SHOULD MUMS STAY AT HOME WITH THEIR BA­BIES?

New Idea - - New Kids - WITH MUM-OF-TWO AND SO­CIAL COM­MEN­TA­TOR AN­GELA MOLLARD

‘THEY OVERSCHEDULE THEM BE­CAUSE THEY WANT TO MAKE SURE, IN KIN­DER­GARTEN, THAT THEY GET INTO A GOOD COL­LEGE. ALL THIS STUFF WE DO TO OUR KIDS NOW, THAT’S JUST IN­SANE!’ Su­san Saran­don, ac­tress and mother of three

It’s the most po­lar­is­ing de­bate in par­ent­ing: should moth­ers go back to work or stay at home? Many of us have con­cluded that it’s pos­si­ble to have a job and be a good mum, but a new book has reignited the is­sue – it ar­gues that moth­ers are ‘bi­o­log­i­cally ne­c­es­sary for ba­bies’ in the first years.

Psy­cho­an­a­lyst Erica Komisar used re­search in psy­chol­ogy and neu­ro­science to make the case that moth­ers ‘need to be there as much as pos­si­ble, both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally, for chil­dren in the first 1000 days’.

In Be­ing There: Why Pri­or­i­tiz­ing Moth­er­hood In The First Three Years Mat­ters, Erica ar­gues that ba­bies are more neu­ro­log­i­cally frag­ile than we pre­vi­ously un­der­stood and that the oxy­tocin hormone pro­duced by moth­ers helps ba­bies reg­u­late their emo­tions un­til they are able to do it them­selves.

She says men pro­duce a dif­fer­ent nur­tur­ing hormone, va­so­pressin, but the two hor­mones prompt a dif­fer­ent re­sponse. While a mother of a cry­ing baby will lean into the pain and say: ‘Oh honey’, a fa­ther is more likely tell a child: ‘C’mon, you’re OK. Brush your­self off – let’s go back to play.’

Erica also ar­gues that the ab­sence of moth­ers in chil­dren’s daily lives has led to an in­crease in so­cial and men­tal dis­or­ders in chil­dren. Her book was re­jected by many pub­lish­ers and she has faced strong re­sponses on the pub­lic­ity trail, but Erica says she is not try­ing to nar­row women’s choices.

‘You can do ev­ery­thing in life, but you can’t do it all at the same time,’ she told the Wall Street Jour­nal.

Quot­ing re­search into ba­bies’ sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety re­sponses and tests of their cor­ti­sol lev­els, Erica ar­gues that day care is too ‘over­stim­u­lat­ing’ for young chil­dren.

‘It’s re­ally not ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren un­der the age of three,’ she says.

So does Erica want to go back to the 1950s when women had lit­tle choice?

For­tu­nately not. Rather, she is ad­vo­cat­ing a more ‘child-cen­tric so­ci­ety’ with gen­er­ous ma­ter­nity leave pro­vi­sions and greater flex­i­bil­ity for women to work part-time in the early years.

While Erica raises some provoca­tive ideas and has been turned down from speak­ing en­gage­ments be­cause she was told she’d make women feel bad, my great­est beef with her is that she doesn’t widely en­gage men as part of the so­lu­tion.

Her sci­ence may be sound, but surely all mem­bers of a fam­ily have to de­cide what works best for them?

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