Today I came across a ‘suggested’ article on my personal Facebook feed. It was an article outlining the findings of a study by Oxford University and The London School of Economics. I have had some University experience, I am well aware of the high standing these two Universities hold so thought it may be worth a read. The study they conducted was around the effect mothers have on the development of their children. The headline, which caught my eye, was ‘Young Children of Working Mothers have Better Skills than those of Stay at Home Mothers’.
The opening paragraph of the article states ‘Young children whose mothers are not working have lower capabilities in terms of talking, social skills, movement and everyday skills, according to new research from LSE and the University of Oxford.’
Instantly this has hit a nerve. I cannot deny that Perkys speech is slower than her sisters was. It is also slower than her cousin who is four days older than her. However I refuse to attribute that completely to the fact that I don’t work. Her sister does a lot of talking for her; also, she has been bombarded with more conversational talking from day one because I have her sister to talk to, direct, instruct. Pinky had a lot of one on one time that involved ‘Cow’ ‘Bowl’ ‘Window’. Instead of building up her use of single words Perky has jumped straight in with stringing two or three words together.
The article goes on to say: ‘The effect was particularly significant in both everyday skills and social skills. Among other findings were that spending more time in nurseries is associated with better social skills and better everyday skills, while spending more hours being cared for by grandparents is associated with better talking skills and social skills’.
Again, I cannot deny Pinky has better social skills and is more confident around other children than her little sister. I absolutely attribute that to the fact she started nursery when she was 10 months old because I had to go back to work. After Perky I went back for 6 weeks to work my notice period, she was looked after by family. If it were not for the cost of childcare I would still be working.
Believe me I long to work, to have a little time out of the house without a child in tow. However, as a low paid worker (nurses really do get paid peanuts!) I would like to know where my husband and I were supposed to find an extra £3500 per year to cover the childcare for both the girls 52 weeks a year 20 hours a week each. And to be very clear that figure was calculated to include Pinkys 15 hours free entitlement for 39 weeks of the year. I don’t stay at home out of choice so the last thing I need to read is that I am having a negative effect on my child’s development. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this since I’m not done ranting!)
I am 30 years old. I will be 31 in January. I am not an ‘old’ mother by any definition, so my next snippet from the article is for all you ‘Geriatric Mums’ out there… (anyone else up for petitioning to ban that term?)
‘Having an older mother has a negative effect on all four of the skills assessed: social skills, talking, movement and everyday skills. Conversely, and not surprisingly, having a mother with more years of education has a positive impact on all four capabilities.’
So if you are old and uneducated what were you thinking having children? How irresponsible!
What utter tripe!
I am sure education will come in very useful when children are at school. The primary level doesn’t scare me. I know I will be able to help with maths, English and science to a point. Perhaps my further education has helped with this confidence, but the notion that old age can effect the development of a child in four key areas baffles me. If there are any mums reading this who were categorised as ‘older’ when they gave birth can you understand this? Does any of this make sense or have I made you as angry as I am?
Next up… ‘There was also an assessment of which activities had the most impact on skills. Reading or telling stories and singing children’s songs are both found to have a positive impact on talking capabilities. Less obviously, visiting other families with children has a positive impact on talking ability.’ Less obviously? Less obviously to who? I know it helps! Most mothers I know, know it helps. It is a social event not just for the sleep deprived, wits end, stressed mother but for the children too. I don’t think anyone can disagree with positive impact reading has on a child but I would also like to find a mother who feels like they do it enough with the children… We feel guilty enough we really don’t need Oxford and LSE scholars rubbing it in.
‘Children with more siblings have better skills in all four areas, perhaps suggesting that they are learning from older siblings, despite having less time interacting with a parent.’ I hope none of you have only one child! Tut tut if you do apparently! We only have two children and we are NOT having anymore… Whoops! Poor deprived children.
The article goes on to highlight some positive things in a childs development, although I struggle to see that it tells us anything we don’t already know.
‘Singing children’s songs and painting and doing arts and crafts are found to have a positive impact on the development of movement skills, which researchers linked to the actions associated with songs and the hand skills needed for arts and crafts.’ I knew that! Or am I just being a smart arse now? Never fear because they are about to rip that positivity right our from under us…
‘Taking walks outdoors is negatively associated with movement skills, which is surprising but may be because children spend long periods in a buggy and spends less time doing other activities which appear to promote skills.’ Quick, throw that buggy in the bin! What a waste of money that was!
The closing statement finished me off: ‘Professor Anand commented: ‘We are delighted that one of first economic studies to look at the behaviour of very young children comes out with positive messages about activity involvement with parents, and shows that different activities promote different skills.’ I’m glad someone took something positive from it all because I didn’t.
The worst thing about it all is for some of it I know they are right. I didn’t need a study to tell me the benefits of a nursery setting. I always wanted my children to go to nursery for the social and learning aspect. It is easy to see the positive impact it has on Pinky and I would love Perky to have that too. But we can’t afford it! As soon as her 15 hours free entitlement kicks in she will be going and I will skip her all the way to her preschool with a beaming smile. As for the arts, crafts and reading I think you will be hard pushed to find a parent that doesn’t already know the benefits of it all.
This has just been another thing that has made me feel you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Have kids too early and you may not have the career that can support childcare costs. Have kids too late and your age will hinder their development. Does any of it truly matter? Don’t all children just want and deserve to know that they are loved, that they are special?
If you want to read the article I am talking about then click here. I have decided not to request the whole study paper but you can if you want to, the email address to do so is at the end of the article. In the interest of a balanced argument I know I should reference other places and studies. However, since I am not submitting this to be marked for a University course and since I didn’t actually conduct the study I am not going to. This did not make me feel like balancing my arguments today!