Biblical parenting and 7 day- a-week daycare

Simone has been involved in an interesting blog discussion about the place of daycare in parenting for people who want to follow Jesus. It’s obviously an area where it is difficult to make judgements without making someone feel guilty or threatened. However my interest was sparked by a comment that Simone made to the effect that obviously it would be innappropriate for a Christian to put their child in daycare for 7 days a week.

My first thought (which I expressed to Simone), was that this was such an obvious statement that it was hardly worth saying, it was a kind of straw man, OF COURSE 7 days a week daycare was wrong… But a little later it struck me with some force that I personally, from the age of 9 to the age of 16 was in 7 days and nights a week childcare – I was sent to boarding school.

You’ll be glad to know that the reason I was sent to boarding school was not uncaring or unchristian parents, in fact quite the opposite, my parents were missionaries in Bangladesh and, along with many other missionary families there, felt that the best way to give us a good education was to send us to a boarding school in India.

I wouldn’t say that I found boarding school easy, but neither do I look back with too many regrets. I certainly was never in any doubts about my parents love and care for me. And they remain the most significant influence on me as a person.

Now let me say that I that the ‘I turned out ok, so it must have been a good idea’ kind of argument is false. Fortunately for all parents, God is gracious and could use unwise decisions for good.

However the whole boarding school experience raises the question of whether our concerns about things like daycare is at times more cultural than Biblical. It seems to me that sometimes our arguments against daycare follow this logic. Daycare is a product of feminism. Feminism is a bad thing. Therefore daycare is a bad thing.

But community care of children has been around for much longer than feminism, and has been an important part of committed Christian parenting. The boarding school I attended was set up by Christians committed enough to serve God in Asia before the second world war to care for their children while they were engaged in mission work. My history is fairly weak beyond that, but I get the impression that going further back full time nannies for example weren’t seen as necessarily unbiblical for those who could afford them. And this gets us to the heart of the matter. What does the Bible actually insist on in our parenting and what is a matter of freedom?

I’ve got some ideas, but they’re going to have to wait for another post. In the mean time I’m happy to take any comments (and I won’t be offended if you can tell me where the Bible says that Boarding School is of the devil).

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