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VICTOR JOECKS: How Mother’s Day is a rebuke to big government

Celebrating Mother’s Day offers a subtle critique to big government, even if most people don’t realize it.

Mother’s Day is not just an excuse for Hallmark to sell cards. For most, it’s a time to recognize and honor women who shaped their lives in innumerable ways.

The obvious part is giving birth. But moms do so much more. Most obviously, they keep children alive. They feed them, even during the middle of the night when exhaustion would keep them in bed for any other reason. Moms save their children’s lives innumerable times with admonitions such as “Don’t jump off that” and “Get that Lego out of your mouth.”

By reliably meeting a baby’s needs, a mom creates a secure attachment with her child. Research shows a baby’s caregiver or lack thereof heavily influences brain development over the first two to three years of life.

Creating a secure attachment for children has a lifetime of benefits. It helps nurture parts of their brains related to social and emotional development. It teaches a child to trust. It paves the way for children to have healthy relationships as adults. It will help them do better in school.

Secure attachment allows a child to explore and take risks instead of becoming overwhelmed and shutting down emotionally.

The opposite is true as well. Insecure attachment changes a children’s brain in negative ways. It reduces the capacity for empathy, emotional regulation and resiliency. It makes it more likely a child will have mental health problems as an adult.

These are admittedly broad statements. Many adopted moms or grandmas wonderfully fill the motherly role. Fathers can and should play a key role in a child’s life and development, sometimes as the primary caregiver. Children who experience insecure attachment — which was obviously not their choice — can still become emotionally healthy adults.

The irreplaceable importance of moms, however, should be obvious, too.

That’s why it’s a mistake for government programs to incentivize moms en masse to spend less time with their children. President Joe Biden’s proposed American Families Plan does that.

It proposes universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. It also wants to heavily subsidize child care. The plan would cap what middle-income families pay for child care for kids under five at 7 percent of their income. This would allow “roughly 1 million parents, primarily mothers, to enter the labor force,” the Biden plan states.

Put another way: Biden wants hundreds of thousands of mothers to spend less time with their children during their most formative years.

That’s a mistake. Research shows that more time in non-familial child care is associated with worse behavior, such as aggression.

For some students who aren’t facing severe disadvantages, expanded child care “may have no impact, or have a negative effect on cognitive or noncognitive measures,” Max Eden, senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, wrote in a February report. “These findings are consistent with — and likely partly explained by — recent advances in our understanding of neuroscience and child development. Studies suggest that many children exhibit higher levels of stress hormones — colloquially termed ‘toxic stress’ — in child-care environments than they do at home, which could leave a lasting physical impact on their brain architecture.”

Another problem is that universal programs direct attention away from the highest-need children, who do actually seem to benefit from these programs.

Kids aren’t robots to be programmed. They’re individuals who need the love and attention moms provide. No government program can replace a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day and thank you to every mom reading this.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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