such long hours do not benefit the children’s development and will in the long run create social problems as children will eventually see and imitate. Do you think that a child whose parents do not spend time nurturing, building bonds and taking care of him when he was young, affectionately needy and impressionable when his parents are old and frail? The case will most probably be, dream on.
Then our society will be full of old folks complaining about how their children have abandoned them for their worldly pursuits without reflecting why. How depressing.
Also, if this goes on, there may be a huge lack of childcare teachers in Singapore in time to come and nobody is to be blame but the selfish parents of Singapore, the ministry that relented and the child care centres that do nothing to speak out for forgetting the reason of early childhood education and simply operate in the interests of parents.
I hope that MCYS will stick firmly to their family based principles (or so they proclaimed) and child care centres will advocate the importance of parent-child bonding and relationships instead of relenting to the selfish demands of Singaporean parents.
Last but not least, if you want to have children, make time for them. Otherwise please do not make any children and negatively affect their development by not being there in the name of career and materialism.
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