As every modern parent is “all too well aware”, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, “nursery fees in this country are staggeringly steep”. So it will no doubt be hugely popular that Jeremy Hunt has promised 30 hours of free childcare a week for children over nine months old, enabling both parents to get back to work earlier. But is this really how we want to live? And more importantly, is this really “how we want our children to live”?
Bestselling childcare author Oliver James has repeatedly urged parents to keep their children at home until the age of three if they possibly can, citing studies that suggest nursery kids are “more aggressive and more insecure in relationships”. And in any case, “most mothers would rather be at home with their babies”. In a recent poll, 62% of mums said that if money were no object, they (or their husbands) would stay at home and look after the children. So why don’t we “cut out the middle man”? Instead of spending vast sums to help working parents pay exorbitant nursery fees, let’s just pay mums or dads to stay at home and do it themselves. I don’t just mean measly child benefit. I mean “a proper wage, just for raising children”, for at least the first two years. Of course, the government won’t do it because it believes a “mother’s most sacred duty” is nudging up the nation’s GDP. But one day, I suspect we’ll look back and decide we “got our priorities wrong”.