Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving

Memories from my childhood – Home daycare

While my older brother went to school and my parents worked, I went to home daycare. The home daycare mother lived in what was probably the poorest part of the Illawarra, among the migrants from southern and eastern Europe who worked at the steelworks. Their houses and yards always looked so interesting with handmade extensions to the basic, small houses, and sheds in the yard built from found materials of odd sizes and colours. Nobody had any spare money.


Here’s an example of the neighbourhood but I think that the photovoltaic cells are quite new. Photo source:

The daycare mother had a raspy, deep, gravelly voice from chain-smoking and looked wizened. She may have been only 30 but to me she looked about 50. I don’t remember her being particularly kind or motherly nor interested in pedagogical theory or engaging my brain. I was afraid of her and tried not to incur her disapproval. I distinctly remember as a toddler sitting on a mat on the floor of her living-room in a ‘playpen’ which is essentially a cage with no floor or roof, with sides of about 1.5 metres in length made of vertical lengths of wood, like broom handles.

Sitting in the playpen with me was one other toddler. Our daycare mother sat nearby to us, in an armchair, endlessly smoking cigarettes and ignoring us. I wonder if she was a licensed daycare mother or just earning a bit of money on the side, babysitting other people’s kids. If she was licensed I wonder how she performed in the audits by the daycare authorities.

Can you imagine that now? We modern parents tie ourselves in knots, endlessly researching the best childcare centres, taking years out of our careers to stay at home with our children, buying houses in the feeder area for the best schools that we can afford, reading books about pedagogical theory, debating whether the Shanghai mathematics method or the Steiner method is superior. Considering how well I performed in school and university, I suppose that I would have been a moderately inquisitive child and yet in the late 1970s I remember sitting in a playpen with nothing to do but passively smoke. Is it any wonder then that my children no longer bother to tell me when they are bored. They are too sick of hearing my advice that they can always play with their feet!


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This entry was posted on July 12, 2017 by in Me and tagged , , , , , .
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