Tell me why we even need such a phrase in our vocabulary?

It is of course that we live in a soci­ety where non-mater­nal care has become the norm.

The phrase comes up query­ing whether there is a sta­tis­ti­cal link between ear­ly non-mater­nal care and autism, class­room behav­iour in lat­er years, devel­op­men­tal delays, speech delays, vocab­u­lary deficits and a mul­ti­tude of oth­er issues being stud­ied by – ‘scientists’ and ‘researchers’.

Almost any class­room teacher or youth leader any­where in the world can pick out the chil­dren who didn’t have the ben­e­fit of lov­ing mater­nal care. That doesn’t mean that the moth­ers don’t love their chil­dren, they just didn’t give lov­ing care to their chil­dren. The rea­son doesn’t real­ly mat­ter to a child.

A child who has received lov­ing care con­sis­tent­ly from its moth­er for the first three or more years of its life is a total­ly dif­fer­ent being from one that has been in any sort of care.

By ‘any sort of care’ I include a sit­u­a­tion where an infant is cared for by one indi­vid­ual in that person’s home as though they were part of the fam­i­ly. In my expe­ri­ence I can tell you how many times such a child just cries and cries for its moth­er. It hap­pens on a dai­ly basis!

The only thing I can tell such a child is that “soon you’ll have a mum­my day”. Then I have to hope that the lov­ing care and hap­py times the child receives from me and my fam­i­ly each day will com­pen­sate for what they are not receiv­ing reg­u­lar­ly from their mother.

In cas­es where I have cared for chil­dren in their own homes my abil­i­ty to care nat­u­ral­ly for the child is often caused by: lack of pro­vi­sion of ade­quate food for the chil­dren, social­ly poor loca­tion (no neigh­bours or neigh­bour­hood shops to vis­it), lack of abil­i­ty to put chil­dren in a car to vis­it dif­fer­ent loca­tions and oth­er sim­i­lar depri­va­tions. In oth­er words what I would term a total­ly unnat­ur­al way of life. 

I may only spend 20 hours a week with a child but that child forms an attach­ment such that when the rela­tion­ship ends the child asks “Will you be my mummy?”

All chil­dren instinc­tive­ly know that they’ve need­ed a mum­my in their lives; they form close (and nec­es­sary) attach­ments under the right cir­cum­stances which can be a good thing depend­ing on the par­ents’ per­spec­tive of the caregiver. 

Many par­ents per­ceive them­selves as the ‘pri­ma­ry’ care­giv­er for their child even in sit­u­a­tions where a child is spend­ing 40 or more hours per week with a care­giv­er. Many par­ents are also very jeal­ous of the affec­tion and attach­ment their child feels for the caregiver.

How­ev­er, we do not know the effect on a child when you remove them from their beloved care­giv­er. It must be akin to the death of a parent.

We are not acknowl­edg­ing such emo­tion­al dra­ma in a 3 or 4 year old’s mind. A 3 year old who was mov­ing out of town told me sad­ly “I’m nev­er going to see you again”. How trau­mat­ic is that? How per­cep­tive is it? I was the one who had to reas­sure her that we would keep in touch and that I would always be her friend. 

It just seems to me that with a child who is that ver­bal there should have been some con­ver­sa­tions and prepa­ra­tion by the par­ents to reas­sure the child that their sad­ness wouldn’t be forever.

Why is it that near­ly every woman over 50, or maybe over 60, with or with­out chil­dren (now that’s aston­ish­ing!!) absolute­ly knows that it isn’t good for chil­dren not to have qual­i­ty mater­nal care in the ear­ly years; that even qual­i­ty non-mater­nal care is noth­ing more than a poor sub­sti­tute, no mat­ter how good, how exten­sive and how lov­ing and endur­ing the rela­tion­ship maybe.

So what we need is qual­i­ty mater­nal care – those who receive the best become the best they can be. What we need to fix in the case of all the cur­rent ear­ly child­hood devel­op­men­tal delays is not ‘the sys­tem’ that pro­vides the ser­vices once the child is diag­nosed at 3 years of age or lat­er, we need to fix the atti­tude that non-mater­nal care is any good.

It doesn’t make non-mater­nal care bad, or even that it isn’t nec­es­sary in many cases. 

Let’s just accept that noth­ing oth­er than lov­ing mater­nal care is good enough or what every infant, tod­dler and young child deserves.