You Can’t Call Yourself a Family-Friendly City if You Treat Childcare as a Non-Issue - Part II of III
It’s one of those dirty little secrets that comes out in conversations between parents: how a society that pretends to be child-friendly is often anything but.
Shadow a family with young children for a day and you’ll get an inkling of what I’m talking about.
Someone rolls their eyes (or groans audibly) as they take their seats on a bus or (heaven help them) a plane with a baby or toddler in tow.
A nursing mother is subtly (or not so subtly) redirected to a less conspicuous spot in a restaurant or other public space so the sight of her feeding her baby won’t offend other patrons. You know, the kind of patrons who hate to see a baby eat.
All too often, society treats children as inconveniences (as opposed to members of the next generation that we have a collective interest in nurturing along) and their parents as the perpetrators of some crime against society, for bringing these unpredictable, noisy, uncivilized beings out into public.
And yet, when it’s time to feel pride in our country or our city, we're awfully quick to highlight its family-friendly characteristics. Never mind the fact that the data generated by objective third parties paints a very different picture than the one we may be carrying around in our heads. It’s much easier to feel a misplaced sense of pride than to accept the fact that Canada today isn’t the Canada it once was.
What happened this week in Toronto made it painfully clear how far out of touch some politicians have allowed themselves to become with the needs of real families in this city - and how willing they are to put the needs of a vocal few ahead of the rest of their constituents. That's a lesson parents in this city can choose to heed - or ignore at their peril.
But back to the politicians - and the lack of political vision they exhibited this week.
Being a child-friendly society, circa 2009, means making access to quality, affordable daycare a priority. As any employed parent who has faced a childcare crisis can tell you, childcare is the foundation upon which everything else is built.
When your childcare arrangement falls apart, your family and work lives cease to function until your childcare crisis is resolved. The crisis doesn’t just affect the family (in terms of massive stress, work-life conflict, and potentially lost wages). If affects the employer (who has to deal with reduced productivity, because an employee is off the job), results in unhappy customers (if that reduced productivity leads to unmet promises or reduced levels of service), and stressed out coworkers (who have to pick up the slack for the coworker whose childcare arrangement has fallen apart).
To put it simply, childcare isn’t a family problem. It’s everybody’s problem. That attitude should be reflected when childcare policy is being set at the national, provincial, and local level, don't you think?