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Childcare expert Penelope Leach criticizes daycare in 1983

The Story


It's 1983 and nearly half of all women with young children are now active in the country's workforce. A number of major women's rights groups are organizing to push the federal government to set up a national child care policy to fill the demand. Meanwhile, Dr. Penelope Leach is not amused. In this CBC Radio documentary, the famed British child care author takes aim at feminists, who she says have chosen to fight for the rights of working women -- while ignoring the rights of traditional mothers. 

Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: March 9, 1983
Guest(s): Penelope Leach
Host: David Cayley
Duration: 6:14 Photo: Getty Images

Did You know?


• In this clip Penelope Leach sums up the argument in her controversial 1979 book Who Cares?: A New Deal for Mothers and Their Small Children. The book is a denunciation of what she sees as a business-driven society that has forced fathers, and now mothers, further away from their roles as parents.

• Leach, the author of bestselling parenting books such as Babyhood and Your Baby and Child, maintained that children often felt the effects of this as their care was increasingly handed off to government-run daycares.

• While she believed feminism and women's emancipation were necessary, Leach was concerned about their effect on family.

• Here, Leach argues that the rush for women to enter the workplace has "dimmed the prestige of being a full-time mother" and that feminism places little importance on mothering.

• Like others - such as REAL Women of Canada (Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life) - she maintained that the government should channel money into helping mothers stay at home if they so choose.

• The Canadian Daycare Advocacy Association, a key player in the campaign for a nationally subsidized Daycare system, was formed in 1982, the same year this clip aired.

• During his successful federal election run in 1984, Brian Mulroney promised a national daycare system. Before then, Liberal Prime Minister John Turner appointed Katie Cooke, the former president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, to head a child care task force to examine the state of daycare across the country.

• Leach's belief in a "child-centered" philosophy hasn't changed much since this clip aired. In a February 2005 profile in The Guardian she describes her current view on child care: "The ideal is for both parents to have a choice that can flux and change as children grow. That way, long hours of commercial care for babies can often be avoided, as it increasingly often is, with mum and dad boxing and coxing the child care between them."

• "Some mothers have complained that I tell them to put their babies first and that makes them feel guilty," Leach continued. "My initial reaction is, 'If a book makes you uncomfortable, why read it? Recycle it quick.' But I do think that loving and caring for a baby and child is too important to give less than the best that we can."


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