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Rape: Where should working mothers keep their toddlers?

In the past, mothers hardly engage in salary paid jobs or jobs that will keep them out of their homes almost throughout the day. Majority…

In the past, mothers hardly engage in salary paid jobs or jobs that will keep them out of their homes almost throughout the day. Majority of them were full time homemakers while some who insist on working teach in schools or do businesses at home. All these were parts of efforts to make sure that parents spend most of their time with their children. It is generally believed that children learn mostly from their mothers, thus the reason why mothers must be close to their children.
The present economic situation in Nigeria has forced many Nigerian mothers into the labour market. Today, women struggle as much as men do, sometimes even more, all in a bid to make ends meet. The children most times suffer as they have very limited time to spend with their parents depending on the kind of work they do. Due to the constant absence of their parents, some children are left at the mercy of house helps who may or may not give them the love and care they deserve.
While there are some good and kind hearted nannies or house helps, some could be very cruel and as such molest the children in the absence of their parents; some even go as far as denying the child the good meal that is due to him/her. The child in turn suffers neglect, this has made some little children fall victims of rape by unscrupulous minded adults and even sometimes by close relatives who ordinarily should be their guardians.
The question now is- where is safe for working mothers to keep their infants and toddlers during work hours? Should they be kept at home with neighbours, relatives, friends or they should be kept in the day care or crèche where payment is made for services rendered?
While some parents interviewed are of the opinion that it is cheaper, though sometimes risky for children to be kept with relatives and neighbours among others, others opined that it is better to keep children in a crèche. “You will get better results from what you are paying for, than what you are getting free of charge. The crèche will take the children more seriously than relatives or neighbours. In the crèche, apart from the child being taken care of, he/she will also be exposed to learning at an early age which will help the child as he/she grows up,” a working mother, Mrs. Hassana Musa said.
Another working mother with a media organisation in Kaduna who does not want her name mentioned also said that children are better monitored in the nursery/day care but that it is always better if the day care is close to the mother’s place of work. She advised employers of women to endeavour  to provide a nurseries in their companies where mothers can keep their infants and toddlers saying that mothers will be more effective at work when they are sure their children are close to them and are well taken care of.
She said the advocacy for six months exclusive breastfeeding cannot be carried out by working mothers because they only have three months maternity leave but if there is a nursery in the office premises, the breastfeeding can continue while at work.
On her own part, Mrs. Mercy Thomas suggested that working hours for mothers be reduced per day irrespective of where they keep their kids so that they can have time to attend to their children and other domestic work. “Women are made to undergo too much stress because in spite of the fact that they work all through the day like men, they still go home to face the rigor of taking care of the children, cooking and other house chores and that is why you see a lot of women growing older than their ages because the stress is too much,” she said.
Hajiya Maryam Sani is of the opinion that infants and toddlers be kept with relatives at home saying, “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. At least you know your relatives and you know what they can do but you don’t know the people at the day care and it is more difficult to entrust your child to a stranger and you can as well pay someone to stay with your kids at home,” she argued.
The director of Early days Nursery Services in Kaduna, Olabisi Adebayo said that working mothers need to keep their infants and toddlers in a safe and professional environment that pride themselves in high quality child safety, hygiene and learning.
According to her, working mothers must first acknowledge that the problems exist. She lamented that reports of child rape and molestations are on the increase and that majority of the cases go unreported. “Mothers need to accept that there is a real possibility of this despicable acts occurring. With the increase in the population of working mothers, the need to put the child in the care of someone other than the parents during working hours has become paramount,”
“The norm in Nigeria is to keep children with house helps or relatives who may be children themselves and are untrained in child care, or with grandmothers who may not be physically fit for the rigours of child care and are not up to date or unwilling to adapt to modern child care methods. More so, friends or neighbours are not convenient and are at best temporary measures. While crèche or day care is most convenient and advisable, parents have to ensure that they enroll their wards with standard day care facilities because substandard day care centers can do more harm than good,” she said.
Commenting on the role of crèche or day care in childcare, she stated that a standard crèche/day care is characterised by safe, neat and hygienic environment and manned by trained staff to ensure that a solid foundation is laid for the child to not only survive but also excel in this jet age. “We aid early care socializing with innovative educational tools in partnership with parents. A crèche should be seen beyond a place for children to be dumped while their parents are at work but a place to aid child growth and adaptation to the world,”
Reacting to reports that some day care centres induce children with drugs to make them sleep for long periods of time to avoid disturbance; Adebayo said that in a standard day care, no drug should be administered to children without the knowledge of their parents and as recommended by qualified medical professionals. “We believe children should have proper sleep but it has to be natural and not forced. The convenience of the child should be the top priority of any trained child care giver,”
She advised mothers to take the issue of early childcare with all seriousness noting that we live in an ever-evolving world. “Our children are born into a totally different world compared to the one we were born into. Therefore, our approach to early childcare has to be different. We need to thoroughly research and ensure that our children get the best day care facilities because this is key to laying a solid foundation for the child thereby giving them a head start in life.
“One unique thing about children is that they are neutral and just need and want to be loved. No matter the tribe, religion and background, their need for a very good, safe, neat and ideal growth environment is the same. So child care givers must be neutral and see themselves as partners with parents in the holistic growth and care of the child,” she added.
The Executive Director of Gender Awareness Trust, Dr. Lydia Umar also argued that crèches remain the best for working mothers to keep their little kids during work hours because they are run by institutions and as such profit making will not be the focus and that crèches can also be found close to the mother’s office. “That will afford the mother the opportunity to check on the baby in between work,” she said.
She further reiterated that a crèche is a formal place that should have more and closer supervision of the child.

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