Let me get this straight. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, America’s preschoolers’ emotional health is being threatened by the high turnover of the staff at their schools. In other words, mothers who aren’t willing to sacrifice their own time and ambitions in order to raise their own children are dismayed that employees who are paid an average of $10 an hour won’t make endless sacrifices and totally commit to those same children.
Having decided as a society that it is o.k. for parents to walk out of full time participation in a child’s life through the medium of divorce, having decided as a society that giving birth to a child should in no way pressure a mother to stay home with that child, we are now aghast that low paid babysitters (which is what they are despite our calling them educators in order to assuage our guilt) feel no commitment to their charges even if their leaving leaves a hole in the child’s heart.
The article urges parents to try and spend more time with the child when a beloved teacher leaves so that the child will feel secure. That is of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a teacher stay around long enough to be beloved. Had parents spent more time with the child in the first place they wouldn’t have needed to pretend that a three year old was better off in “school” than in the home. Children are incredibly adaptable. All sorts of people can and do waltz in and out of their lives– grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, babysitters, – as long as their parents are an unmovable constant and present nucleus. Pretending that quality time beats quantity time or that spending a week’s vacation together can replace the hours of loving attention a child needs is a myth. Making believe that the immense amount of knowledge a two year old can absorb is best transmitted in a formal setting by a staff member is a fable. Transferring the core relationship of motherhood to a preschool employee and then feeling betrayed when that person walks away from the job, might suggest that the entire enterprise was founded on a misguided notion. Anyone fooling themselves into believing that a preschool that advertises a “loving environment” can equal the love that should be found in the home should appreciate the dose of reality supplied by the marketplace.