So I'll put the question to Jim and any other "conservative" very directly: Are you willing to state that "with a few exceptions, anyone who would place an infant in daycare is a negligent parent and a negligent citizen"? Let's put some cards on the table.I figure I can answer this one without accusation of bias, since I'm the only one in my workgroup at the office whose spouse stays home with the kids -- and gets by on half the household income of everyone else as a result.
The first duty of anyone, conservative or otherwise, it seems to me, is not to be a tiresome old ass. Not but what many asses (even old and tiresome ones) are right. But even if you are right, if you make enough of an ass out of yourself, no one will listen to you. Truth is never served well by being put in the most abrasive terms possible, unless the offense which is being protested is so grave, that it calls for denunciation in the strongest terms. Save your ammo for the beast so nasty that you need to shoot it twice.
Now, I do think that one should do all that one reasonably can do to avoid putting a child, especially an infant (or indeed, any kid under school age) into daycare. If you think about the economics of it, you pretty much can't afford to pay someone to pay as much and as quality attention to you child as you could yourself. And even if you could, you'd be ceding your place as parent to that person. A parent is not just a DNA donor. A parent is supposed to have an integral part in forming his or her child from the earliest days of infancy through the point when the child is old enough to start his or her own family.
I think there's a lot that can be said, both as a matter of personal experience and probably also as the result of behavioral testing and observation that would support the ideal of having one parent be with young children full time. Or, short of that, having a real relative (grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew or close family friend) provide supplemental care. Children are supposed to bond closely to their guardians, especially in that early stage of life, so having your child spend most of her time with a stranger is doing her no favors. Either she's bonding to the wrong person, or she's not bonding at all.
What-is-more, from talking to the women I know at work, several of whom have very young (meaning under two) children in daycare, it seems pretty clear that many if not most women have a natural desire to stay home with their children. It's not that many mothers actively want to leave their children in daycare, but rather that they haven't successfully thought through the realistic strategies that could help them break the two income family mold.
However (and if I'm just being a soft voiced pinko about this, someone can tell me) I don't think you're going to get anyone moving in that direction by fulminating at them that they're negligent parents and negligent citizens. Just as one does not normally convince someone to convert by telling him that without the graces of Christ he'll go to hell. (That may be an accurate statement, but it's a bad opener.)
Which I guess is what bugs me about the heavily polemical nature of some of the Crunchy Con rhetoric. I think there are some very valid points that Rod is making about how people (conservative or otherwise) need to think systematically about what they believe to be the important things in life and then actively order their day-to-day lives according to those ideals, however if you spend too much of your energy shouting that everyone else outside your clique is a materialist, you're not going to get them to reexamine their lifestyle choices.