Kids' Eye Views on Working Moms

To help silence complaints about how lonely writing can be and how much gripping pencils hurt their hands, my son's third-grade teacher asked me to talk to the class about writing. So, I recently sat on a small, yellow chair, describing to 23 nine year olds the arduous and exhilarating process of slogging an idea through conception, writing and editing until it transforms, like a newborn baby, into a freshly printed book.

The discussion turned to what the kids thought of the book's subject, working vs. stay-at-home motherhood.

Voices, and emotions, began to fill the classroom.

"My mom works at a bank and my dad works three hours away, so my babysitter has to pick me up every day."

"Wednesday is the only day my mom can pick me up. I dream about Wednesday all week."

"My dad works in an office in our attic so my brother doesn't kill me."

"My mom used to go to Africa like, 20 times a year. Now she is home all the time and every day I am surprised to see her in the kitchen when I wake up."

"My mom got a ticket in the parking lot at work that cost more money than she got paid!"

Then, my first-born child, whose mom is holding an entire book about how she has to work or she wouldn't be herself, about how a happy mom is the most important factor in a child's life, about how there is no single right decision that works for the millions of moms in America, spoke up.

"I think all moms should stay home with their children."

And once again, he reminded me of a lesson obvious since the day he was born: Motherhood is not just about moms.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 27, 2006; 7:49 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
Previous: Multi-Tasking Takes Its Toll | Next: Peek Into One Stay-at-Home Dad's Life


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Ms. Steiner, you've lost all credibility with this incendiary and biased entry. Ta.

Posted by: Jayne | March 27, 2006 8:31 AM

When the wave of radical feminism began to swell in the early 70s and had women rushing to corporate America to make their sociatal contribution, they forgot about 1 very important question - Who is going to take care of and raise the children? The kid was absolutely right. Women should stay home with their children. Its where there contribution to society is most needed and respected.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 27, 2006 8:45 AM

Jayne:

I don't see the bias in Leslie's question. She is reporting what her kid said and acknowledging that it is not only mothers, but also kids, that have views of whether women should work outside the home.

Leslie is, in fact, being somewhat brave in that she is disclosing that her son has a point of view that is counter to the choices she has made as a mother.

You might want to reread what she wrote.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 8:51 AM

Trust me, Father of 4, the feminists of the 1970s did not overlook the question of who would take care of the kids. I was there.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 8:53 AM

Let's get real - no child prefers the frantic home life of two working parents to a mom at home. I made the decision to stay home for 15 years, but most of my friends, even those whose husbands make a good salary, couldn't take it. Yes, it does take a toll on the mother, and not all of us are willing to do it. Staying at home turns the most hard-working ant into a grasshopper. So? Children grow up so fast, I didn't want to miss a thing. It's not like it's one's entire life.

Posted by: Diahni | March 27, 2006 9:04 AM

What exactly did you hope to accomplish with this piece? Obviously biased to pull on working mother's feelings and heartstrings because we are surely failing our children in some way. Again, what exactly does this piece do other than try to guilt me into thinking how I am ruining my kid's lives by working? It gives such a simplistic view and frankly, a sexist view that mommies should be home with their kids. You tossed a few dad-related comments in but I think that was your attempt to be balanced in some odd way. I am sure that if I asked my children alot of things like whether they wanted ice cream for dinner every day, they would say yes and give me their opinions on why it is good for them, etc. But, I am their mother and I know a whole range of reasons why that will not be the case. Just like the reasons for why I work and why they go to daycare. It would be nice to have a more flexible schedule and to be able for me and their father to spend more time with them but it is not feasible. We don't burden them with all of the reasons why but rather try to make sure that the time we do spend together is great. Seems you took the easy way out and wrote this quaint piece "from the mouths of babes" when you knew full well it would add salt to the wound and debate between parents who work inside the home and those who work outside the home. thanks for nothing.

Posted by: Gina | March 27, 2006 9:05 AM

"Its where there contribution to society is most needed and respected."

Maybe if more women were given the support needed to enter the workforce, they would be able to contribute more to society than endless loads of laundry. I grew up with a working mom, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She made me realize that I, too, could do anything I wanted. Maybe it's finally Dad's turn to pitch in around the house? My dad did a lion's share of the cleaning and all the laundry--as a full-time college professor he still worked less than my full-time lawyer mom. Our house was clean, my brother and I were happy, and my parents were both sane and balanced. How's that for a "contribution to society"?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 9:06 AM

After reading this entry I have to agree with someone who posted a comment on an earlier column. Ms. Steiner is obviously writing this blog to promote her book (and subsequent others). I find her tone to be quite "braggy" and provocative for the sake of provocation--the more people who are inflamed, the more who will read it and, presumably, buy her book. I think that Post.com has a great idea with this blog, but they would do well to have a different voice here. How about a forum of working mothers? Keep Ms. Steiner but add others of various backgrounds and incomes? I hope the website makes better use of this space--until then, I'll be signing out.

Posted by: Signing out | March 27, 2006 9:09 AM

Men like father of 4 are the exact reason for "radical feminism."

On today's topic.

Leslie, Your son will be happy when he doesn't have to struggle through college and take out student loans, can come to you in times of financial need, and be happy that you taught him a valuable lessons about life-woman can do anything!

Posted by: Scarry | March 27, 2006 9:12 AM

Gina,
I don't think Leslie was guilt slinging. It's a given, working mothers will feel some guilt, stay at homes will more than likely suffer some depression. There's no easy answers. One of the reasons I stayed home was I was nervous about leaving my little one with anybody else. As for failing our children, working mothers aren't on the list, I'd say. There are many ways to screw up kids whether or not you have an outside job.

Posted by: Diahni | March 27, 2006 9:13 AM

If the goal is to raise happy kids -- and I think we can agree on that -- why are we slamming on working moms? Where's the guilt trip on working dads? I have a hard time believing there were no positive comments to be heard from children about what they learn from working mothers. I also think it's biased to expect mothers to shoulder the entire burden of child-rearing. Where are the dads? Why aren't they at home or made to feel guilty about their absence? Where are the questions about how kids feel about working dads? I believe the answers would be most intriguing. I have no trouble reading, THS -- and I stand by my comments. You might want to re-read her post in its entirely to see the bias.

Posted by: Jayne | March 27, 2006 9:15 AM

I'm reminded of when my mother was laid off from her job in he early '80s which provided her to opportunity to pick my brother and me up from school every day. I was seven years old and it was great. I think most kids that age would love to spend time with their moms. However I also remember the tension in our household when my parents struggled to get by with one income. I remember the uncomfortable adjustment from my private Christian school to a public school in the burbs. I don't know how my mother felt about it, but I do know that two incomes provided for the education my parents planned for us. Having mom at home works for some, but not for my family. I think everyone was glad when mom got a job.

Posted by: Joy | March 27, 2006 9:17 AM

I wonder if the child who looked forward to Wednesdays all week would really want every day to be Wednesday - that is, mom to pick them up every day and have that be the norm...it just seems like such a special memory. Wednesdays, when mom picked me up. Rather than, "hey mom...again..." It's not necessarily a bad thing to make a ritual, a memory, something special, of the time you can spend with your child.
As for Ms. Steiner's own child's thoughts - I felt the "ouch" when I wrote that, as I bet all of us did. There's no choice that's all right or all wrong here - both SAHMs and working mom's "miss" out on things. That's the only lesson here...of course your child doesn't get to pick if you go to work or not, and of course, you don't get to do whatever you want in spite of having a child - it's a (hey, isn't that the name of the blog?) question of balance.

Posted by: WAHM in FL | March 27, 2006 9:19 AM

Sometimes the choice is made for you. I stayed home for 12 years raising kids and then their dad decided he had missed something and didn't want to be married anymore. I went to school and then to work but not by choice. My children experienced both stay at home and working mom and I'm sure they preferred stay at home but they also know that sometimes life is not a choice.

Posted by: Elly | March 27, 2006 9:21 AM

My response to Leslie's post is "so what?" Children, wonderful as they are, are basically big bundles of Id. They'd probably also prefer to eat pizza and cheetos for dinner every night, given the choice. Why should the fact that kids would probably prefer to have one or both parents at home full-time mean, as Leslie implies, mean that parents who choose otherwise are putting their own needs ahead of their children's?

We spend our entire lives as parents trying to moderate what the kids want against what's best for them. Why should we forget that just because the SAH/WOH issue is emotionally fraught. Sure, Jr. might resent in the short term that he doesn't have a cookie-baking June Cleaver of his own at home, but if the mom would be bored or unhappy without working for income, then would he really be better off?

And, father of four, I admire your commitment to being a SAHD your kids. It's so nice to see a father living out his belief that kids are best off with a parent at home full-time. Your wife is a lucky woman.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 27, 2006 9:25 AM

I do wish posters would ignore Father of 4 and others who are just trying to start a fight with their purposely incendiary remarks.

Anyway, I'm with the mom who said you can't ask kids what they want and expect to get a reasonable answer. As parents, we should have some idea of what's good for each child, and obviously, what's going to work for our family, whether mom stays at home or works. My parents were both teachers and growing up, let me tell you, I wanted to see much less of them than I did during the summers!! They were always around. I used to wish they had "regular" jobs -- i.e., 9-5 -- like my friends' parents.

Posted by: Cadence | March 27, 2006 9:28 AM

Tolstoy was wrong - happy families are not alike and can be happy in their own way. Why should anyone criticize anybody else's difficult decisions? Happy households produce happpy children. Being a mother is a difficult job no matter what you do.

Posted by: Diahni | March 27, 2006 9:28 AM

"Bundles of id" is a nice phrase, NewSAHM, and you make a good point too.

Elly's experience also points to an important fact: Marriage is not always forever, something that I'm sure many readers of this blog have first-have experience of. Divorced women and other single parents may become WOHMs whatever their preferences. And many of them can, I'm sure, describe the difficulty of re-entering the workforce after several years outside of it.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 9:29 AM

One important thing to remember is that "the grass is always greener on the other side." When I was a child with a "stay at home mother", I dreamed of having a modern "working mother." We struggled financially and I wished I had mom like my friends' moms who were nurses, teachers, and bank tellers. I envied them. I even remember being jealous in kindergarten of the kids who went to preschool.

So the kids of the working moms, of course, are going to want their moms home more. And, the kids whose moms are home all the time are going to want their moms to be out of the house more.

I only wish that there were more opportunities for part-time professional work in today's society so mothers could truly balance work and family without having to sacrifice either.

Posted by: Opposite of my mom | March 27, 2006 9:31 AM

I agree that it was brave of Ms. Steiner to post this. Of course, children don't get to dictate what their parents do, any more than they get to dictate what's for dinner every day. But it's important that all parents, fathers and mothers, and indeed everyone who cares about the future of our country, makes the well-being of children a much higher priority. Does this mean all moms must stay home? No, of course not. But as a society, we've become very stingy about the amount of time children get with their parents. Parenting is not only a job, it's a relationship, and relationships take time to sustain. It's a relationship no child can do without. My question is: what happened to "nine to five" jobs that actually ended at 5:00? What happened to the forty hour week? Well, we've ceded it to the economic interests of employers, for the most part. But just imagine we wrested it back. Imagine if not just mom but *both* parents, in a working two-parent household, were home at 5:30. Imagine if one parent could oversee homework while the other cooked dinner, and then they could trade and the one could do dishes while the first read bedtime stories. Imagine there was a little time every day, and not just on weekends, for family fun and family learning. As it is now, too often the "slow track" mom has to come home and do everything, while "fast track" dad barely gets to see his kids. Everyone in this scenario deserves to slow down -- moms, dads, and children. I'd like to see all parents, male and female, working and stay-at-home, stand up for themselves and each other and demand to take back our time.

Posted by: Gloria | March 27, 2006 9:39 AM

Gloria, you make a great point.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 27, 2006 9:42 AM

Hmmm. This blog seems to focus on using the biggest spoon possible to stir trouble. I'd really rathering see posts that encourage thoughtful discussion about how to achieve life balance for all parents.

I've asked my 5 yo this question, and she seems quite happy with me working while she plays with her friends at day care. On the other hand, this is a child who would rather eat broccoli than chocolate. I have no idea where she came from, some days.

Posted by: HollyP | March 27, 2006 10:00 AM

I am in my late 40s; we're raising our first child - he's adopted.

When I was a kid, we lived just off Main St., USA, and I was one of 6 kids. Next door, my friend was one of 5. Same thing across the street. All the moms stayed home, the kids played in large groups (because of huge families), my mom got a break now and then when we all went to Johnny's house, and then Johnny's mom got a break when they all came to my house. We got socialized. We learned to take turns. We learned to share, and to not bully others. It did take a "village."

Now, my son is an only child. He will probably be an only child. Johnny is not across the street anymore - his mom works, and he's in daycare. There are no large families with several kids, and even if there were, they are in daycare - not across the street in their backyard.

There is no way my son is going to become socialized, learn to play, to share, to take turns, etc. staying at home with me or my wife, and hunting up the two or three kids in the whole neighborhood that are home with Mom. We adopted from the county social services agency, and when we got him, (19 months), they insisted we keep him at home to bond for at least a month. It was probably good advice, but by Week 3, cabin fever was setting in. My son was sick of us (alternating days with him) and we were kind of sick of him, too - he got bored. Now, my son loves daycare, and when it's time to leave there, he loves to go home to us. There is a balance.

You can't go back to the way it was - society has changed.

Posted by: Kerry | March 27, 2006 10:12 AM

If you had asked me at age 5 whether I wished my mom had stayed at home, yes of course I would have wanted that because I loved my mom and wanted her to be around more. But now that I'm 24, and really by the time I was 12, I had learned something perhaps more nuanced than love: respect. My mom has a Harvard MBA and a successful career, and I know that had she given that up just so she could do laundry and make my lunches, I would be short one role model.

Posted by: Adult daughter of a working mom | March 27, 2006 10:20 AM

Deep down, I think all of us understand that our children, especially when they are young, would choose to be with us all the time. But it's just not possible, for one thing, and sometimes not even desirable for a variety of reasons. That's why they pay the grownups the big bucks to make these big decisions.

For Holly, Jayne, Gina, and others with similar views about Leslie being deliberately incendiary and insulting to working moms (including herself)...I wish you could give an example of a post/story that you think would be both vanilla enough not to offend anyone, yet still useful and thought-provoking. The blog would quickly die out from lack of readership.

This is a sensitive topic. Toes will be stepped on, sometimes yours. You can choose to cry about it or learn from it.

Another novel concept: someone can disagree with you without it being a personal attack on your values and your worth as a person. That's something else you can choose.

Posted by: Brian | March 27, 2006 10:23 AM

GLoria wrote:
"My question is: what happened to "nine to five" jobs that actually ended at 5:00? What happened to the forty hour week? Well, we've ceded it to the economic interests of employers, for the most part."

The reason that mom and/or dad cannot leave the office at 5 pm is because the child-free colleagues and managers will not stand for it. Managers say that moms AND dads are "parent-tracked" when they can't stay after 5 PM or be at a "work event" at 7:30 AM. Employees are graded negatively when they have lives beyond work -- be it children, or hobbies, or activities/causes, etc.

It's not an issue of balance in terms of working moms and children -- it's an issue of LIFE balance for ALL workers.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 10:29 AM

So Brian -- are you home with your kids all day long? The column is about balance -- why aren't we talking about dads staying at home at all?

Posted by: Jayne | March 27, 2006 10:40 AM

I like "bundles of id" too. The thing is, I WOULD get annoyed as a child when my mother would work late and not be available to go shopping with me or something like that (my father worked much shorter hours; both are lawyers but my father was a govt. lawyer and my mother has her own law firm). I STILL get annoyed when my friends that work at big law firms have to cancel lunch plans with me or can't do something with me. But is the answer that they should just all stop working in order to meet my needs 24/7? No.

Posted by: SandraD | March 27, 2006 10:42 AM

I'm a dad, and my children are now teenagers. My son is about to enter college, and my daughter is about to enter high school. My wife worked before they were born, but chose to stay home when our son was born. We've been very blessed in that we've been able to afford for her to do so.
My wife anticipated going back to work part time once the kids were in school. She was particularly interested in being home with them when they were small. As it has turned out, she's still at home. The older they got, her availability seemed to become more important - not less. Part of that was due to our daughter having severe asthma when she was younger - keeping the house clean enough to hold the asthma at bay was a real struggle for many years.
Our son has had some serious emotional difficulties in the last couple of years. It has been very important for my wife to be there when he gets home. Before having children, people tend to talk about the challenges of the "terrible two's." I am incredibly proud of our children, but the truth of the matter is that teenagers are much more challenging than toddlers.
My wife has been able to do all of the school events, the field trips, the mid-day doctor's appointments, and both our children have always know that if something happened at school, they could call home and mom would be there.
This is not to say that it is wrong for a mom to work, or that dads have no responsibility for their children. We should all recognize, though, that there are very real trade-offs. Children - at any age - need their parents, and more time is better than less. There are many great day care facilities, but having a parent available every day when they get home from school is valuable to a child.
In many cases, it may be an economic necessity for both parents to work. In other cases, there may be other considerations that make it desirable. The decisions we make as parents regarding our jobs (and all the other decisions we make about how we will spend our time) affect our children, though, and it's important that we think carefully about the balance we strike. When we do make tough decisions, it's critical that we recognize what we give up - if for no other reason than so we put in the extra time, effort and attention necessary to compensate

Posted by: Older Dad | March 27, 2006 10:42 AM

My mom has a Harvard MBA and a successful career, and I know that had she given that up just so she could do laundry and make my lunches, I would be short one role model.


Wow. That's a sexist comment, if I ever heard one. I am all for the idea of workforce moms, and also for the idea of moms who stay home to raise their children. There is nothing wrong with either option. I will tell you what I think is wrong. It is wrong to think that staying home and raising children is any less or important of a contribution than using your Harvard MBA in corporate America. The idea that raising kids is unimportant is exactly the reason who teachers and daycare providers are underpaid, and why some working moms feel underappreciated. Frankly, I think that raising kids is the MOST important thing we could be doing, and if you have kids, it is incumbent upon you to figure out what is best for those kids, whether it means working or staying at home to raise them, or a combination of the two. And I also think that we are cheating ourselves as women if we don't demand that the men in our lives be more active participants in the home arena. Only when we begin to appreciate the importance of raising kids, and the importance of having dads participate fully in that processs, will women be able to make decisions for themselves about working and raising kids that are free of guilt and that also do not denigrate women who make other choices.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 10:52 AM

I don't think it's working moms that are a problem these days - it's overworked PARENTS. Both parents are overworked and undersupported as never before.

C'mon, people, even if we're not parents, these kids are the ones who'll be caring for us in our old age. Nurses and home health care aides don't spring into being from nowhere.

Give 'em a break.

Posted by: TamiR | March 27, 2006 10:59 AM

I also want to add that I loved that my mother (and father) had an interesting career. It made me feel very happy. And I grew up not thinking that it was remarkable or anything for women to have their own interesting careers. I think that's a good thing.

Posted by: SandraD | March 27, 2006 11:04 AM

Cg: Why was that comment sexist? It's only sexist if you think laundry and childrearing is women's work?

Posted by: dc | March 27, 2006 11:08 AM

CG, evidently I was still raised despite having two working parents. What I meant was that in addition to being my mom, she's also my hero. Would she still be my hero had she never lived up to her full potential as a brilliant businesswoman? Maybe. But her encouragement to go on to great things in my career feels more credible knowing that she took her own advice.

All kids are going to want to have their parents around all the time, and I know that moms who choose to work may feel paralyzed by guilt when they hear their kids voice that kind of opinion. But know that someday, we understand why you made that choice and respect you infinitely for it.

Posted by: Adult daughter of a working mom | March 27, 2006 11:09 AM

OT, but seriously, these Ralph Lauren ads have got to go!!

Posted by: Getting dizzy trying to read this column due to the cheesy photos of well-dressed imps fading in and | March 27, 2006 11:09 AM

In discussing his daughter's asthma, Older Dad draws attention to a point that has come up here previously, which is that things don't turn out as expected. Kids can have problems, and those problems will require extra effort and flexibility on the part of parents and will doubtless affect career choices--possibly for both parents.

It sounds like Older Dad and Mrs. Older Dad have dealt well with the challenges they've faced, but it's worth noting that many familes with a child who is seriously ill break up. There's so much pain, guilt, and stress associated with having a child who is disabled or chronically ill that relationships don't withstand the strain.

For these parents, the "village" is probably especially important. That is, they may need the support of others to manage their day-to-day lives and to stay sane.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 11:12 AM

I really enjoy my work, but to be honest, it is hard for me, when my three-year-old tells me he misses me all day. Ofcourse, I know when he's at school he's happy (his teachers tell me he transistions from one activity to another better than any other child), and it gives him a good social circle (none of my friends have kids yet). In fact, my husband stayed home with him for a month before starting a new job, and he used to work very hard to schedule various ativities with my son. One day, my son said, daddy I miss my friends, when can I go back to school. My husband and I realized then that while our son loves being with us, we (or a nanny) can't replace a social group of kids his own age. What we do try to do is make sure that we pick him up from school relatively early, meaning I come to work early, my husband drops him off at school, and I leave work early to pick him up. I think what's hard for a child is at the end of the day when kids are being picked up, the anxiety of when will my mommy come. My work place is great because I can be flexible, come in early and leave early. I feel really bad for parents who are penalized for this or have mean co-workers who think they're slacking because they need to pick up their child. I little understanding would go a long way...

Posted by: N. | March 27, 2006 11:13 AM

I think its so extremely important that Mothers spend time with their children that I would applaud any woman that takes a day off work and her child out of school just to spend 1 on 1 time together. Many times over our society needs quality child care rather than a super desk jockey or bank teller and noone does it better than Mom.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 27, 2006 11:15 AM

I've now re-read Ms. Steiner's column several times, and I think that the only thing objectionable about it is the blanket statement at the end, "motherhood is now just about moms," which suggests that mothers who work think too much about what's best for themselves.

Previous posters have made excellent points about kids being bundles of ID, the importance of role models as kids get older, etc. The fact is that innumerable factors -- that is, when economic necessity is not the beginning and the end of the analysis -- go into deciding whether both parents work, and how much they work. My husband and I are both lawyers, we have two little ones (4.5 and 2.5 yrs. old), and I question our arrangement every day. My husband is a partner at a firm and I left firm life to do a non-profit, 9-to-5 job. Personally, I would not be comfortable if we both had jobs with incessant time demands, but I recognize that the balance that I've attempted to strike isn't right for everyone. Sometimes, I ask "what if?" when I see my mom friends who stayed on a faster track, and I doubt myself. On the other hand, I would be a wreck if I were home all the time -- or would I? Point is, I love my job, my kids are wonderful and are happy by all indications, and they know that they are deeply loved. What more can a parent give?

Posted by: stephym | March 27, 2006 11:17 AM

I was a career woman, with a top-school MBA, who became a single mom overnight when I adopted by orphaned nephew. I can tell you, 12 years later, that I regret any times missed with my nephew much more than I regret the impact it had on my career (to take jobs with more freedom as opposed to career advancement). I can assure you that you can't have it all, and when you try you end up shortchanging both. I've got 20 or so more years to make it up with my career but I can't make up any loss of time with my nephew. Someday most working moms will have that same realization. I realize many of us had no choice (and I'm not just talking financial here), but I also think the folks who do have a choice need to just acknowledge that they're putting themselves first, and accept it. But stop trying to pretend otherwise. If that seems harsh, well, it's meant to be.

Posted by: Allison | March 27, 2006 11:20 AM

Ya'll really read waaay too much into Leslie's entries. It's kind of like the Bible - you can use it to support two opposing positions. It's not the writing itself, it's the interpretations that say everything. People: it's a blog. An opinion; an observation. People are entitled to those. Sheesh.

I find I enjoy this blog much more by just reading Leslie's entries and skipping all the postings... going to do just that from now on.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 11:21 AM

How are children going to be socialized and learn to be at all independent with their mothers giving up everything else in their lives in order to follow their children around and be with them 24 hours a day? Kids need to interact with others too (other kids, other relatives, even - gasp! - nonrelated adults!). I went to college with some of these kids. Their parents were still obsessing over them, refusing to let them grow up, still buying their underwear for them from 500 miles away. And the kids went crazy because they didn't have mothers/parents looming over their shoulders at every second making sure their homework was done.
(I am not saying it always turns out this way, but if Leslie can give one example and act like it's just How Things Are, I can share examples from my own experience too.)

Posted by: It does take a village | March 27, 2006 11:30 AM

I know we're all supposed to be ignoring Father of 4, but I have to get this off my chest.

My uterus does not hug my daughter. My ovaries don't sing her songs, or cuddle her when she cries, or make sure she gets that all-important tummy time. My breasts have yet to change a diaper. There is nothing, in fact, that I have to offer my baby that her dad cannot give her, except for milk straight from the tap (as it were).

I don't know where we came up with this idea that there's something magical about women that automatically makes us the best ones to raise the kids. When my daughter was born, my husband and I were both utter novices -- neither of us had ever seen a newborn, let alone taken care of one. In her first few weeks, we learned together what it took to keep her happy and comfortable. If she now has a slight preference for mommy, it's because I have spent nearly every moment of the last four months in her presence, and am alone with her for at least ten hours a day. Of course, it's easier for me now to decipher her needs. But if my husband were to havr that kind of concentrated time with her, she'd become a daddy's girl real fast.

Posted by: newSAHM | March 27, 2006 11:33 AM

Whenever I read things like this, I thank my mother for always having a great job and being an awesome mother - and thus being an excellent role model. Thanks again Mom!

Posted by: Sarah-Jane | March 27, 2006 11:35 AM

I think every decision we make has consequences. Be it the size of the house we live-in to the type of cars we drive or the number of gadgets we own all come with a price. The professions we choose and how high up the ladder we are willing to climb all have consequences as well. We as a sociality that is extremely materialistic, but at the same time we find ourselves under constant economic pressure to perform with less. It’s a constant struggle we make to do the right thing.

My wife and I made a decision not to pursue the American dream. My wife left the workforce after having our first child. My wife is a pediatrician and a stay-at-home mom. She has faced many of the hardships of staying at home: 1) less social contact; 2) loss of prestige; 3) learning to find playing with cars and trucks fun; 4) trying to understand a sense of wonder in spending time with a kid; and 4) struggling to find significance in ordinary house work. She went from the top of the food chain to a bottom feeder. Because she is a stay-at-home mom is talked down to by both working men and women alike until they find out her profession. I also find it ironic that female doctors are less inclined to congratulate her on her decision, while male doctors are more likely to congratulate her decision. Currently, my wife uses her skills at a free clinic once a week and contuse to keep up to date by doing continue medical education course for free since she still may go back to work once our children enter school (I leave that decision to her).

I admire my wife’s decision and its one I may not have chosen if I was in her shoes. I am not saying that our decision was the right one for all only that it was a wise. Let me add one other thing, my wife’s earning potential is in excess of my earning potential; however, she wanted to stay with our kids.

Posted by: Admiring Husband | March 27, 2006 11:36 AM

Jayne,

Does it make a difference if I am with my kids all day long? Are my thoughts somehow less (or more) valid depending on the choices my family has made? I don't think so, but it seems to be important to you.

For the first year after my daughter was born, I stayed home to take care of her. I could write my own book about the "hilarious" comments from moms I met out and about, along the lines of "So, did you dress her yourself?" (Yes, and it even matches.) At the time, I had a job where I could work from home, with completely flexible hours.

Now my wife and I work slightly staggered schedules, so our daughter is in school/daycare 4 days and home with one or both of us 3 days each week. Maybe I used to be more credible, before I went back to working outside the home.

I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt--and neither should anyone else for the choices they've made. We all do what is best for our children, even though we might make different choices from each other.

Posted by: Brian | March 27, 2006 11:36 AM

Cg: Why was that comment sexist? It's only sexist if you think laundry and childrearing is women's work?

The comment was sexist because it implies that motherhood is "just doing laundry and making lunches" and that it is somehow inferior to working as a Harvard trained MBA, and because in fact, most people who stay at home to raise kids are women, and their contribution is seen as inferior to that of those who work outside the home. That's why a lot of men won't do it. That's why Father of 4 so generously wants women to deal with the home fires while he plays on the internet all day.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 11:41 AM

I had to laugh when I read the children's comments about thier mom being home. My child begs me to come home early and pick her up from the bus instead of after-care. But when I actually do that, she gets upset with me because she doesn't get to play with her friends. We've learned that she likes being there for about an hour after school and gets mad if we come too early to pick her up. It really is true that the grass is always greener no matter what age you are.

The only time it truly is a problem for her is when its a school holiday and my husband and I have to work. She goes to after-care the whole day. I can understand her feelings so we actually try to work things out so she doesn't have to be there that long during spring and winter breaks.

Posted by: Working_Mom | March 27, 2006 11:42 AM

This is my first post, and partly b/c I am so infuriated by the deliberately provoking Steiner piece today. Congratulations, Leslie and WaPo. That said, I was happy to see some very thoughtful posts come out of it -- Kerry in particular. Quality of daycare is a very emotional issue -- no one likes to admit theirs may be sub-par -- but also one that we understand a good deal about. We do know how to make it work very successfully, along the lines of the French creche model. In particular, a necessary component is money. Lots and lots of it. The most basic requirement for a good pre-school/daycare is happy, motivated, conscientious, intelligent, experienced, professional teachers -- i.e., with decent salary and benefits -- and fewer children per teacher. In my daycare the under-two-year-olds have 4 teachers for 8 babies (starting at 3 mos. of age in the infant classroom.) New Jersey's mandatory minimum standard is one teacher for four babies (2 for 8 infants -- that's one to change diapers while the other 'cares' for the 7 who are not on the changing table at any particular moment.) More teachers per child is good for the children, of course, but it also lets the teachers' job be one of collegial cooperation and mutual support, rather than back-breaking crisis management and scullery-maiding all day long. This is a crucial issue for working parents -- including day care teachers!
I have three children, ages 10, 7, and 3. I am a partner at a 50-member law firm. My husband runs a software company. Both of us have made career sacrifices in order to care for our children outside of the 9-5 school hours. Plus, my father-in-law, a retired banker, meets the older ones at home every day after school. I don't care if it's sexist to say it, there is a special place in heaven for him. An adored grandparent has got to be the best home-after-school-parent there is.
All my kids loved their daycare, and like school, but the older two didn't really like the after-school programs they were in before their grandfather retired. That was the weak link. We are also blessed to have neighborhood kids with a SAHM. Our five kids (total) bounce in and out of each others' houses and yards. We see a lot of hers on the afternoons and weekends, which gives her a bit of a break, and she is home during the day (usually -- I have to say the idea of a mother "always" at home sounds like house arrest) and can help and ferry in emergencies. However, by choice my husband and I both work within a 10-minute drive from the house, so unless we are both out of the office there is one of us available for sick pick-up, forgotten jacket delivery, etc. Neither of us has the career or social life we would have had without children or without both of us working. Both of us (and the kids, and I sincerely hope grandpa) are very happy.

Posted by: anne | March 27, 2006 11:44 AM

Every time my son is awake when I leave the house, he asks, "Daddy, can you stay at home and play with me today?" Like some of the other fathers, we have been blessed to let my wife stay at home with him.

When we first started looking at having a child, the biggest question was whether my wife would work. I left the final decision up to her as it was her well-being at issue, not just the child's well-being. I secretly hoped she would choose to stay at home (her income and career were not as lucritive as mine) because I did not want another person or institution instilling their values and discipline in my child. As early as two, my son knew how to share and take turns. I am proud of him for that. (Now we have to teach him to be more aggressive to combat all those children who did not learn that lesson in daycare.) I told her it is my dream to stay at home and take care of the household. And every day I leave for work reinforces that desire. (Anyone know a sure way to win the lottery?)

But, we have made sacrifices for it. My wife would like a bigger home, a new stove, and other material items. But, without her income, we would have difficulty getting something bigger. We dream, but feel it is better for our son that we make the sacrifices so that his needs, education, and values are served.

Posted by: Working Dad | March 27, 2006 11:44 AM

I admire my wife’s decision and its one I may not have chosen if I was in her shoes. I am not saying that our decision was the right one for all only that it was a wise. Let me add one other thing, my wife’s earning potential is in excess of my earning potential; however, she wanted to stay with our kids.


See, another example of how a choice to stay home vs working is seen as the less desirable alternative by society. A women with a medical degree who chose to stay home and raise her child is talked down to by professional women and admired by men. I am particularly impressed by the fact that she is admired by men, including her husband, who has less earning potential than he does. From a financial point of view, this makes no sense. If staying at home to raise children is so worthy of admiration, why didn't he stay home to do it, especially since the wife has more earning potential anyway. The easy answer is because our sexist society expect women to stay home (even if they are professional) and gives a free pass to men (even if they earn less money than their wives). Staying at home is seen as the lesser alternative, women are expected to do it instead of men, and this is a sexist attitude.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 11:50 AM

I have two situations to compare from when I was young. My mom stayed at home "for the kids". We bored her silly and it showed, she was desperate for adult conversation. I would try to tell her about my day (esp'ly when going through a hard time having changed school systems) and she would be zoned out with her soap. I really wished she had worked at least part-time. My best friend's mother worked to get out of the house - and compelled my friend to take care of a bed-ridden and helpless grandmother. You need to have balance in your life - work and family - and balance in what you ask of the kids. Because, yes, kids are demanding and selfish and unrealistic, but they also need to know they are loved. I really think finding that balance is key.

Posted by: Christine | March 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Btw, naturally I am aware that very few working parents -- even working couples -- can afford the full cost of the teacher/child daycare ratio I described. Just wanted to clear that up before someone posts about it. There were years when our total bill was $36,000 (two kids, one an infant at a higher monthly charge.) The facility is non-profit and is subsidized by our local university, with which it is affiliated, through donation of the building and its maintenance. Nonetheless, the costs are high. Thanks to the university subsidy, over 85% of the tuition income goes directly to staff salaries and benefits. (The full subsidy is more, if you include financial aid the university gives its employees who place their children with us.) Our most senior teachers -- many with us 25 years or more -- earn about $44,000 plus full health benefits for themselves (but not family, so it's an o.k. benefit but not what we'd like to be able to afford.) Our newest teachers make about $22K per year. Hardly princely pay.

Posted by: anne | March 27, 2006 12:06 PM

I stayed home with my infant son, telcommuting half-time using parental leave the other half. When my wife decided to change fields to gain more flexibility with work hours, I picked up the slack. She takes him to lacrosse, I coach little league. I take him to before school care, she picks him up after school. We take turns doing homework with him. She challenges him to use good table manners, I play the heavy when he has problems with authority. This weekend, I took him for lacrosse photos, little league practice, edited a manuscript, and did the grocery shopping. She did the laundry and some gardening.

I watched 30 minutes of the NCAA tournament while working out on Sunday. To all those dad's that think their wives should stay home with kids, how much basketball did you catch this weekend?

Posted by: involved dad | March 27, 2006 12:08 PM

To involved dad:
Good for you. We need more men like you out there. That is true partnership and balance.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 12:11 PM

Anonymous wrote:

"The reason that mom and/or dad cannot leave the office at 5 pm is because the child-free colleagues and managers will not stand for it."

I agree, but I think the economic factors here are more pressing than the social ones. If employers were required to pay overtime to professional employees, you can bet those employees would all be going home at 5:00 regardless of the personal feelings of child-free colleagues and managers. Instead, we have a situation where employers get the most bang for their buck (economists call it the unit cost of labor) by making professional employees work as many hours as possible, while holding down hours for per-hour wage earners (many of whom then have to get two jobs to make ends meet, not to mention pay for medical expenses and retirement savings out of their wages).

So, what about overtime pay and paid benefits for all workers? Or at least, what about a discussion of policies that support parents and children?

Posted by: Gloria | March 27, 2006 12:11 PM

I was a SAHM until last year. Now my husband is the SAHD. My 4-year-old daughter frequently tells me that she wants me to be with her (and she means right next to her, physically) ALWAYS and forever. Of course when I suggest going to her preschool and having her sit on my lap at the little chairs, she laughs and calls me silly. Kids don't always know what they want.

Posted by: Ms L | March 27, 2006 12:12 PM

I don't have college debt because my mom worked.
I have a great career- because my mom showed me how.
I think a lot of the stay at home moms think short term about the impact of their choices. I have a lot of friends that seem unprepared for life, hard choices, and are generally immature. And have debt- from college!
And guess what? They were raised by stay at home moms!
On top of that, I know a few people whose parent's got divorced, and mom had no marketable skills and no child support comming in.... Stay at home is great if the other income comes in... but you have to be prepared for when it doesn't!

Posted by: Liz | March 27, 2006 12:15 PM

This blog, while very interesting and quite spirited, completely disregards single working moms. There are A LOT of us in the DC area. It would be nice if our views could be heard. Some of us just don't have a choice and would like to hear about ways to improve child care policies in the US, including flexible work schedules. We need the next step - after being a working mom. We need to improve the quality of our lives, our children's lives and the quality of our time with our children.

Posted by: liz | March 27, 2006 12:15 PM

I smiled when I saw the kid's comment, who looked forward to his mother picking him up on Wednesdays. My dad did that and it was my special time with him for 2 years. He would also carve time out for me as well as my 3 brothers. My mom did the same and she taught school, was involved with our church and some women's group. Parents will make quality time for their children. Mine are both gone now and I miss them everyday. I am a bachelor and sometimes pick up a friend's son at school. His teacher says how much he likes me to pick him up. He also gets excited when his mother does it, after she gets out of teaching at school. He likes it when we walk somewhere that he can pick flowers for his mother. (Smiling....) Where do you think he got to like doing that? Children will respond positively to the adults who give them quality time.

Posted by: "Adopted Uncle" | March 27, 2006 12:19 PM

I was just talking about those that have a "choice". I would love it if everyone had the ablity to choose- and flexible work schedules, better childcare, and more options rather than just full time work would be great- No Question!

Posted by: Liz | March 27, 2006 12:21 PM

CG

I never said my wife was not talked down to by professional men. Only, if her decision was supported it was typically supported by her male colleagues. She is talked down to people all the time since rarely does my wife ever mention she is doctor by training. However, I agree with your point that we put little value on staying at home (be it male of female). I do not think its a sexist thing rather an economic reality about who has a greater earning potential.

If truth be told, I wanted us both to work since I am by nature a greedy person. It is only in hindsight that I have grown in my admiration of my wife's decision. My wife made the decision to stay at home before we married (we were married later in life). However, she admits if she was just getting out of residency she may have made a different decision given all she had to go through to get to where she was at that time.

Posted by: Admiring Husband | March 27, 2006 12:24 PM

Expecting women to bear the brunt of the child reering, especially the young ones may be sexists, but it is also sound logic. It only makes sense for the best and the brightest to be rasing the generation who will one day be taking care of us. I don't know why babies desire and need their Mommies much more than their Daddies, but when you here a hurt child wail "I want my Mommie" and Mommy isn't there, its a terrible, lonely feeling. If i had to explain it, I would say Mothers are most definately made of magic.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 27, 2006 12:27 PM

Just a note from a baby boomer who grew up with two working parents. (My mom was not a power parent she was an admin. And dad was a salesman. They had to work we were poor. I was the oldest child. My wife and I have no children.

My mother taught me some valuable lessons that have served me well.

1. How to cook, clean, wash, and iron. She told me that I should marry for love and not to find a woman who will do those things for me. I have been married for 25 years and will remain married because of love not because I need someone to cook. I want to be married. I don’t need to be married.
2. I came home from school and started dinner and got my brother and sister set up with homework. I learned how to be independent and self-sufficient.
3. Mom was the smartest woman I know and I married the same the smartest woman I know.
4. I learned about love too:
a. Never force yourself on a woman. And if you do I will cut your balls off. (At age 10)
b. Never kiss and tell. Only poets can. I wanted to be a poet but she knew that bragging who I banged was bad
c. If you get someone pregnant be man and fess up. Don’t run and don’t blame anyone else.

I never hated her or him. I see these 20 something come in to apply for jobs and they are lost, entitled, and failing at being independent. I see these $800 strollers in Tribeca with 4 year olds still riding and not walking.

It saddens me to see how from what you write I should spit on my mothers grave. She was able to teach me more while she worked.

Posted by: marko | March 27, 2006 12:27 PM

Honestly, I hate this blog and this will be my first and last comment. What did you seriously expect a 9 y.o. to say?? They love and adore their parents, of course. Children understand that there is a societal expectation that their mother's (not their father's) should be at their beck and call and this blog reinforces it. If I was to bow to every desire my 7 y.o. dd wanted I would be a 5'8" Barbie Doll who would take her to Chuck E. Cheese everyday. How is that any more healthy for me or her? This was a biased supposition on it's face. A child's opinion is not yet her own.

Posted by: db | March 27, 2006 12:30 PM

It is amazing how judgemental people are towards SAHM's. Just like there are working moms who can make it work and working moms who relegate their kids to pet status, of course there are SAHM's who make it work and are happy and there are SAHM's who become depressed and don't raise particularly good kids. But while there's a heated defense of working moms, one rarely hears SAHM defended against those who would take an example of a SAHM who did a lousey job to show that it's the inferior choice. And if a SAHM dares to point out that her family has made huge sacrifices to stay home, well, she's obviously resentful and not really happy with her life. If she's educated and stays home, well, she's wasted her education (this one always cracks me up - so only uneducated women should stay home with their kids?).
Also, the whole "dads can stay home too" thing is such a red herring. There are dads who stay home, and good for them. However, several European countries have enacted really dramatic programs to encourage dads to stay home while mom returns to work and the programs haven't worked. The dads don't want to stay home, while the moms do and are willing to forgo all sorts of government goodies to do so. People's reaction to this fact reveals a deep seated mysogeny which, unfortunately is too often allowed to pass for feminism. People say, "well if men don't choose to do it, then women choosing to do it just shows that we want women in inferior roles." Why is something inferior just because a man doesn't want it? Is that really where feminism has lead - to what is worthwhile or not being determined by the proclivities of men?
What is especially ironic about this issue is that while 1 income families often willingly make huge sacrifices for their choices, all we hear about is how we need to do more to make it easier for 2 income families to balance their lives. Many of us living on 1 income end up sitting back and thinking "how come we're the only ones expected to make do with the consequences of our choices?" Already, my husband pays a higher tax rate than some people who earn more than him because we can not take advantage of the child care tax credit - we are basically subsidizing people who are better off than we are to put their kids in day care. Yet, if I say anything, then I'm being judgemental or obviously not really happy with my life. No - do whatever you want. However, stop denigrating my choices and stop expecting every one to do more and more for you. Stop looking for re-assurances that you're doing the right thing and getting your undies in a bunch when faced with the obvious consequences of your choices. Do your thing and be happy with it! Kids are amazingly resiliant and I have no doubt that the writer's child will grow up and admire what his mother accomplished - even if he choses to make different choices in his own life. Not everything needs to be taken as a threat to one's own ideas!

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 27, 2006 12:41 PM

db, I don't think Leslie's post suggests that she is making decisions based on the advice of her children or that she thinks other people should. I think she is saying that it can tear at a mother's heart when a kid says something like that, even if, by any reasonable measure, the kid and the family are doing fine.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 12:42 PM

It helps if you can make your job work for you. I work FT, my husband works from home and looks after the kids, but I try to be home before 6 in the evenings so that I can be around for dinner, bath and bedtime. I don't stay as late or arrive as early as my childless colleagues, but I produce as much as they do, and I do a lot of work (reading, emailing) after hours. More and more this seems to be how a lot of people do their jobs, regardless of their family situation.

Posted by: Jen | March 27, 2006 12:44 PM

It continues to amaze me that people consider their genetics and life so important that they need to bring another life into the world- and then do NOT put their absolute focus on making that life as best as it can be. They compromise. They make the choice without even thinking that perhaps they have no actual skills or preparation for this choice.

Unless raising a child is your goal in life- don't raise a child. It's not like the world is in need of more breeders.

Now, that doesn't mean that working parents are bad parents. My mother had to work. It's not fair to expect a child to understand the nuances of bills and clothes and necessities of why mom or dad can't really stay with them. And of course many children manage ok.

But why do people make themselves compromise and choose back and forth over something they claim is so important?

Posted by: Liz | March 27, 2006 12:47 PM

The primary caregiver of a child is the one the child usually turns to. When I was the SAHM both my girls turned to me if they needed something. Now, if my 2-year-old falls or is scared, what we hear is a heartrending "Daaaaddddyyy!" Never Mommy. He's the primary caregiver now, and he's wonderful with her. I'm around a lot but it's not the same. The "magic" is having at least one parent, male or female, working or not, who can provide consistency and unconditional love.

Posted by: Ms L | March 27, 2006 12:53 PM

Today's blog moved me to post. My mom and dad sacrificed a lot so my siblings and I could have what we needed for a decent upbringing. Even so, we did without toys and other luxuries that most kids inthis country seem to take for granted (all our money went to school). Some years we had so little money that we had to keep our school uniforms on all day because we didn't have playclothes.
y bright and highly qualified MD mom stopped working so she could be home with us. It made her miserable. I remember being unbothered about the lack of toys, but being deeply uneasy about her misery. It was clear that working dads get a great deal while stay-at-home moms get a raw deal and it made me wary of my own future motherhood. When she went back to work when we were teenagers, the kids had to learn to cook dinner, do the laundry, etc, but as a result we learned how to cook and be otherwise self-sufficient and we had more self-respect in consequence. When my siblings and I discuss our upbringing, we agree that it's just as important for moms to be happy as anyone else in the family. I think moms should only stay home if they want to, otherwise, their daughters will learn hat they don't deserve better than to be unhappy after they have kids

Posted by: ja | March 27, 2006 1:02 PM

"Bundles of id" is also a description of some of the adult women bloggers. I agree that you have to take what the kids say with a grain but isn't a blessing when you can hear what they say about how they feel. They clearly want a balance also: time with their friends, time with their families.

Their world is rougher than we give credit for. Their work in school work is demanding and their playground politics makes your office politics seem like infant play. I'm hearing some honest requests for a chance to be somewhere safe and secure at a vulnerable time of day and life.

Not to say that can't be provided by working moms, but it does help to hear what they have to say.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 1:08 PM

Some of us are single parents and have to work. We have no choice in the matter.

In the workplace, persons without children are expected to make up for the slack of those that have them. Parents have special privileges like working at home or leaving early that are not accorded to everyone else. They are more frequently and unexpectedly absent than others.

By the way, in my years as a single parent working, I never asked or received such special privileges.

Posted by: Dana | March 27, 2006 1:13 PM

Guilt: Irrational concern for the past

Worry: Irrational concern for the future

Kids aren't eggs. People act like deciding to stay at home or work will be the deciding factor in whether their child will be MLK or Hitler. Make the best decision FOR YOU and YOUR FAMILY.

Posted by: Hull | March 27, 2006 1:16 PM

Dear MSL,
I'm not so sure that its an environmental thing [Primary care-giver] that determines why children make choices of one parent over another. My kids will run barefoot through the snow to greet me when I get home from work. But if they don't get enough Mommy time, they will get sick. If they can't get sick for Mommy time, they will literally intentionally injure themselves. I think young children would rather starve than go without Mommy.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 27, 2006 1:20 PM

My wife and I made it our priority for her to stay home with my now 7 yr old son right from the beginning. She has not worked since a few months before he was born. The way we see it is this: It is our priority. If you make it a priority it happens. I know it's an old cliche, but where there is a will there is a way. I don't own a house right now, I gave up that expensive car, I own an old computer. In short, I'm sacrificing now for this short time in my life to have my wife be there for my son. No one in the world is a better caretaker to ones offspring than a parent (mother or father). So I don't believe this is a feminine issue, but rather a parental issue. I do not want a daycare person raising my son. Who knows what values they have and what false ideas will be presented to my son. By having him at home (and by the way homeschooled as well), we have his environment well defined which will, in the long run, make him a more effective, happy, self-confident child than otherwise.

Posted by: Dad Of 2 | March 27, 2006 1:23 PM

Hi Dana,
I've heard from others that non-parents are expected to pick up the slack of parents (single or not). I don't understand that though. Nobody picks up my slack and yet there are days when I have to work from home, or leave early. I do a lot of work after the kids are in bed and early in the am, before they wake. I also do work with my baby on my lap, while typing away. I just don't get how I can be accused of "dumping" on my childless colleagues. If anything, I'm "dumping" in my kids, trying to do too much work from home.

Posted by: Liz1 | March 27, 2006 1:24 PM

Its seems to me that this post was relating one experience this woman had at a elementary school. And all of the working moms are getting so defensive. She just telling you what happened to her there, what is the big deal! The real problem is people only want to hear what they believe in. I do believe it is best for a woman to stay at home, but thats not always possible for a variety of reasons. But after reading the posts you can see that there are a lot of posters who make themselves believe daycare is better for kids today because it gives them a chance to socialize.

Posted by: Father of 1 | March 27, 2006 1:27 PM

I second ja's comments. I'm the baby boomer daughter of a woman who SHOULD have been, perhaps, the president of a large bank or maybe the dictator of a small country. She came from a family that didn't have much and wouldn't have given whatever they had to support her post-high-school education anyway.

My mother raised six kids, chased us to piano lessons, skating lessons, 4-H club, and basketball practice (not all at once, of course, but over the years). She was, again over the years, head of every conceivable group associated with the church, the school, and the small community in which we grew up. She was the president of the school board during a period in which the school was significantly expanded, and new buildings were added.

Her children were, for the most part, healthy and talented. They won prizes in school and out and were successful in school. My father was a good guy. As marriages go, there's was, I think, above average. Although they didn't have much money when they were married, over time, they became affluent. They had a large circle of friends that they enjoyed tremendously, and they traveled widely. They had grandchildren that they adored.

And, you know what? That wasn't enough. It's possible, even likely, that my mother was simply a chronically unsatisfied person, but part of that dissatisfaction was, I believe, directly attributable to the fact that, despite her own achievements and those of her children, she simply didn't get a chance to express herself and have an effect on the world in the way that SHE wanted to. And it truly, truly is not good for kids to have a dissatisfied mother.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 1:27 PM

"No one in the world is a better caretaker to ones offspring than a parent (mother or father) . . I do not want a daycare person raising my son. "


Have you heard of Andrea Yates? Yates is, of course, an extreme example . . . to say the least. But I'd be willing to bet that far more children are abused by their parents than are abused by daycare workers.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 1:36 PM

It is time for parents to realize that in the current system, childless people have to take up their work slack at most businesses.

What bothers me is that the parents either never notice this, or else have an attitude that they are 'owed' the privileges of our doing their work because they are 'heroic' for having kids, and providing the means for our retirement income by rearing the next generation of workers. Come on - at least be honest. You are using that absurd argument to 'justify' our having to work extra for YOUR choice of lifestyle - nothing more, nothing less. Only selfish people expect others to bear the burden for their choices, and many modern parents are just that - selfish.

Yes, we need better work policies, but we need them for EVERYONE, not just parents. The day that the majority of working parents start agitating for better policies for ALL of us, I'll have some respect for them...but as long as most of them allow me to suffer because THEY chose to have kids I won't have much sympathy for their plight of 'being looked down on for leaving early' - after taking up (unthanked) slack for many parents at my place of work, I am now one of the ones bad-mouthing their selfish, clueless attitudes.

If I wanted to be forever inconvenienced and overworked because of kids, I would have had my own. Stop ignoring the fact that the childless at your place of work probably work extra hard to make your 'parental privileges' possible - try thanking them occasionally. Maybe they will be less resentful.

Posted by: Dana is right | March 27, 2006 1:48 PM

As the daughter of a working mom, and a working mom, now, myself. I can say without a doubt that I NEVER once wished my mom was a stay-at-home mom. She was happy working, and I liked having a happy mom. I think the same will be true for my kids. In fact, I remember the year she went to part-time work. I looked forward to the afternoons she WASN'T at home more than the ones she was. Not because I didn't love my mom, but because it just didn't feel right.

Your son knew darn well what he was saying, and was just getting a rise out of you.

Posted by: Kid of a working mom | March 27, 2006 1:49 PM

Although this blog has some interesting points of view, I feel that Leslie's book is too narrow and focuses mainly on white, middle class women. Single mothers hardly have a voice here. Neither do African-American women or other minorities. What about the SAHMs who are thrust back into the workforce after a divorce? I haven't read much about that aspect of motherhood on these blogs. And with a 50% divorce rate, that happens all the time. Leslie's book has prompted a lot of discussion, but doesn't really speak for a lot of women. Only a privileged few.

Posted by: J.W. | March 27, 2006 1:53 PM

Re: Dad of 2

"By having him at home (and by the way homeschooled as well), we have his environment well defined which will, in the long run, make him a more effective, happy, self-confident child than otherwise."

Please make sure to provide your kids with opportunities to meet other children their own age -- yes, even those with values different from yours. I know a few formerly homeschooled people and none of them are well socialized. They tend to be co-dependent, sheltered, unhappy adults who find it difficult to make friends, which is a learned skill.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 1:59 PM

I think J.W.'s point is really important. Despite all the anguish expressed here, most of the people who are commenting are among the most fortunate in society.

And, along those lines, I've been noticing that a theme that gets tossed in now and then but hasn't really been elaborated is the issue of what employers and government can or should be doing to make things better for families. I think I said a few posts ago that we don't expect people organized their own system to educate their children or to provide medical care for them; we have schools, which are a public responsibility, and we have health care (for some people) that is funded partly by private source and partly by public sources. In some countries, the citizens tax themselves so that they can provide childcare from an early age. We could do that, but, our individualistic society so far hasn't chosen to do so.

Perhaps Leslie will give us a thread at some point to talk about solutions at an organizational and societal level. Or perhaps people might be interested in commenting whether we have a thread focused on that topic or not.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 2:01 PM

Too bad you didn't ask the kids enough questions to glean any real information. What did the kids say about working dads? Did you ask them? Wouldn't they like their dads around all day too? Wouldn't it be great if no one in the family worked, and everyone stayed home, no matter how unfulfilled and unhappy everyone was? If you asked my child if she would like me to stay home, she would probably say "yes." She would also say "yes" to her dad staying home, eating chocolate cake for breakfast, staying up until midnight every night, skipping homework, never going out with her dad on Saturday night without her, etc. I don't make child-rearing decisions based upon an immature child's expression of what she wants. I base it on what's best for her, which means I work.

Posted by: Tricia Long | March 27, 2006 2:02 PM

My eight-year old, if asked, would like me with her 24 hours out of each day. She objects to any diversion of my attention away from her exclusive domain, such as cooking, yardwork, exercise, and reading. However, when this sometimes guilt-ridden working mom shows up at the school aftercare center early to spend some "quality time" with my child, I am invariably met with "can't you come back later? You're early."

I second the "bundles of id" theory. What she needs is to know that she is loved and valued, and that both her father and I are there for her whenever she needs us. It is up to us to juggle our schedules however we must to make that happen. However, the idea that just because she says that she wants something she should have it is preposterous. If we went along with that, our house would be overrun with Build-a-Bears and other toys, and we would have pizza every night for dinner, followed by dessert.

A parent's job is to be the grownup, and love and provide for their children.

Posted by: Busy Mom | March 27, 2006 2:08 PM

"Have you heard of Andrea Yates? Yates is, of course, an extreme example . . . to say the least. But I'd be willing to bet that far more children are abused by their parents than are abused by daycare workers."

Show me a study that is done on this issue and I might believe you. But I just don't buy it. Yes there are terrible mothers (and fathers), but that doesn't mean that daycare is the right way to go for all of the kids that are in daycare. Can anyone please tell me how it is possible (aside from the extreme examples) that a daycare provider can provide a "better" upbringing than a parent? Biologically it makes no sense. When a child is born it bonds to its parents not a daycare provider (no matter how good they are).

Posted by: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 2:11 PM

We're missing the point here. Children do not and should not decide what their families will do - because they simply are not capable. Nonetheless, they do have needs, preferences, and a unique perspective on their own care. We should listen to our children, not just because it makes them feel good, but because we can learn from them. Of course, we as parents must ultimately decide. But by listening to this particular child, we learn that he loves his mom, needs his mom, and would like as much time with her as possible. Yes, he must be taught to be independent. Yes, there may be financial constraints. Yes, he needs to learn to make friendships and work with other children and adults. Yes, his mom has needs also. Yes, there may be other ways in which she needs to contribute to society. But she needs to understand what he is expressing, and give it great weight as she thinks about how to balance her life (as, it is obvious from the article, she is doing)

Posted by: Cut to the Chase | March 27, 2006 2:13 PM

I agree with the comment that children gravitate toward their primary caregiver. My husband and I pretty much divide the caregiving, and we both spend an equal amount of time with our kids. I have found that our kids are equally happy with both of us. I love the role model that my husband is for my children. He has taught them that a man can be nurturing as well as a responsible breadwinner.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 2:14 PM

I have no children myself, but my sister is a stay at home mom with her 7 month old daughter and absolutely loves it. With my brother-in-law laid off for the winter, my niece has both parents home right, and they wouldn't change it for the world. Both sets of grandparents pitch in when mom and dad need a break, and the system works for everyone.

Posted by: Leroy | March 27, 2006 2:17 PM

When I first had my twin boys, I could not imagine staying at home for any period of time without being bored out of my mind. While I was practicing law in a very demanding environment at the time, I used to tell people I came to work to get a break, because the care of 2 newborns was so physically demanding. However, my husband does not have a 9-5 job, and after going through 5 nannies in 2 years, having to quit a job I'd had for 8 years before I had my sons because I couldn't do "face time" after 7 each night, and a second one after they brought in an out-of-town manager who wanted to have dinner and breakfast meetings because he had no life here, we decided that I would stay home for a while, and were surprised at how easily we adjusted to 1 income. Unfortunately, after 2 years, my husband was laid off and I had to go back to work. While I make now what I was making when I quit 15 years ago, I am fortunate to have a job with flextime, telecommuting, great benefits, and managers with children who are very understanding. When the boys were 9 1/2, I had a surprise baby, and was able to stay home with her for 7 months. All 3 kids benefitted from me being at home, but we couldn't replace the insurance my employer provides, and with my sons about to enter college, we will need all of that $$$ to help them through. I never thought I could stay at home, but was shocked at how much I loved it, and would do it again in a heartbeat if I could, but at least have found a compromise that allows me to be there for field trips, class parties, soccer games, and Brownie meetings while bringing in the income my family needs.

Posted by: Linda | March 27, 2006 2:17 PM

I did not grow up in daycare, I had a nanny, but I will say that I was bonded to my nanny as if she were family. I truly loved her like another mother, and I loved my mother just as much, and my father just as much. I just depended on them for different things. I thank my mother and for providing me with such quality childcare. I thank my nanny for being such a wonderful, giving person who loved me and whom I loved. Why is it that parenting has to be all or nothing. My parents gave me the best they could, and it was always more than plenty.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 2:18 PM

"Show me a study that is done on this issue and I might believe you. But I just don't buy it."

Wang and Daro, in a 1998 study, found that only 3 percent of all confirmed cases of abuse occurred in day-care facilities; the rest happened in the home. Finkelhor and Williams, in the same year, found that an average of 5.5 children per 10,000 enrolled in day care are abused, whereas an average of 8.9 children out of every 10,000 are abused in the home.

But clearly you understand that the media will focus on the infractions perpetrated outside of the home. It's more sensational.

Posted by: Re: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 2:22 PM

Why does it always sound like the woman has to choose between kids and a career? Why don't dads have the same choice to make? Why don't we hear about dads agonizing over whether or not to stay home with the kids full-time? There's a lot of talk these days about both parents sharing responsibilities equally, but on this one question, the assumption seems to be that the mom has to choose between career and family - of course the dad will work. That mentality just doesn't work anymore, not in the current economy. I may make more than my husband, but if either one of us quit our jobs to stay home with our son, it wouldn't be enough for us to stay where we are. We'd probably have to move out toward Winchester or Culpeper to survive on one income, and then one of us would get saddled with a killer commute, and likely never get to spend any quality time with our son during his waking hours. In our current situation, both of us get equal time with our son during the day, we're close to everything we need as a family, and he gets to play with his friends every day at daycare. It works for him, it works for us. We weighed the options and made the best decision for all of us, and we made that decision before he was born. There's a lot to be said about quality over quantity.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 27, 2006 2:25 PM

Actually, for the study on abuse occurances to be valid, it would have to take into account if the parents doing the abusing had their kids in day care most of the time or stayed home with them. However, the fact that most abuse occurs at home is neither here nor there when it comes to making descisions about staying home or not. If it were, then logic would say that all kids should be handed over to day care providers 100% of the time for their own safety! I really, really, really despise it when people use the logical fallacy of pointing to the most extreme cases and trying to extrapolate out what it says about the rest of us. It's stupid, lazy thinking and usually leads those foolish enough to fall for it to come up with all sorts of equally absurd ideas. Anyone who resorts to the "look at Andrea Yates" sort of argument should be ashamed of themselves and find a decent college logic class to enroll in post haste. Most of us, staying home or not do not abuse our children and the fact that some people do has NOTHING to do with me or mine. Aside from the fact that putting children in day care does nothing to prevent child abuse during the times they're not in day care (hence this being an unbelievably STUPID argument), when people speak of the benefits of being home with the kids vs them being in day care, avoiding abuse is hardly what they're speaking of. Way to set of a stupid straw-man argument!

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 27, 2006 2:31 PM

Re: Dad of 2

There are lies then there are #@%! lies and then of course you have statistics. The study you cite has no relevance on the subject. Why are there more cases of abuse at home may be kids spend more time home and abuse of kids occurs typically with someone the kids know. The study you cite does it break down when the abuses occur or who abuses. Are the abuses caused by a stay-at-home parents? If you are going to cite research do some research.

You have proven nothing more than that a child will most likely be abused by someone they know. If I use your logic statistics prove churches cause rapes. However, rapes typically occur in larger cities and larger cities have more churches.
.

Posted by: Iowa Dad | March 27, 2006 2:41 PM

Thanks to those above who mentioned the dads. Why is it, that in this broader discussion of working families and kids, dads are almost never mentioned? Certainly there is no mention of the possible option for DAD to stay at home, rather than this being the choice that only mothers must face.

It's so frustrating that this debate is always framed in the exact same way. As a young woman who's worked very hard to get where she is, I resent the fact that people still ask me if I'm going to continue working or if I'll become a mom. My husband, meanwhile, resents the fact that although he does most of the cleaning, all of the cooking, and would dearly like to be a stay-at-home dad someday, people discount him entirely when looking at the kids-work balance equation.

We both resent the fact that our careers, family decision, and gender roles are still subject to ages-old stereotypes, even though we're in our 20s! It's as unfair to men as it is to women. Why can't we drop the stereotypes and understand that a family is made up of various individuals, all with choices in whether to have children, and how to raise them.

I'd also like to add, as an afterthought, that my mother began working again when my brother and I were in grade school, and we were never happier than the day she went back to work. She was a happier, more fulfilled person, and we treasured the special attention that she paid to us in the evenings now that she was away all day. Just because a parent stays at home, does not mean he or she will be a good parent.

Posted by: Amber Sparks | March 27, 2006 2:42 PM

Wow what nonsense. I was raised by a working mom and you know what she taught me SOOOO much about life, love and responsibility. Granted I didn't have the normal "working parents" childhood. My mom didn't want me to be a latch key kid so I was dropped off by the school bus at the mall where my mom worked. I spend the afternoon in the back of the store she managed doing homework or helping customers (I mean really who better to help someone find a good book for tweeners than a tweener herself).
I think being a working parent in the metro area is hard. Most people are gone for a total of 10 to 12 hours a day once all the commuting is factored in. Some kids only see one parent in the morning and the other parent at night. What can be done... Well, maybe people could realize that there are other things to factor into your compensation package like flex time, sick leave, length of commute. I left my last company for one with better insurance, flex hours, sick leave, and a 15 minute commute. I can't tell you how much my quality of life has improved!!!
But and here is where I really tick some people off. Being a stay at home mother is not for everyone. Everyone knows the stay at home mom who stays home but isn't there for their kid. The mother of another child in my daughter's preschool freely admits that her son watches hours of TV because "if I have to get on the floor and play with him one more minute my head is going to explode". Really is this better for the kid than a parent who works? My other concern is the stay at home mothers who do not know how to control their kids or allow them independence. You know the kids who show up for school and FREAK OUT because they have been attached to their mother's breast for the last 5 years. NOT all stay at home mothers are like this... some are amazing women who should be home nuturing their child but some women who are great parents at night and on weekends would make HORRIBLE stay at home parents. I know... I am one.

Posted by: Momma D | March 27, 2006 2:44 PM


I would absolutely love to quit my job and be a stay at home dad and give my wife a rest as it isn't easy work. But the fact remains (yes even now in 2006) I can make way more than my wife. She is probably at least as intelligent as me or more and yet I can make tremendously more than her. I would love to switch places. I would give anything to have her earn as much or more than me and let me be at home. But that just isn't going to happen. So the next best thing is for her to be there, which she does lovingly. But it's no picnic for her either. She's making a sacrifice to do this, but here's the big point: She has grown tremendously as a result. She never thought of herself as having children when we first married, but here she is. And because of the requirement of building a relationship with our son (and soon to be daughter), she is a better person.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 2:51 PM

I was merely responding to Dad of 2's disbelief that more parents abuse their kids than day-care providers. I didn't pretend that the study broke down each case by the employment status of the perpetrator, simply that day-care centers are not the cesspools of pedophilia that he seemed to believe they were.

You are right that this is neither here nor there, but take it up with his argument that his kids shouldn't even attend school for fear of encountering differing values.

Posted by: Re: Iowa Dad | March 27, 2006 2:56 PM

"You know the kids who show up for school and FREAK OUT because they have been attached to their mother's breast for the last 5 years."

Bzzt! wrong answer. Breastfeeding makes a child more independent. I can tell the difference of a breastfed kid from a bottle fed instantly. The breastfed kid got their needs met earlly on and is not clingy. The non-breastfed is clingy and looking for needs to get met. The U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to breastfeeding. My son breastfed until he was 4.5 yrs old. He is way more independent than most kids I've met. Breastfeeding is the single most important thing a growing child needs. Don't let anyone fool you into believing it causes psychological damage. It's the opposite. I know this is somewhat of a generalization as there are more factors than breastfeeding alone, but I definitely want to dispell this myth that breastfeeding past 6 months is wrong (as several mothers are told - probably by corporate interests selling formula).

Posted by: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 3:00 PM

4 1/2 years old! Yikes!!! I breastfed my son until he was two and I can't tell one iota of difference (now that he's 7) from him and his other classmates.

Kudos to your wife!

Posted by: chausti | March 27, 2006 3:10 PM

"You know the kids who show up for school and FREAK OUT because they have been attached to their mother's breast for the last 5 years."

I don't think that the person who made the above comment was saying that BFing is wrong. My interpretation of the above comment is this: a child who hasn't had much exposure to other children/adults socially, and then enters the school system at the age of 5, is going to have a harder time adjusting to the school environment than the kid who spent at least some time in a structured, multi-kid environment like a daycare or preschool.

Is there really a correlation between BFing and independence? I don't know - I've never heard of one. I do know that my son quit BFing by choice around 11 months. He just didn't have the desire to sit still that long anymore, and he wanted the independence and freedom that the bottle allowed him. But he's always been independent - he rarely will let you hold him for very long, unless he is tired or not feeling well. Most of the time he is go, go, go. On the other hand, he's pretty good at entertaining himself.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 27, 2006 3:14 PM

I have a small son and am expecting a daughter. I am also a scientist with 28 years of education. As a state university professor I find myself at the control of some amount of increasingly scarce government and private resources to support incoming graduate students. I find the phenomenon of highly educated women stopping work altogether once children are born a real and practical quandary. It is our society's recent advance that opportunities for higher education exist for women, and it is also our society's privilege that some women have the choice to work or be fulltime with their families. My friends have taken all possible routes, fulltime work, parttime work and fulltime motherhood, and all have wonderful, smart, happy children. I have a beautiful three year old son that I adore and I understand very well the pain of leaving him and the temptation to give up work to ensure that his experience is all I would hope for him. Now, he gets a lot from his Montessori preschool yet also recently declared to me “I’d rather have a mum who is just a mum”. Nonetheless, when asked about what he wants to be when he grows up, “teacher” and “scientist” appear on his list as prominently as “inventor” (that’s Dad) and the inevitable “construction worker” and “fireman”. My husband married a scientist and wishes to remain married to a scientist, preferably me, so I have a great deal of moral and reasonable amount of logistic support from him. I’m lucky to work in an environment where family life choices are relatively well-supported—most of the junior faculty families have two working parents and young children, but our workplace is relatively flexible and family benefits are helpful compared with many jobs (and even a comparable position in an Ivy League university).

However. My point here is that I interview incoming graduate students and only a small fraction of them will be awarded competitive, federal- and state-funded places in our program. Apart from the funding, we as faculty will expend our personal efforts and precious work hours training and mentoring them. Is it fair to give those resources to someone for whom this education turns out to be a luxury and pastime or for whom it is an essential step en route to a productive, socially valuable career? I am fully in support of the idea of education as an important part of the making of any individual, but it’s very difficult to argue that six years of PhD level lab work is critical to anyone’s personal development. Shouldn’t those handing out the money have the right, even the responsibility, to attempt to determine in advance the likelihood of those relative outcomes—but doesn’t that make mothers of gifted daughters nervous that one’s daughter’s chances of entry into graduate education may be reduced? In a time when Harvard’s (ex-!) president declares that women are intellectually unsuited for careers in math and science, I’m anxious that women themselves are proving him right with their own personal choices (not with their abilities!). I honestly don’t know how to feel about it. I don’t want to see these opportunities shrivel away for my own daughter. I grew up in a post-feminist era when I experienced no barrier to education and employment and never had to fight for my opportunities. I’m wondering if we had twenty years when all became possible and now the conclusion is that we as a larger group never really wanted it after all.


Posted by: lucky mum | March 27, 2006 3:24 PM

"I don't think that the person who made the above comment was saying that BFing is wrong. My interpretation of the above comment is this: a child who hasn't had much exposure to other children/adults socially, and then enters the school system at the age of 5, is going to have a harder time adjusting to the school environment than the kid who spent at least some time in a structured, multi-kid environment like a daycare or preschool."

Ah, well I agree that could be so, but I don't see what breastfeeding has to do with that, so they should probably have excluded that from their argument. In any case I won't go into it here, but there is a whole set of reasoning for why going into public (or any) school can be quite damaging to many kids, i.e. why homeschooling or unschooling produces a much better result and environment for the child. But that would be for an article on homeschooling which the Post has done, but didn't give an opportunity for a forum like this. Hint hint, wink wink, no what I mean? :)

Posted by: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 3:31 PM

Follow up on my BF comment.... I am very pro BFing. I BF both of my girls (one till she self weaned at 14 months and one who was weaned for medical reasons at 8 months). But there are some mothers who never find other methods for pacifying their children.
Outer Fairfax got what I was saying. Children who spend time in a structured multichild facility are better prepared for the social aspects of school. While children who are sheltered and coddled by their mothers have a harder time adjusting to the structure of school
My daughter is special needs. She is high functioning cerebral palsy. It has taken me a long time to learn that fostering her independence is more important than protecting her from every little thing. She falls, I kiss it (or now she kisses it herself), she gets up and tries again. If I wrapped her in my over protective momma bear arms she would not be where she is today.

Posted by: Momma D | March 27, 2006 3:39 PM

lucky mum, you raise some good questions, and I'd be interested in hearing about the choices of your recent graduates. I have a university background, too, so I understand the "scarce resources" issue you have described.

I do think it's likely that your female students will face choices that your male students won't, but I don't know that I'd base admissions decisions or even, perhaps especially, decisions about who to work with or mentor on gender. Admissions decisions based on gender are, of course, illegal, as you know, but withdrawing the informal support that mentoring relationships provide may increase the likelihood of the outcomes you want to avoid. Although I can't put my fingers on the relevant articles, I believe NSF has funded research on women in science and engineering that demonstrates that mentoring is a very important determinant of the likelihood that women will succeed in these fields. (But, seriously, don't quote me, because I don't know the details, although I could find them.)

It's inevitable that some of your students may not develop the productive scientific careers that you want them to have, but the numbers of students are so small, and the number of factors involved is so large that I'd think it would be difficult to identify individuals who are more or less likely to succeed, even if, in the aggregate, we know that some women may not strive for high-profile scientific careers.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 3:46 PM

I'm the oldest of five and my mom stayed home with us. She was stressed and depressed and honestly not very good at taking care of kids, even though she loved us and really wanted to be a good mom. Around age 12 I started to fantasize about her getting a job -- I thought it would be good for her to have some friends. I recognize all the good things that came to our family from having one parent always available (my dad was involved too and always home by 5pm) but man, there were some incredibly dysfunctional years when getting mom out of the house would have been an enormous blessing to everyone, I believe. A depressed mom is so not able to be a good mom.

Posted by: chompo | March 27, 2006 3:46 PM

Rebecca, I'm sorry you were so offended by my Andrea Yates example. If you'll check out my previous post, you'll see that I said it was "an extreme example . . . to say the least." I mentioned it because of what Dad of 2 had said about the idea that parents are the best caretakers of their children.

Parents are certainly important to their children, but many of the posters have pointed out here that they believe some combination of parental care and care in group settings helps their children feel both secure and attached to their parents and able to interact with other children and other adult children comfortably in group settings.

I also recognize that most parents do not abuse their children. I am also almost certain that most of the parents posting here have, at times, felt the impulse to drop their two-year-olds out third-story windows. Let's face it. A friend of mine used to say, "Two-year-olds are cute as a survival mechanism. If they weren't so cute, we wouldn't be able to put up with them."

It's incontrovertibly true that many parents find long periods of childcare highly stressful and that, for those parents, some time away from their children, whether to work or simply to have time away, is a very good thing.

So, Dad of 2 made what I felt was an extreme statement, and I responded with an extreme example. He obviously feels that the choices he and his wife have made are best for him and his family, but it doesn't follow that there is something wrong with daycare or other forms of non-parental care.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 3:56 PM

Lucky Mum, who are you (or anybody else) to decide whether anyone will use their educations in a manner you deem "productive and socially valuable?" Would you deny someone a place in your program if you thought they'd be likely to use that education in a job that you considered politically or morally distasteful? What would give you that right?

And I think you're off base in pinning the problem on women as a whole "not wanting" professional opportunities. I, for one, absolutely want it all. But I simply didn't see how I could meet the expectations of my job (10-12 hour workdays with a 2.5 hour round-trip commute) while also raising a child. "Part time" in a large law firm is a joke -- it's still a full 40-hour work week, just less pay. You could say that it was my desire to have a family that was the reason I'm now a SAHM, but you could as easily say that it's the dearth of family-frindly career options that made it an all-or-nothing proposition for me.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 27, 2006 4:04 PM

"Breastfeeding is the single most important thing a growing child needs."

Interesting. I'm so tired of these comments. Not every mom can breastfeed. It's insulting to those that can't. I turned out pretty darn well with my 4 degrees and independence and I was bottle fed. I also had to wear cloth diapers since I was allergic to the only "plastic" ones they made in the 70's.

Now, two of my cousin's kids were breastfed and they have allergies and nebulizer treatments. Go figure.

Posted by: Enough with the boob. | March 27, 2006 4:06 PM

To Enough, there are studies upon studies upon studies that indicate that in fact, breastfeeding is incredibly important to the health of the newborn and even that there are benefits derived over the course of a person's life. Your anecdotal evidence doesn't disprove these of the studies. Maybe your cousin's children would have been even less healthy if your cousin hadn't breastfed. I'm all for women doing what is comfortable for them, but let's not kid ourselves about the truth.

Posted by: BF Support | March 27, 2006 4:22 PM

Neither of my children call for me, they call for their dad. Children will call for the parent that they have spent the most time with. My sisters were the same way. Do I think my children love me less – no. I did not have the job flexibility that my husband had and so he usually spent more time with the kids, but now I spend more time with them since he schedule has changed. They still call for him. They run to him in the evening like they have not seen the man in 10 years even though he dropped us off at home 3 hours ago. The "magic" is being a wonderful parent. My children have no expectation that I (or my husband) should be home with them all the time or that I will be home immediately after school. I have to and need to work, I stayed home with my son for 6 months, I CANNOT stay home, I would go insane and I am not joking. My husband would make a better SAH parent than me any day. My children need to eat; they need clothes and a roof over their head. If the kids have an emergency or need something, dad is 10 minutes away, and we alternate who takes off if someone is sick. Parenting is what we do, not just mom not just dad, but mom and dad, together. Kids need both. I don’t feel like I am missing anything when I am not with my kids.

Oh by the way, the child care tax credit isn’t worth much unless you don’t make much money.

Posted by: Mom of 2 | March 27, 2006 4:30 PM

"Motherhood is not just about moms."

No kidding.

Assuming this is your oldest child, it took you nine years to figure out that motherhood is a balance between the child and the parents? And that raising your kids is not just about you?

If this is the case, then I finally understand why so many parents ignore their children for their own benefit. Not all, mind you--so don't jump on me for it. But there are many out there who do the, "BECAUSE I SAID SO" routine, not noticing how damaging that can be for a child. For a teen. For anyone at any age!

I have sat back and watched mothers pitted against mothers, mothers pitted against fathers, fathers pitted against fathers, but not once in this blog has Leslie thought of the children. And isn't that what mother and fatherhood is all about? Raising your children? Caring for your children? Making sacrifics, if you have to, for your children?

Why did you make these changes, if not for your children? There would be no debate if there were no children. In my opinion, there is no debate. A book could be written about the vegetarian wars and you would find just as many defensive people, defending their decisions to eat, or to not eat, meat. What you have done is caused a massive amount of flame wars over really general, naive statements. You have created the war in your own backyard!

I want to hear more introspective, provocative (though not in a hurtful way) posts about reactions to your anthology, discussions with the authors of the essays, with the families of the essays. If you are so desperate to start conversation, carry on the conversation that so many people are having about your book.

There were essays in the 'Mommy Wars' anthology that screamed bad mother, biased mother, insensitive mother. 'I Hate Everybody' was a prime example. Do I know these women? No. But can I respect them when their children are merely a jumping-off point into kick-starting their careers or trying to make themselves look good while they pick apart everyone else?

No. I cannot. I cannot respect a mother who does not put her children first, or consider their feelings when making decisions. Obviously, when you have young children, this is less important, but when your child has a voice, you need to listen to it. You just might end up regretting that you didn't.

Posted by: Stunned | March 27, 2006 4:54 PM

If financially able, a mother should stay at home with her children.

Posted by: Sherri | March 27, 2006 4:55 PM

I'd like to hear more from the kids, since you have had this revelation.

Posted by: In addition... | March 27, 2006 4:55 PM

Mommy D,

"Children who spend time in a structured multichild facility are better prepared for the social aspects of school. While children who are sheltered and coddled by their mothers have a harder time adjusting to the structure of school"
Mommy D,

"Children who spend time in a structured multichild facility are better prepared for the social aspects of school. While children who are sheltered and coddled by their mothers have a harder time adjusting to the structure of school"

SAHMs do create multi-child play groups by organizing play groups with other SAHMs and pre-schools and recreational team sports help supplement socializing opportunities for kids with stay-at-home parents. Most SAHM do not coddled their child as you suggest and I have seen coddling at both levels (i.e., kids with one stay-at-home- parent and kids who parents work). While it may be true that kids raised in multi-child groups do develop more advance social skills earlier, children raised with stay-at-home parents are more advance in their physical development than peers raised in daycare settings. I have not seen the study that demonstrates that either advancement persists.


Lucky Mum,

My wife early in her career had every intention to pursue a career in medicine. It was only after working she had other career thoughts. I do not think her obtaining a medical degree (four year medical training and three more years in residency) was wrong since she was well qualified. Even though she does not pursue monitory gain with her medical career she still serves the public by volunteering at a free clinic. She actually enjoys serving the under-served population more since she says they are more appetitive of her time.

Concerning training, I too have a PhD and work in academic research. However, a number of my friends who could not find academic or corporate research jobs have found fulfillment in alternative employment (i.e., technical sales or patent research). While my friends both male and female will admit to being over qualified, they have used the skills acquired in graduate school in their present employment. I would not worry about choosing those who will continue in academic research since this country produces an excess supply of PhDs.

Posted by: Admiring Husband | March 27, 2006 4:55 PM

Reading all these comments has made me sad. Very few of those writing in seem to acknowledge -- or maybe even to believe? -- that the relationship of mother and child is uniquely powerful. Instead, the kids are dismissed as "bundles of id," their visceral, human attachment to their mothers equated with a preference for pizza and cheetos! The whole 'it takes a village' philosophy seems to boil down to: it really doesn't matter WHO nurtures the child, as long as he gets fed and changed -- again, just regarding the child in the most reductive, materialistic (by which I mean, as no more than his material/physical needs) terms. The idea that there is a specific, feminine, maternal presence that children, especially young ones, deeply need is apparently laughable, if it can be compared to pizza. I just can't even believe I'm reading this sort of thing, especially from obviously educated, privileged people. It fills me with despair. And to totally set the seal on the despair, there's the related line of argument: that parents in the workplace are slackers, unfairly infringing on the equal rights of their child-free coworkers who have "interests" of their own. Guess what? In any decent system, their need to be with their children SHOULD trump your inalienable right to get to the gym or catch a movie. Some things are simply more important than others! I say this as a single woman with no children who routinely picks up slack for co-workers with kids, who at this very moment has a co-worker's child sleeping on the sofa in my office, and who, while I would personally really like it if I could bring my dog to the office to snooze on that very sofa, am prepared to acknowledge that HER children are more important than MY dog. Anyone who is raising children deserves respect and support and just to be given the occasional break already. Instead, everything is a "rights contest" and it's all predicated on the insane mentality that raising a family has no greater societal value beyond the immediate parents & kids in question. It seems to me that our society crossed the line some time ago into a very radical form of individualism -- not the good kind of "I'm responsible for the consequences of my own decisions and actions" (which not coincidentally also seems to have gone by the boards), but the bad kind of "no one's needs or preferences count except my own, not any individual's and not society's as a whole." Now it has extended even to the needs of children, including one's own. But beyond having lost the ability even to see the legitimate needs of others, we now seem even to have forgotten what it means to be human. What else could explain how anyone would compare a child's longing for his mother to junk food?

Posted by: annie | March 27, 2006 5:11 PM

My sister is a SAHM, I work. Her kids wish she'd get out more and not be so into their lives, mine want me home more. I figure sis and I have added balance to the world.

Posted by: Mom | March 27, 2006 5:15 PM

Annie,
I agree with you on some points and not with others. I think you take the comparison between a longing for mom and a longing for junkfood too seriously. Whoever said that was simply making the point that kids don't always want what is best for them, or at least that they do not have the judgment to make truly good decisions for themselves. It's up to the parents. Should we listen to their voice and take their wants into account? Of course!! Should we be ruled by them? Certainly not. As parents, we have to decide what works best for our families, kids, parents, everyone. No one forula works for everybody.

I wholehearted agree with your point about the importance of raising kids, and how as parents and as a society in general, we need to make sure we do a good job and make it a priority. Raising kids should not be a priority for just parents. It should be a priority for society as a whole, because we all will benefit from children who are raised to be well-adjusted, contributing, tax-paying adults.

Posted by: cg | March 27, 2006 5:42 PM

How dare these kids express opinions that are probably biologically-based (i.e. offspring wanting their mothers).

They all need to be sent to Feminist Re-Education Camp. I hear Larry Summers is there now.

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows | March 27, 2006 5:43 PM

A friend who works at a family court was at a dinner party I attended and the topic of employed moms versus SAHM was discussed. There were a number of strong arguments being presented by some of the employed moms. My friend made the following comment:

Imagine if you are a judge at a family court with the obligation to look after the *best interests of the child* and two absolutely wonderful families are attempting to adopt the same 1-year old child. They are both very nice, financially secure loving couples and you have no doubt that both would make excellent parents. One couple indicates that both husband and wife will continue to be employed, and the other indicates the wife will be SAHM. To which do you award the child?

It was amazing how the conversation ended.

Posted by: just a thought | March 27, 2006 5:52 PM

If I were the judge, I would ask more questions. What kind of childcare do the working parents intend to put in place? What are their schedules going to be like? How willing is each parent, mother and father, to be actively involved the the raising and nurturing of the child? I would ask the SAHM if she has any experience staying home with an infant. Will her husband be emotionally supportive, or will be he working long hours? I would ask both families what their support network is like? Do they have extended family, friends, neighbors, who will be the village for this child?

Really, a judge who does not consider all this is not being very thoughtful.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 6:01 PM

"Interesting. I'm so tired of these comments. Not every mom can breastfeed. It's insulting to those that can't. I turned out pretty darn well with my 4 degrees and independence and I was bottle fed. I also had to wear cloth diapers since I was allergic to the only "plastic" ones they made in the 70's.

Now, two of my cousin's kids were breastfed and they have allergies and nebulizer treatments. Go figure."

I was not meaning to be insulting to those that cannot breastfeed (an extremely small minority by the way), but rather how sad it is for folks like yourself and me (I was not breastfed). The differences in our lives growing up could have been immense. I'm glad it worked out for you, but you probably aren't the norm, i.e. there are plenty of examples that can be found in the medical conditions of most Americans.

In any case, there is another point to be made here: Though I'm making it sound like breastfeeding is the way to go (and I believe it is), it doesn't replace the standard relationship building skills needed while parenting. So the kid with alergies who was breastfed may have had an overbearing mother and the allergy is the way for the kid to get attention (one of many possible explanations). On the other hand the same kid's mom could have a genetic predispostion to allergies that was passed down to the kid. There are too many possibilities to mention here including the health of the mother (what is she putting into her body, etc).

So though someone wasn't breastfed and doesn't have allergies and someone who is breastfed does it really doesn't tell us anything. Though what's interesting is that breastfeeding is known to help with allergies (my son never had an earache or any other allergy for that matter). And yes my comment about clingy vs. not clingy is a bit of an oversimplification, but it was merely to make a point that most kids that I've met are probably not breastfed. I know there are always exceptions to the rule.

The fact is that we all are a product of our environment (health/nutrition, socioeconomic background, functionality of the family unit) a holistic view if you will. You can't take vitamins and do heroin and expect your body to be in great shape. The same is true for parenting. It isn't one thing. And the balance occurs when we look at as many factors as we can (no one can be perfect here), and then accept what we are able to do within ourselves. Those that are insulted by what someone else expresses has an issue to deal with within themselves typically (not always), and that is the great part of relating to one another, it enables us to work on ourselves.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | March 27, 2006 6:05 PM

Amber, I think that the only way to change people's prejudices is to challenge them. Don't let other people's expectations-- or your beliefs about their expectations for you and your husband-- stop you.

My husband was VP of a 300+ company when he quit to be a SAHD. He thought he would get a lot of flack from his peers, but they were all incredibly supportive and even the owner of the company said he wished he'd done it himself. They still keep him on as a consultant and are ready to work with him when the kids get older and he comes back. Of course not everyone can expect this kind of reception-- and the point was, we weren't. But people can surprise you. The only way you know is to try it.

Posted by: Ms L | March 27, 2006 6:09 PM

I am appalled by (1) the defensiveness / offensiveness of some of the stay-at-home moms, and (2) the offensiveness / defensiveness of some of the working moms. Shame on you both. Underlying at least a portion of your resentment is an envy of what the other group has (and conversely, what they have not given up).

I admonish you stay-at-home moms and you working moms to demonstrate compassion towards each other. Both of you are making tremendous sacrifices. Stay-at-home moms sacrifice their personal identity and working moms (of young children at least) sacrifice the fleeting opportunity to know and raise their children the way only a parent can. You may not agree with the other camp's motives or decisions, but you must acknowledge that just as your sacrifices are real and painful at times, so are theirs.

I challenge you to stop throwing stones. I ask you to question, "what am I living for?" I wonder about our society, "how much stuff is enough?"

Posted by: Jal | March 27, 2006 6:15 PM

So???? How DID it end? You can't be just throwing that out there and then leaving us all hanging! :-)

Posted by: annie | March 27, 2006 6:15 PM

I'm intrigued by the two radically differing views on motherhood exhibited on this thread. On the one hand, we have those who think that there's something mystical about being a mommy, and that the bond between a mother and child is so precious and unique that for a mother to work for income is a betrayal of her child and an abdication of her duty as a woman.(in passing, it amuses me that most of the people on this thread that seem to espouse this POV are either men or they don't have kids themselves.)


And on the other hand, we have those who seem to think that mothering is a waste of resources, and that any woman who might choose to stay home with her children is probably not deserving of education or mentoring. I'm guessing these are the same people who imagine that SAHMs spend their days watching Oprah and eating bonbons.

In both cases, of course, women are the losers. All these years after the first wave of feminism, that we still have these stilted images of mothering is depressing.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 27, 2006 6:20 PM

Thanks to the person who posted the list of questions that a judge might ask the prospective adoptive parents. They're good questions, and they get around the assumption that the best family for the child would be the family w/ the SAHM.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 6:29 PM

I think it is interesting that no child would ever expect for his father to be home. Why is it the absent mother that is always questioned? All children clearly need one full-time parent. My view of the "point of the seventies," as a 70's child, is that both parents have the responsibility to create that full-time parent. Whether it is 80/20 or 50/50. Even when one parent stays at home the other parent shouldn't have zero parenting requirements, right?

Posted by: TASA | March 27, 2006 6:32 PM

In Steven Leavitt's book "Freakonomics" there's a chapter on "What Makes the Perfect Parent." One of the surprising, evidence-based conclusions he arrives at is that children whose mothers didn't work betwen birth and kindergarten do NOT do better in school than children of working mothers.

Here's a link to an excerpt on Amazon.com:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/006073132X/ref=sib_rdr_next3_ex169/104-3019724-1747917?%5Fencoding=UTF8&keywords=169&p=S059&twc=5&checkSum=hj2lNMxehgeW3iWsIdChwM9crypvqOT1FWhOqKjjdqA%3D#reader-page

Posted by: Friend | March 27, 2006 6:37 PM

With regard to the other questions, I think you missed the larger point.

Assume all other factors are equal. Assume they both have wonderful extended families and support networks and equal experience with children. The only difference is that one family plans on both being employed [assume very good high-end daycare is available and will be used] and the other family has a SAHM.

As a judge with an obligation to look at the best interests of the child, what would you do?

[Realize of course that the situation is hypothetical -- reality seldom presents such equality.]

At the dinner conversation, within several minutes every single person had indicated that they would have put the child with the family that had the SAHM -- even those who were employed moms.

To me, it was just interesting to watch as people became less defensive justifying their own personal decision and instead focused on the concept of 'best interests of the child'.

Posted by: just a thought | March 27, 2006 6:44 PM

And here's the excerpt from page 169 of "Freakonomics" for those who can't get the link:

":... a mother who stays home from work undil her child goes to kindergarten does not seem to provide any advantage. Obsessive parents may find this lack of correlation bothersome - what was the point of all those Mommy and Me classes? - but that is what the data tells us..."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2006 6:45 PM

With regard to the Freakonomics quote:

Careful with those stats -- it's actually a bit more complicated. It turns out that income is the major influencer -- and single mothers at the low-end of the income pool who stay home are probably the primary reason for the result you quote. In comparison of families with similar income levels, those with SAHM tend to score moderately [though potentially still in margin of error] higher.

Posted by: statistics | March 27, 2006 6:49 PM

I've often thought that the work-only-at-home vs. work-at-home-and-away debate misses the point. There is no one right answer. It depends on the people involved and the circumstances. If my husband had not been as involved with his children, I might have felt more as though the right thing for the family was to work-only-at-home. As it was, I was aware that he had health problems and a family history of early male death and, in part, wanted to keep us all protected. (The irony is that life takes its own turns. I was NOT the early widow in the family.)

Even looking at it from the children's perspective, it is not clear-cut. My children are now 16 and 18. I have worked part-time except for the first year of each child's life so I was either home after school almost every day (but my husband sent them to school) or, other years, I was home some days and not others.

A few months ago, when my older daughter was home for winter break from college, the issue of working parents came up. To my surprise, both my girls indicated that now, as teenagers, they were glad I worked although my younger one admitted she might have given a different answer several years ago. My oldest expressed two reason sthat both endorsed. They are convinced that they would have had less room to grow if I had turned all of my intensity on them. They also are convinced that their relationship with their father would be less rich and they would feel less connected to him.

Posted by: Ellen | March 27, 2006 7:00 PM

statistics, I have to point out that Levitt did a regression analysis on the survey data, meaning that he is in fact controlling for other factors (that is to say, he is comparing families with similar income levels).

THS, I agree with your point above that it would be nice to focus on solutions. We all like to share our personal stories -- after all, we're experts on our own personal lives -- and we all like to have a peek at other people's circumstances and see if we think they're doing the right thing or not. But somehow it all becomes fodder for the mommy wars, and a distraction from the real business of helping parents and children live and connect in meaningful ways. I'd like to see a policy-focused, anecdote-free discussion, if only for a day.

Posted by: Gloria | March 27, 2006 7:17 PM

As someone who has been a SAHM for 6 years, as is about to go back to work full time, I'd like to say that I truly wish that all of us would re-direct our anger. Let's stop focusing on verbally bashing one another and start knocking on the doors of politicians, physicians and businesses. Let's start demanding more on-site day care facilities (the folks I know that have access to them LOVE them, and studies have shown that they cut down on turnover and absenteeism)...let's demand better post-natal care for mom and dad (we have all these "preparing for birth" classes...where are the hospital sponsored "Let's get through the terrible twos together" classes?)...let's demand more telecommuting options and job sharing options.
If we'd just stop snarking at each other and start working together, maybe we could make some positive changes that would work for most of us!

Posted by: matmbt | March 27, 2006 7:32 PM

New SAHM: I’m sorry to have given any implication that only that career choice is “productive and socially valuable”, re-reading my post I can see how you read that: given the clear value and productivity of, e.g., a childrearing route emphasized by so many of the posts I was just actively pointing out the case for this particular other. There are many ways of using education as others also said, and an academic route is only one very narrow one. It’s not faculty as individuals but the NIH itself that demands to see documentation of outcomes from graduate training programs to justify further investments. Is that reasonable? They provide around $40,000 a year per student for this training experience so most taxpayers would probably think, yes. Why do they do that? Because this country needs to maintain its lead in science and industry to maintain the standard of living that we are all enjoying. And we certainly want to see our able women taking their part in that lead. All admissions programs take into account career goals: selection will happen not on the basis of gender (indeed illegal and highly undesirable—you will find no group of people more proactive about women’s education than women science faculty) but ambition. And that is a quality that will and should affect the choice of a particular lab in taking on a student—it determines their drive, efficiency, productivity, as for any other job. Of course it’s impossible to know what will happen to anyone’s motivation for that job once the reality of a family strikes: when I embarked on my graduate training I had no inkling of the tremendous power of that infant to subsume every other goal. In terms of mentoring, every student who joins a lab gets the attention they need, I hope. But on the larger scale, us being here and showing that it is possible is one of the strongest messages we can transmit. I taught at a summer course with my son when he was a baby and was flocked to by the women students in the course who were excited and relieved to see that it was in fact possible to have a baby and be an academic and wanted to understand what it would all mean for them. I still think we have distance to cover in pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in the child/work balance but there is progress—our kids are around and visible at work a lot more than the kids of earlier generations of women in science would have been allowed to be.

I completely agree with NewSAHM that families are sorely underserved with options of combining family and work in more humane ways than are possible in the US. We might perhaps have something to learn from countries such as Australia, Israel and France where a larger variety of part-time alternatives, financially reasonable childcare options and contributions of the extended family are available (thanks all those wonderful extended families including mine).

Posted by: lucky mum | March 27, 2006 7:44 PM

"Assume all other factors are equal. Assume they both have wonderful extended families and support networks and equal experience with children. The only difference is that one family plans on both being employed [assume very good high-end daycare is available and will be used] and the other family has a SAHM.

As a judge with an obligation to look at the best interests of the child, what would you do?

At the dinner conversation, within several minutes every single person had indicated that they would have put the child with the family that had the SAHM -- even those who were employed moms."

Wow. I'd give the child to the working parents everytime.

Posted by: lc | March 27, 2006 8:08 PM

lc, what's your rationale for giving the kid to the family w/ the SAHM? Not criticizing your decision, just curious.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 8:14 PM

I've been a SAHM and a working-outside-the-home-Mom-at-a-paid-job. I'm a feminist and a traditionalist, if that makes sense.

I have been "at home" for ten years now after being laid off in '96. I became pregnant soon after (baby #2) and just never looked for another full-time position.

I do not miss the worry about having to take sick days to take care of my children (2 of them), but I admit to being bored at times (they're both well into school now).

I think the entire mom vs. mom drama is absurd. The fact is, most women will work at some time during their lifetime. Many older women end up living in poverty.
Many workplaces are still male-oriented, that is, they serve the needs of men better than women, although women, if they prove their mettle, can almost be accepted. (I worked in high tech, and then in an engineering college).

Some of the sexual harrassment, I learned to tolerate. Some of the idiotic comments, I chalked up to stupidity (for example, after returning from a 4 month maternity leave spent with an extremely colicky baby, a colleague asked me, "If you get pregnant again, do you get another vacation?" Or on a snow day, "What are YOU doing here?" My boss could not compute the fact that my husband and I took turns with our days off.)

For my daughter and son both, I would encourage them to consider what sort of lifestyle they want to live, and then try to plan ahead. I was lucky in watching my mother as she transformed from a SAHM of 20 plus years (5 kids) to a working mom in the 70s and 80s. She became independent, learned about saving for retirement, was able to provide the family with health insurance superior to that of my father's employer. That health insurance helped him as he was incapacitated during a fatal illness. The company he worked for did not offer healthcare for retirees.

The list goes on and on.

If I had to do it over again, I would have had more of a strategy. I would have had another child. I would have stayed home for a few years and then gone to law school (I'm a PhD drop-out).

But, sometimes, there's no accounting in advance for an ill parent, depression, threats of layoffs (husband's company), actual layoff (mine), etc. Other personal and family challenges.

Life happens. We all do what we think is right at the time. I hope I have the opportunity someday to help promote policies that make better childcare and leave available to parents, some sort of self-funded insurance program for maternity leave or paternity leave pay allowances, and more.

After seeing my sister struggle with a long commute, two children (one special needs) and a stressful job, I would hope that the future holds more promise for her children and mine.

P.S. There's a new dimension to this whole debate, I've noticed, when the term "breeder" is introduced. I find it vulgar and disgusting, both as a mother and a human being. Some people think it's kitschy or cute, or just sarcastic, I don't know. But I find it very offensive.

At the same time, I'd like to ask the person who uses that term, where in the world do you think the future doctors, lawyers, teachers, Starbucks barristas, airline pilots, etc. are going to come from?

And without a new generation of children to work and pay taxes, how will you collect your social security?

Posted by: Kate | March 27, 2006 8:48 PM

THS,

My rationale is based greatly on the assumptions of the question.

"Assume all other factors are equal. Assume they both have wonderful extended families and support networks and equal experience with children. The only difference is that one family plans on both being employed [assume very good high-end daycare is available and will be used] and the other family has a SAHM."

Given that, the working parents give the child the model of a true partnership in all aspects of the marriage - childrearing and financial. It breaks down the gender barriers for the child to see each parent contributing to the entire well being of the family, which I believe is a essential to raising adults (because that is what parents do, hopefully raise responsible, respectful, resourceful, independent, loving adults, if they end up raising children you've got a problem on your hands) who will hopefully carry on the eaxmple in their lives.

The other relationships the child has, with care providers, teachers, relatives, will only help the child grow into a responsible caring adult. I just don't see how having more caring role models in your life can ever be a detriment.

On a practical level, especially with everything else being equal, the working parents provide an "insurance policy" that a single income family cannot provide in the event the sole earner can no longer provide for the family. The stress of such a situation on all members of the family can unfortunatly very quickly reverse any advantage from having a parent at home.

Finally, from my perspective, too many families are child-centered (this happens in both SAHP families as well as working families but it seems to happen more often when one parent is at home and focusing so much energy and attention on the children) rather than marriage centered. It is in the best interests of the child to have parents with a strong, respectful marriage where the number one relationship is between husband and wife. (and no, I am not talking about ignoring children or being selfish or all the other things you may think of, I am talking about putting your marriage first) Based on my experience (which I realize does not apply to everyone) I just have seen this marriage centered relationship more often in families where both parents work. Frankly it is hard to do. It is much easier to focus on your kids and their needs but ultimately I think that backfires in the end.

Those are my reasons, I am sure many will disagree, but I get to be the judge in my case. Other judges may arrive at a different conclusion.

Posted by: lc | March 27, 2006 10:08 PM

I like your reasons, lc. Very thoughtful and, I think, very wise.

Posted by: THS | March 27, 2006 10:36 PM

Lucky mom,

I enjoyed your post very much since it was thought provoking and not just another SAHM vs WOHM comment. I am a working mother and have always been. I was able to take 4 months maternity leave with each of my 2 daughters. I know that many people think that working is a choice for everyone, but I assure you that that is not true, and not only for monetary reasons.

I was born in the 1950's, the child of a traditional SAHM. When I was 10, my father left and never lived up to the terms of the support agreement. My mother struggled the best she could and baby-sat at home because she felt like it was necessary to be home until my younger sister entered school. AS the result of entering the workforce in her mid=30's with no college and no experience, she was only able to obtain entry level employment.

One day while I was in junior high school, I came home from school to find a foreclosure notice on the front door because Mom had been unable to make all the mortgage payments and Dad was being a deadbeat. It was only through the generosity of her very good friends that we didn't become homeless. I think that was the point where I realized that I would never allow myself to become completely dependent on a man, no matter how much I loved him. This is my personal non-monetary reason for working.

When I graduated high school in the mid-70's, college wasn't an option due to financial reasons. I was able to obtain an entry level job in the fed government. Three was advancement potential because the agency did a lot of internal training and didn't require that everyone be a college graduate in order to advance in their careers.

By the time I married and had children in the 1980's, mortgage rates were in double digits and buying a home wasn't so easy. Also, there were very few creative financing options available and you couldn't really buy a house without a 10-20% down payment. So this was my monetary reason for having to work - to be able to afford a home for my family in a decent neighborhood with decent schools. If we relied only on my husband's income, we woul have been living a lower middle class existence, paycheck to paycheck. I grew up that way, not knowing if we would always have a place to live, not answering the phone in case it was a bill collector, missing field trips because there was no money to pay for them, etc. I would never have my children live in that state. When my own mother went to work, a burden was lifted from the entire family. The uncertainy and insecurity of a lower middle class lifestye is something I would never put my children through. I was not unhappy that my mother went to work - I wished she had done it sooner.

While I sometimes wish that I had been a SAHM, it didn't happen and that's life. My children are doing well - Both are teenagers now. Neither my husband nor I worked more than a 9-5 workday except on rare occasions. The children were in day care, but we were always a family outside of work hours. If one parent stays home, but the other is required to work 12-hour days and/or travel extensively, how is that good for the family?

My children have always known that we love them. We have been the constants in their lives since birth. Children love grandparents, aunts, uncles and others in their lives. Just because they go to daycare and develop a relationship with some of the providers and enjoy themselves while in day care doesn't mean that they haven't bonded with their parents.

Posted by: working mom | March 27, 2006 10:45 PM

LC - all of the reasons you stated for why you would give the child to the working parents are the reasons why I would not stay at home, nor would I ask my husband to stay at home, full time. In our current arrangement, my husband and I truly share all the parenting and marriage responsibilities equally. His job is not more important than mine, and vice versa. Sometimes I have more flexibility to take time off because there are three other people who do what I do; sometimes he has more flexibility because he can log in from home and he has more vacation time. We share chores, transport of our son to and from daycare (which means we both get to talk to the teachers and director, so they know both of us), and in the evenings, the three of us enjoy quality family time - we have dinner together as a family, and then we have playtime till it's time for our son to go to bed. After he's in bed, we clean up, and then we have time to spend together as a couple. I know that if one of us stayed home while the other worked, we would not have that sense of equality, and my son would be deprived of the love and caring of his teachers and director at daycare, not to mention the company of his many friends there, whom he has known almost all his life so far (no exaggeration). Further, my husband and I are in careers that we truly enjoy and are passionate about, and we can share that with our son as he gets older, and our jobs give us that much-needed social and intellectual stimulation that all humans need. As I have said before - this is the solution that works for us. I don't pretend that it would work for everyone. I am merely presenting a different point of view from a family content with their choices.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 27, 2006 10:58 PM

I would be curious to know the ages of the posters. I think that individuals have different viewpoints at different stages of their lives.
Now that my girls are in their teens and after=school care doesn't exist, I feel that they need me to be home more than when they were babies. The pre-teen and teen years are when the parents have the most profound effect on their children's developing characters.
My experience is that children are eager to please and follow your directions while they are young. Starting in pre=adolesence, they are trying to become independent and make their own decisions, and they question your decisions all the time. In my mind, this is the hardest part of raising children.
So, now that they are teens, is it better to not work to be available now when they need us, or is it better to work so that they can go to college without being burdened with excessive student loans upon graduation? Or, if you have daughters, is it better to have them skip college and save the money so that they will have a financial cushion when they have their own children and want to stay home?

I think I am rambling now.

I am also curious about the posters themselves. Based on the times of the entries, it seems that they are either staying at home or posting during working hours. For SOME of these parents at home who are so insistent that their children need them and only them (no dreaded daycare), how do you find the time to read and respond to this blog so much? What are the children doing? For those who are working, how are you able to blog during work? And for those who work at home - How do you do it? My work requires enough concentration that I couldn't possibly have gotten it done when my children were young if I were paying attention to the children. They would be better off in day care with trained professionals caring for them than home being ignored.
I think that most moms and dads are too busy with their daily lives and families to read and comment on these blogs. Therefore, I think the response is limited at best, and not truly reflective of parents everywhere.

My parting words: I am 50 years old and became an adult in the 70's. I have been an adult for as long as some of these moms have been alive. There has been a tremendous change in the possibilities for women in this country, and to a lesser degree, there have been changes for men as well. We are still learning what works and what doesn't. And not every solution is right for every family. We should work together to find solutions for family problems that benefit society, and not have "mommy wars" with each other. We HAVE come a long way, and the young readers may not realize how far since they haven't lived through as much.
Here's a thought: As I said, I am 50 years old. I can remember a time when a woman could not have her tubes tied without the written permission of her husband, and I remember when the Pill was a new thing. For society to have moved from there to where we are today has been a major change. So, don't be judgmental since there are still a lot of bugs to be worked out in this ever=changing world we live in.

Posted by: working mom | March 27, 2006 11:34 PM

Working Mom,

I'm 30, and my daughter (my first) is 4 months old. I'm a SAHM now, and plan to finish having kids in the next three years, then return to work once the youngest enters nursery school. I don't for an instant think daycare is bad for kids, we just decided that it was easiest for one of us to stay at home instead. My daughter is napping right now. She was napping during some of my posts yesterday, and while I was typing others, I had her in my lap. I justify this because she likes looking at the screen (j/k).

You make an interesting point about not seeing how far we've come. I grew up believing that women had actually reached equality with men in almost all aspects of life. When I was a kid, it never even occurred to me that I'd get married and have kids at all, let alone that I'd end up going whole days without talking to anyone but an infant. It's only been in the last several years, as I've observed how differently women are treated from men in my chosen profession (law) and in society as a whole that I've started to think that perhaps we haven't come so far at all. And I'm not just talking about the work/family balance issue. I've actually spoken to grown, educated men who say they would quit their jobs before working for a woman. And the suggestive and dismissive comments to which my young, attractive female colleagues have been subjected are appalling. As far as I can see, we have a depressingly long way to go.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 28, 2006 10:00 AM

I and mseveral of my sisters have worked in day care centers and, just as research has found, very few daycare centers do a good job.
"A widely cited 1995 study from the University of Colorado at Denver16 examined 400 child-care centers in four states and rated only 14 percent as developmentally appropriate, with the rest scoring from poor to mediocre. The situation for infants and toddlers was particularly distressing. Only 1 in 12 infant and toddler rooms was found to provide developmentally appropriate care, and 40 percent were deemed a potential threat to children's health and safety. A recent study17 of state regulations regarding infant and toddler care centers concluded that regulations in two-thirds of the states were "poor or very poor, indicating that they failed to require even minimally acceptable care."
When it comes to quality, evaluations of family day care are all too similar to those of center-based care. A study18 of regulated and nonregulated family day care by the New York-based Families and Work Institute rated only 9 percent of family day-care homes as being of good quality, while 56 percent were rated as only adequate and 35 percent as inadequate."
While there is a lot of work which needs to be done in supporting 2 income families (and probably even more to be done in supporting 1 income families who aren't even on anyone's radar screen), the idea that daycare is a neutral thing is actually just not true.
Also, many economists will tell you that it is easier for a 1 income family to survive a period of unemployment than a 2 income family. If a 1 income family faces unemployment, the stay at home spouse can always get some sort of work (even if it's not well paid) and that combined with unemployment will usually make up a fairly significant percentage of the lost wages. In a 2 income family, everyone's already pouring all they can in and there's often no way to make up for lost income beyond what unemployment provides.
Also, a comprehensive recent study by sociologists at the University of Virginia found that stay-at-home-moms rated themselves happier and were more satisfied with their marriages than working moms see http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/releases2006/20060301Wilcox_Nock_Study.html. This is not to say that you can't be a working mom or we should force one model on everyone, just that those who dismiss the idea of staying home out of hand and assume that SAHM's are depressed and likely to end up poor and divorced are not supported by the facts.

Posted by: Rebecca T | March 28, 2006 12:06 PM

NewSAHM,

You are my hero. You are the reason that women marched and burned bras in the 60's and 70's. You get it. Women should not be wives who are extensions of their husbands or mothers who are everything to their children but nothing to themselves. We are complex human beings who can choose to be mothers, wives, workers, or any combination. The trick is to pick the right combination that is best for each individual situation.

You seem to be an intelligent, well-rounded, confident woman who looked at ALL the choices available to you and made decisions in partnership with your husband that are right for your family. And you have done it while still being respectful and non-judgmental of decisions that are made by others. You also seem to recognize that our roles change throughout our lifetimes and we adapt to those changing roles.

I for one am glad that the roles of parents are changing so that both parents are responsible for raising children. Dad working and Mom staying home is a great option, but not the only option. In some ways, I feel sorry for the Dads. It seems that the old thought that Dad must go to work and be the "provider" has been harder to overcome than the stereotype that Mom must stay home.

Son newSAHM, if your daughter is in your lap reading this post, I hope her eyes light up with pride that her mom is such a good role model.

Posted by: workingmom | March 28, 2006 12:31 PM

I grew up as a male only child in a classic 1950s "Leave It To Beaver" neighborhood, where nearly all the moms stayed home and all the dads worked. I saw very little of my father because of his 14-hour workdays, while my mother was always around, overprotecting and smothering me since she had nothing else to do. The end result was that I went off to college as a spoiled, self-centered, immature kid. I quickly went wild being on my own for the first time, getting into alcohol and drugs, and ended up flunking out my senior year, despite having been a National Merit Scholar in my small-town high school. Then my mother, having few options other than traditional "women's charity" work, turned into a vicious, bitter alcoholic who did little but sit home alone and drink, alienating me and everyone around her.

I'm not saying that being a stay-at-home mom turns women into alcoholics, just that it's not the cure-all for the problems of society. I would almost certainly have been better off if my mother had worked, forcing me to learn independence and self-reliance before I was thrust out into the world unprepared. And she would have been better off, too, perhaps finding some outlet for her considerable artistic talents and her communications skills.

Posted by: Scott | March 28, 2006 1:47 PM

LC,

Interesting points -- I agree entirely on the importance of being 'marriage focused' vice 'kids focused' -- though I'm not sure I see this any more prevalent in employed parents vice stay-at-home parents.

The major argument I would have with you and some of those who voiced agreement with you in general is what I see as a limited view of the concept of equality.

My wife and I have three children and we both work extremely hard. There are things that she absolutely depends on me doing, and there are things that I absolutely depend on her doing. We are interdependent -- not independent.

That doesn't mean we share all tasks. I've never taken the kids to get their hair cut. She's never investigated and then set up college 529 plans for the kids. We each specialize in a number of activities -- and there are other activities that we routinely share. We both work really hard, and we both have a great deal of respect for what the other one does.

Equality in marriage doesn't mean you share responsibility for every possible child and household task. In baseball a pitcher and catcher are equally important to the team -- but that doesn't mean they alternate their positions with each other.

Posted by: A Dad | March 28, 2006 2:24 PM

"Its where there contribution to society is most needed and respected."

If that were true, stay-at-home mothers wouldn't be punished by our Social Security system for working at home all those years. My mother was a stay-at-home mother, after working for nearly 10 years in business, and because she didn't work long enough at a "real job", she doesn't qualify for social security. Oh yeah, our society really respects stay-at-home moms...

Posted by: Gretchen | March 28, 2006 2:42 PM

Gretchen,

I think your mom needs to find a better lawyer since my mom was also a stay at home mom who worked only fours prior to getting married and having kids. Mom's social security check is not the greatest; however, she did not pay into the system all that long either.

Posted by: Mary | March 28, 2006 2:48 PM

Dad,

I agree that equality does not necessarily require each person to shoulder fifty percent of each job in the family. I also agree that for certain couples, a division of labor that has one person responsible for 100%of a certain job can work. However, I still believe that the best system has each person fully able to perform each job in the family, even if they don't do it on a regular basis. That just seems to happen more often when both parents work.

"I've never taken the kids to get their hair cut. She's never investigated and then set up college 529 plans for the kids."

I sincerely hope you never end up being the only one left to do it all for whatever reason. And, unfortunately for your wife's sake, I suspect it is easier to learn how to get a child's haircut that set up college 529 plans.

For that reason, even if you continue with your wife staying at home, which I am sure you will do, get her involved in financial decisions, let her take the lead on some, make sure she keeps her skills and education up to date, it is an inexpensive insurance policy that every individual and family should have. And take you kid to get a haircut. It's a great time for a little one-on-one time in a diferent setting.

Posted by: lc | March 28, 2006 3:12 PM

Scott,

Flunking out of school is not your parents fault since you admit to taking drugs and drinking in excess. Please spare me the victim story. If your mom did a horrible job at raising you what makes you think she would have been successful in the business world. Do you think your actions (flunking out of school and leaving an indulgent lifestyle) had any connection to her later becoming a "bitter alcoholic?" I know of working women who are “bitter alcoholics" should I assume they should have been stay-at-home moms.
I could share stories of a mom and dad who both worked and paid little attention to their kids and the kids later turn out to be monsters. What does that tell us about working parents? Nothing in the least.

I think the point we need to make is that women or men who are successful at work will most likely be just as successful being stay-at-home parents if they bring the same energy and drive that made them successful to their stay-at-home jobs. It is our choice to be bored at home. I am not saying it will be easy (I have seen my wife struggle at times) only that its possible.

Posted by: Admiring Husband | March 28, 2006 3:16 PM

Please. If you ask ANY kid if he/she would prefer that Mom stay home the answer would be "Yes!" That does not mean it is the right answer. Kids have only their own concerns in mind, They like an easy life just as we all do.

Do any of you actually think your kids should be the ones to make all the important decisions in the household or in YOUR life? What if you asked the kids if all DAD's should stay home, too? Or instead?

Think about it.

Also, as I've probably mentioned before, the kids on our kid-filled street who got into trouble ALL had full-time, stay-at-home mothers! The working moms managed to raise great kids. It's about caring and paying attention - not simply being in the same building!

Stay home or not. Just do your parenting job and the kids will be fine.

Posted by: Bernadette | March 28, 2006 3:40 PM

LC,

Thanks for the comments.

I think we are probably only quibbling over a matter of degree and semantics -- but I actually do disagree with the idea that an optimal system is one in which each person is capable of doing each job. The effort to be compentent in everything necessarily reduces one's ability to specialize -- and I think having a few items in which each person specializes can be much more efficient and rewarding.

On a personal level, we've actually got it pretty good. My wife has a graduate degree and is an experienced manager -- she's using that to manage our household as well as a co-op nursery school [where she has 4 employees and 70+ families] -- not to mention the PTA and other activities. We've both remarked that her management skills are probably better tuned now than when she managed 20+ people in her previous white-collar job. Bottom line is that I still see her [and more importantly she still sees herself] as a manager -- not as a SAHM.

Financially I manage the money and give her insight into where we are. Could she step in and do it if I were hit by a bus? Sure. But until that time it works pretty well as it is. Likewise, she manages 'the schedule' which includes pretty much everything the kids and I do. Could I take it on if needed? Again, I like to think so -- but I'm not interested in taking it partially on just to demonstrate the point.

Bottom line for us is that interdependence has worked out much better than independence.

Posted by: A Dad | March 28, 2006 3:43 PM

I'm entertained to see all the lashing out at evil "childfree managers" and others who don't have kids. Who are you fighting with? I haven't seen a single person espouse those views on this post. In terms of this blog, I'm pretty sure the childfree have left the building. Of course there is plenty of fighting left to be done, so carry on!

Posted by: Elvis | March 28, 2006 5:28 PM

Dad,

Sounds like you and your wife are more comfortable with your arrangement but have the skills and ability to share or completely trade places if needed. My husband and I are more comfortable sharing on a more or less 50/50 basis but each could do 100% of either if needed. I am confident we are raising our children to be the best they can be with strong values that they will carry into adulthood. I suspect you and your wife are doing the same.

Kudos to each of us.

It's the ones who can't trade places that I worry about. If you lose your pitcher and no one else can fill in you have to forfeit the game. I am not willing to risk a forfeiture for my family, as I am sure you are not either. Like I said, it appears you and I have the same safety net we simply go at it in a different way. I think our kids will turn out fine either way.

Nice chatting with you.

Posted by: lc | March 28, 2006 5:36 PM

Regarding social security - it is social insurance that was set up for old age and survivor benefits. As with any other insurance, if you don't pay the premiums (FICA), you don't have the coverage. Think car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc.

However, there is a provision to pay the spouse of a retired worker based on the workers earnings. If your mother was married to your father for at least 10 years, then she should be able to collect spousal benefits from his record.

This IS respect for stay at home moms since working moms get their own benefits from their own social security covered earnings and not the earnings of someone else.

If she did not work herself and is not the spouse of someone eligible for Social Security, then the government does have something in place -- It's called Welfare.

On another note, I do not think that Scott was playing victim, I think that he was just telling his story.

Posted by: eak | March 28, 2006 7:23 PM

One other comment regarding the child who thinks all moms should be home. When that child becomes a teen-ager and says leave me alone and get out of my life, are we suppose to do that as well?

Posted by: eak | March 28, 2006 7:24 PM

"When that child becomes a teen-ager and says leave me alone and get out of my life, are we supposed to do that as well?"

No - parents must decide what is in a child's best interest. But to do that, we have to listen. The things younger children say reinforce the importance of our time and attention. The things teenagers say reinforce the importance of giving them some space and teaching them how to become independent. If we don't listen - and take the things they say seriously - we're going to have a very difficult time giving them what they need at their particular stage of development.

Posted by: Cut to the Chase | March 30, 2006 9:17 AM

I must confess to not having the time to read all the comments. So I hope I'm not repeating anyone but in my opinion, this entry illustrates why we don't let 3rd graders make our decisions for us. They don't exactly have a 'big picture' view of the world.

Posted by: KGP | March 30, 2006 9:50 AM

I enjoyed having my mom home, honestly, even as a teenager, but I would still have loved her even if she worked.

I think I'm done with this blog. If it's only intention is to pit working moms against stay at home moms, I just don't have time for that. Moms are moms whether they have a job or not. All moms work. Few moms spend their entire years as a mom staying home. Most quit their jobs when they have children, and then return to their jobs later when the kids are older. The price we *moms like me who plan to return to work when the kids are older* pay are we often don't get as far career-wise as the women who don't take those years off. I get that. I know about it. I understand it. It's a choice I made. I want to be with my kids when they are young and it involves more laundry and housecleaning than I ever really want to do, but for me, it's worth it. So what. What's the problem with that? My life, my choice.

Posted by: lahdeeda | March 30, 2006 1:04 PM

"The things younger children say reinforce the importance of our time and attention. The things teenagers say reinforce the importance of giving them some space and teaching them how to become independent."

Our time and attention, the childrens' space and independence are important at all ages - it just needs to be age-appropriate.

A young child can learn that he always has his parents' attention when he is with them. The young child can also learn that his parents may not be able to be with him all the time, but the parent will return and the child will be with caring people in the parents absence. Also, the parent always loves the child and wants what is best. It is possible to give the child a feeling of security and independence even if the parent can't always be there.

Teen-agers do need space and independence. However, they are still immature and don't always make the right decisions. So they also need our time and attention in addition to their own space. I have 2 teen-agers and there has not been any time in my motherhood that has been less challenging than the teen years. I do listen to my teens and more often than not I do not give them the space they would like.

I would like to hear more from parents of teens and older kids. Has anyone else had a teen give a wonderful debate on why they should be allowed to sleep over after a party - a co-ed party? I laugh to myself that my daughter still tries to get permission for this. I am sad when I see how many parents of teens host these sleep-overs. Am I hopelessly out-of-date?

Posted by: eak | March 30, 2006 1:18 PM

eak, you misunderstand me.

Clearly, children - whether pre-schoolers or teenagers - do not have the perspective or judgment to decide what is best. We cannot and should not give them everything they ask for, or order our lives based on their wishes and desires.

But they are people, they have very real emotional needs, and those needs change over time. Those needs also vary from child to child. (I'm setting aside here the "all kids need time, attention, love and to learn how to be independent" generalities. The specific type of attention, guidance and encouragment towards independence varies significantly.)

Teenagers are very, very challenging (I have two myself). The primary challenge is exactly the issue of balancing the guidance they need against the indepenence they want (and also need) in a way that protects them while still allowing them to develop the confidence, independence and good judgment they'll need when they leave home (and perhaps become responsible for children of their own).

Having said all of this, it's callous to suggest - as many have done - that we should simply disregard a child's heartfelt "I wish mommy could stay home all the time." It may not be possible, it may not be desirable, and it may not even be in the child's best interest, but that child is feeling a very normal human need that we need to recognize and consider in our decisions as parents. Bottom line - we need to do our best to meet that child's needs one way or another, or we shouldn't take on the responsibility to become parents.

Posted by: Cut to the Chase | March 30, 2006 1:33 PM

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