Netflix currently has the series, How It’s Made. I’m fascinated with the automation that goes into everyday products. One episode showed a factory producing copy paper. I tend to feel like I’m all thumbs unwrapping a ream of paper and placing it in the photocopier, but a mechanized factory produces 55,000 sheets of paper a minute, and it can wrap a ream of paper in the blink of an eye. Another episode showed a machine that fabricates adhesive bandages. It produced 300 to 1500 bandages a minute depending on size.
Since the industrial revolution, a few have pondered whether children could be raised that way. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World imagined a hatchery for children. Children were designed and conditioned to fulfill their various social stations. No need for the messiness of parents. The upper class alphas could then be free to consume (that’s what consumer societies need after all) and to experience pleasure.
The real world has produced more modest attempts of raising children in mass. The Soviet Union experimented on the family with child care centers. It attempted to put more of the child raising under the control of the state. From a non-Marxist point a view, feminism also desired the emancipation of women from the burden of child rearing. They believed that collective child care was inevitable, but their most illusive goal was freedom from the pre-school years.
Yet, maternal and parenting instincts are strong, and some of the attempts to change family life have fortunately been resisted. The Soviet Union had to reverse its course in its attempt to radically change the family. Plus, all this experimenting has taught us something. Child raising does not seem to be an activity that can be successfully industrialized. Children succeed at certain developmental tasks with parents that are not met with even the best child care.
Your mother gave birth to you. She changed your diapers. She talked to you and read stories to you. She taught you right from wrong. In fact, your moral sense was developed by the age of nine. She taught you how to pray your first child-like prayers. She guided you in learning how to share your toys, resolve your conflicts, and pick up after yourself. You learned to brush your teeth, take a bath, and say thank you and please.
She was there when you were frightened, and she protected you from dangers even the ones for which you were totally unaware. She put Band-Aids on your skinned knee and wiped away your tears. It was a labor intensive task, yet a labor of love. You were not massed produced.