The Meaningless Child Care Debate

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The reason this blog has such robust and passionate commenters is that parenthood is the single greatest responsibility most of us will take on, and we feel tremendous pressure to do it well. It's possible to walk away, free and clear, from a boss or a job or even a marriage. You can't say the same of kids.

And that's why debates over parenting issues are so divisive: Every parent is doing what they honestly feel is best for their child. When another parent makes a different decision (to bottle feed instead of breastfeed, to follow Sears instead of Ferber, to go to public school instead of private), it can be easy to see that as a reproach.

And nothing fuels the I'm-doing-what-is-best-and-you-are-not debate more than the question of child care. I'd wager that more study has been done on the impact (or lack thereof) of preschool care than any other issue in child development. And each side has seized on every little finding to make the point that they're doing well by their children: (Kids at home are healthier! Kids in care are more confident!).

While we're unfortunately not ever likely to get the final word on the question, the government came out last week and gave us the latest word: Whether or not a preschooler is in instititional care is not a particularly important factor in development. This isn't a surprise to anyone who has really looked at the data -- the differences have always been modest at best and blown out of proportion by the biases of researchers/media/parents searching for affirmation of their beliefs.

The key finding isn't that care type isn't important; rather it's the findings about what *is* important. "Parent and family features" was flagged as having two to three times more of an impact on how children develop. This is obviously a subtle metric. It's easier to determine care type than it is whether parents read to their kids or have well-developed routines or treat their depression. But we shouldn't shy away from discussing family features just because it's tough. If parents are going to continue to stress about the effects of their decisions on kids, it's high time we put the care debate on hold and started looking harder at the home environment.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  October 12, 2006; 8:20 AM ET  | Category:  Childcare
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You want to talk about balance - my two year old daughter has experienced both sides of this issue for equal amounts of time. She spent her first year in full-time daycare while both my husband and I were working. We moved when she was a year old and now that we're overseas, I stay home with her full-time. I'd be lying if I didn't say there were pros and cons to each situation.

I hate the way discussing this issue always deteriorates into a judgmental snarkfest about who is doing the better thing for their kids. My father was horrified that I wasn't going to quit my job when my daughter was born. It didn't seem to matter to him that in many respects, I had a "dream job" that I'd worked hard for, gone back to school for, and thoroughly enjoyed. A lot of my colleagues felt sorry for me when they learned I was quitting just because my husband's job required a move where job opportunities in my field were not likely.

Both situations have been difficult for me in different ways, as I've struggled to be a mother, a wife, and an independent adult person, but I am thankful that I've seen both sides.

I also think my daughter benefited from the experiences of her first year (lots of interaction with other children and adults, and structured exposure to music, art, etc.) as well as her time with my full attention during her second year (we read lots of books, play together a lot, and have been able to spend a lot of time outdoors).

I guess in sum I would say, if you have the opportunity to try an arrangement you are not currently using (ie stay home if you are working, or go back to work if you are staying home), I think it's a worthwhile experience. Most people don't make a change unless something else factors in (for me it was a move) but just doing something different might surprise you.

Posted by: Vienna mom | October 12, 2006 8:37 AM

From yesterday's topic:

I'm confused. Did I read that PUBLIC schools have mandatory parental volunteer requirements? How is that enforced? Can't you just flip 'em the bird?

Posted by: DZ | October 12, 2006 8:39 AM

I was reading the report and came across this gem..."The study demonstrated that quality, quantity, and type of child care--defined as any care provided on a regular basis by someone other than the child's mother--are modestly linked to the development of children up to age four-and-a-half." The definition of child care in our GOVERNMENT study is regular care provided by someone other than the child's MOTHER. I wondered how our dads on the site felt about that? Especially ones who stay at home or fex their time to stay home with their kids?

Posted by: NOVA mom | October 12, 2006 8:51 AM

Slightly off-topic: Also, don't underestimate the enrichment that comes from your daughter living (growing up?) in another country/culture/language.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the whole family even though it isn't always easy!

Posted by: To Vienna Mom | October 12, 2006 9:02 AM

NOVA mom:
I must've read right over that part of the report without even registering it! Even rereading it in your post, I find myself assuming it means someone other than the mom or dad, but maybe I'm in denial. I do think there is an intrinsically deeper connection between mother and child, than father and child, and I don't know to what extent this plays into development. I love my son bunches, but there is that biological/physical connection between him and his mom that is on a whole other level. My wife will occasionally joke that I'm the better at-home parent, but she has this sort of 6th sense about him (she can hear him at night when I can't even hear or thing, or she just knows something is wrong before it's actually wrong). Given that kind of connection, I'd think her impact on his development in the early years would play a bigger role than mine. That being said, he's almost 4.5 yrs. old, so I can look forward to corrupting him in my own way now ; )

Speaking of corruption and the home environment, although I read a little about it prior to becoming a dad, I continue to be pleasantly surprised at the ways in which parenthood (potentially) improves your own behaviors as you try to model things for your child (e.g., being a little more careful with language, being more aware of diet & exercise, getting proper rest), which is not to say I haven't already taught my son some bad things by example. It's great when you hear a 4 yr. old using your own words against you: "well maybe you should have thought of that first, dad!"

Posted by: marc | October 12, 2006 9:08 AM

No matter who raises the kids, it should be someone who isn't bitter, angry, and resents her role as mother. This is picked up by the kids who feel they are unwanted and unloved, causing many more problems. Nor should they be spoiled, overindulged and made to believe THEY are the center of the universe. The greatest majority of kids are unplanned and unwanted; they are merely endured because it's illegal to put them in a bag and throw them in a river. I came from a very large family of aunts, uncles, cousins (Dad had 9 siblings) who sometimes literally gave away their kids because they didn't want to be bothered with raising them. Not legal adoptions, not child support, just 'here's your bag, so long.' Prevention is the best policy.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 12, 2006 9:17 AM

NOVA Mom, when my wife leaves me with the kids, I'm no longer "Dad", I'm a "child care provider".

I spend a lot of time babysitting my kids.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 12, 2006 9:20 AM

NOVA mom: the last big gov't report on this subject made the same crucial error. As my children's stay-at-home-dad commented, seems like the feds live in another century. How seriously can you take their research when it's premised on the erroneous assumption that mother-care is the absolute norm?

Posted by: DC | October 12, 2006 9:23 AM

Yep, it's only the moms whose care counts-- a kid with a SAHD would be considered to be in "child care" according to the report.

"When the Study began, the
researchers did not all agree about
which arrangements to include in the
term "child care." Some felt that care by the father on a regular basis should be considered "child care" because that situation differed from one in which the
mother had full-time care responsibility. Others argued that "child care" should include only care by people other than the parents.
Ultimately, the researchers decided to study all child care provided by someone other than the mother on a regular basis. These arrangements included care from
the father or other relative, care from one caregiver (who was not related to the child) in the child's home, small group care in a caregiver's home, and centerbased
care."

Posted by: Ms L | October 12, 2006 9:26 AM

Father of 4:
People used to refer to me as babysitting on the days I stayed home with my son. At one point, my wife asked: How come when I say home, I'm just being a mother, but when you stay home you're babysitting? I told her it was because people.

Childless by Choice:
I'm not disputing your claim, just asking: Are the majority of children really unplanned and unwanted? Were you speaking globally, in the U.S., just from personal experience? I consider both my wife and I pretty doting parents, but we have each wanted to do away with the child at times--it's pretty natural to get fed up, impatient, etc., but I absolutely agree that the child will pick up on a mom (or dad) who is bitter, angry, or resentful (as will most partners/spouses). Sounds like your negative experiences have definitely shaped your choices.

Posted by: marc | October 12, 2006 9:32 AM

When my daughter was little, she was taken care of both by my husband who has been mostly a SAHD, and an at-home daycare situation. It was a wonderful daycare situation where she was loved and nurtured. It was ideal for her, and by the age of 4 she had "outgrown" the place and much preferred preschool.

I do think there is a difference between at-home daycare and a daycare center when they're little, although I know some people disagree with me.

But quality is definitely the major factor - whether the child has a SAHM (or Dad) or is in daycare of some kind.

Posted by: librarianmom | October 12, 2006 9:32 AM

I'm sure foamgnome will weigh in on this but I'll be the decision to only use one baseline (i.e. mother only), was done for academic/statistical accuracy/validity, and not for some notion that only the mother is the primary care giver.

Posted by: Stats Jr. | October 12, 2006 9:33 AM

The government (and others) will always default to mom as being in the primary role of child rearing as long as dads remain on the margins regarding issues facing families and child care. While there are many dads who take an active role in their children's lives, they are still a miniority.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 9:37 AM

"The greatest majority of kids are unplanned and unwanted; they are merely endured because it's illegal to put them in a bag and throw them in a river."

You so obviously do not have children ... (and that is so obviously a good thing). It's so funny when someone who has 0 understanding about a topic (i.e. parental love for the child that's kicked in their belly for 9 months) blindly and foolishly attempts to comment on it and makes such a stupid and naive statement.

Posted by: Thank God You're Childless | October 12, 2006 9:37 AM

Marc/Father of 4

I prefer the term "kid duty" - dads don't babysit - it's their child(ren) too! Dads have lots of valuable parenting to impart - mine taught me that the "east coast sports media" didn't like the Pac 10 football conference and the more relevant life skill of how to drive. (Mom refused!)

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 12, 2006 9:39 AM

The majority of American pregnancies are unplanned. Extrapolating from that that the majority of American children are unwanted, and that the only thing standing between the majority of American parents and infanticide is a bunch of pesky laws, is something of a leap.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 9:42 AM

To Stats Jr.,

My thoughts exactly. Probably the population of SAHDs is too small to be able to get a large enough sample, and researchers didn't want to combine with SAHM.

Posted by: kep | October 12, 2006 9:44 AM

Childless by choice.

Is there any chance you will be silent by choice? Your assumption that many pregnancies are unplanned is false, at least in this country. Also, with the availability of birth control, adoption, and abortion, I really don't see how a person can "have" to be a mother.

Do you watch the news? Many people abandon, kill, and yes, even throw their children off bridges. Sorry you had such a hard life, but you are just filled with to much hate and negativity to actually be happy. Why do you post on this board.

Posted by: get real | October 12, 2006 9:50 AM

To NOVA Mom: Thanks for reminding me of that ridiculous government standard. I've touched on it before (http://www.rebeldad.com/2005_04_01_archive.html#111390789562539088), but it completely slipped my mind when writing today's post.

For what it's worth, I think that excluding fathers probably has zero effect on the overall results, but it speaks volumes about the social and cultural barriers to fathers being treated as a full participants in child-rearing.

Posted by: Brian Reid | October 12, 2006 9:55 AM

The sensitivity that many women have around males' use of the term 'babysit' to describe caring for their kids is mystifying.

So what if we refer to it as babysitting? Why is that such a hot button distinction for wives to make?

If you go to dictionary.com and type in 'babysit', you will see that the word applies to care by non-parents (def 1) and care by anyone (def 3), presumably including Dad.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 9:56 AM

Perhaps the majority of babies are unplanned, and yes, unfortunately some are unwanted. But I would say that the majority are wanted and loved dearly even before they are born. Have you ever gone the the pregnancy blogs seen the hope and joy that accompanies most pregnancies? After 9 months of living with their babies and feeling them move and kick inside of them, most women are committed to the life they carry inside of them. There is nothing more powerful than the love they feel for that child. Don't knock what you know nothing about.

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 10:01 AM

Well, my daughter wasn't unplanned and neither is the one I want now.

Anyway, my husband uses the term "watch." You have school so I'll watch her for an hour. You have to do something so I'll watch her for an hour at the park. We both take care of her together, so I don't know why we have to label it anyway. :)Although I never say I'll watch her when he is doing something.

Posted by: scarry | October 12, 2006 10:04 AM

Sky report
About 10 minutes ago, the sky was a deep blue up above, turning to a lighter blue that faded to almost white as you looked into the far horizon. There were a few cumulous clouds scatted in the distance. Now the clouds are coming our way, and are closer and fluffier. I can see plane tracks going toward the east.

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 10:11 AM

I took a lot of time off after my wife's maternity leave expired (for both children). Occasionally, someone would refer to me as doing the "Mr. Mom Thing." I'd correct them that I was doing the "Mr. Dad Thing."

Most of our friends thought we were nuts for not using day-care as a primary resource but the time I spent with my kids was absolutely golden.

Posted by: Rufus | October 12, 2006 10:14 AM

And "get real's" response made me smile.

Posted by: Rufus | October 12, 2006 10:16 AM

Childless by Choice has a point. There are a lot of unplanned pregnancies! However, as Rockville pointed out, unplanned rarely equals unwanted.

To childless by choice: While I was fairly ambivalent about the whole having a child issue. I do have to admit that carrying a baby is a very strange yet profound experience. I would never encourage those who don't want children to have one but I will say that it is something one must experience before passing judgement. I used to dsmiss a lot pregnancy feelings/rhetoric as socially constructed (not to drift off into a big post modern debate) only to discover not all of it is.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 10:16 AM

to anonymous:
in our case, it was other mothers referring to fathers as babysitting and it was not a sensitive issue at all--it was akin to: why do we drive on parkways and park in driveways? i wasn't aware this was such a big deal--i merely brought it up because i thought it was amusing. i don't personally know any moms or wives that care about this topic.

With regard to the topic at hand (see quote below for a reminder), what type of routines and home environments do people use/have that they think positively impacts their kids? One thing I can think of immediately is how often my wife and I speak kindly to one another (saying please, and thank you; asking if the other person needs anything from the kitchen or elsewhere when one of us moves from room to room)--I mention this one because our son has picked up on this sort of thing. By contrast, I know my own parents were not always so cordial with one another. We also read to our son before he goes to bed each night (sometimes we read during the day too, but mostly it's at bedtime).

Summary/Discussion Opener for Today's Topic:
"But we shouldn't shy away from discussing family features just because it's tough. If parents are going to continue to stress about the effects of their decisions on kids, it's high time we put the care debate on hold and started looking harder at the home environment."

Posted by: marc | October 12, 2006 10:23 AM

"I used to dsmiss a lot pregnancy feelings/rhetoric as socially constructed (not to drift off into a big post modern debate) only to discover not all of it is."

Here here. I used to dismiss it too, until I noticed that even early in my pregnancy, whenever I would do something as benign as walk across a parking lot, my hand would unconsciously and protectively drift down to cover my stomach. :)

Posted by: To alex.mom | October 12, 2006 10:25 AM

to anon - when your wife is with your child, do you think of her as the babysitter or the parent? when she is cleaning house, do you think of her as the maid or your wife?

A dad is the parent, not the babysitter.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 10:29 AM

I don't know where Childless by Choice got her stats. Because I read that the % of unplanned pregnancies is around 30%. It is actually somewhat higher for unmarried and some what lower for married couples. But as Rockville pointed out that unplanned is by no means a sure sign it is unwanted. That is the difference between a "surprise" and an accident. An accident is something you did not want to happen at any point in time. A surprise is something that you did not know you wanted till you got. Some of the best things in life are surprises. CBC seems like she had a horrible childhood. I am sorry for that. But that by no means is the story for the majority (more than 50%) of folks.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 12, 2006 10:31 AM

I absolutely detest it when dads say they "babysit" their kids. I'm constantly correcting the guys at work about this. Only a non-parent babysits. For moms and dads - it is your responsibility to raise your child so if you are caring for a child while the other parent is away, you're still raising your child. Sorry for the rant, it's a real pet peeve of mine.

I do believe that when a child is an infant "institutional care" is not ideal. Even if a parent or relative can't care for the child and you can't afford a nanny there is home day care which as the name implies is in a home setting and has fewer kids. But that's just my opinion. However, I'm not suprised to hear that family influence is much more important than child care settings. We all have a great responsibility as parents and its part of what makes parenting so wonderful. Childless - I'm sorry your family doesn't value children - but don't extrapolate that to the rest of the world. Unplanned pregnancies do not translate to unwanted babies.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 10:32 AM

Speaking of home environment...

Short architecture question. My huband stated the other day that he doesn't want a large house because he feels big houses separate parent and child. (large in his world is 3500 sq.ft. or more. I think anything over 2500 sq. ft. is big.)He also dislikes the townhomes that have all the bedrooms on different levels because he feels disconnected from the baby. What are your thoughts about living space affecting the home environment/family interactions?

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 10:34 AM

On the bias of the study, did anyone see the report on the impact of working moms on obesity? Same thing - the researchers started with the observation that childhood obesity is higher in two-income families, but only studied the correlation between the mother's hours at work, not the fathers. Here's a link to the summary: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/efan04004/efan04004e.pdf. If there's a legitimate statitistical barrier to considering both, that would be one thing, but they didn't even suggest studying the impact of the father's hours or combined hours in the section on recommended future research, it's almost as if it never crossed their minds.

marc, for us, like you, reading (we do it all the time right now), being kind and being affectionate are things that jump out at me. Also eating together and spending the evenings hanging out together sans television (though of course there are nights where we flip on Finding Nemo cause mom or dad needs to crash).

Posted by: Megan | October 12, 2006 10:35 AM

"It's so funny when someone who has 0 understanding about a topic (i.e. parental love for the child that's kicked in their belly for 9 months) blindly and foolishly attempts to comment on it and makes such a stupid and naive statement."

To: Thank God You're Childless

While Childless by Choice has an unfortunate habit of making her points in the ugliest way possible, I don't think you can dismiss her experience so lightly. As she noted, she comes from a family where pregnancies happened a lot more often than people wanted kids. She evidently saw many instances where that 9-month pre-birth bonding period did not, in fact, produce deep and abiding mother-love. So, no, she's not making stupid and naive comments; she's making edgily worded comments based on genuine experience.

Don't dismiss the wisdom because you don't like the verse.

Posted by: pittypat | October 12, 2006 10:36 AM

Parenting is, in my experience about 60% hard work, and 40% luck. In our case, both my DH and myself have siblings we swear were raised in seperate homes. I think my folks did a great job raising their four children and I know they taught us great values. How then do I explain my sister, who has just walked away from her SECOND affair with a married father? My in-laws are wonderful people and I wish I could be more like my MIL, yet my SIL is a drugged out gambling addict who regularly abandons her child to go off on her benders. So, how do my in-laws raise a fine, upstanding hardworking son and a louse of a daughter? We all know that stable, happy committed marriages and devoted parents are a solid predictor of how a child will turn out, nothing new. But creating a loving, safe, and encouraging environment is not guarantee. So, while my DH and I do our best, we also cross our fingers and pray.

Posted by: LM in WI | October 12, 2006 10:37 AM

I've always heard that roughly 50% of pregnancies were unplanned, but don't know if that is worldwide, just the US, or what.

My wife and I had been intending to use daycare for our (future) child, but due to her getting a sizable inheritance after the death of her mother, we are now considering other options. She was stressing out over thinking she'd have to return to work soon after giving birth just to help me pay the bills, and throwing in childcare expenses had us just over breaking even. Now she's thinking of taking a few years' off or working parttime...

Posted by: John | October 12, 2006 10:40 AM

"Have you ever gone the the pregnancy blogs seen the hope and joy that accompanies most pregnancies?"

Actually, that would be the "hope and joy that accompanies most pregnancies" had by people on those blogs. Obviously, the vast majority of pregnant women aren't represented on mommy-to-be Internet blogs.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 10:40 AM

alex mom, I highly recommend Witold Rabzynski's (I have not idea how to spell that) book _Home_. It explores the correlation between architecture, space and intimacy, and traces the development of the concept of "home" through time. It's fascinating, and does lend some credence to your husband's idea. Our house is, I think, a little over 2000 sq. ft. (including the basement) and I wouldn't want anything bigger, even if we had another kid or two (so I say now...;)).

Posted by: Megan | October 12, 2006 10:41 AM

To anon 10:29, the whole point is that babysitter and parent are not mutually exclusive.

When I cook dinner (like last night, yum) I am the cook. I am also the husband. I am also the father. I am also the mechanic. I'm the painter. I'm a million other things, none of which disqualify me as "parent." Why would the title "babysitter" somehow be at odds with "parent"?

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 10:43 AM

to anon 9:56 - do you really refer to yourself as a chef when you cook or a mechanic when you fix your car? I doubt it.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 10:48 AM

I do believe that when a child is an infant "institutional care" is not ideal. Even if a parent or relative can't care for the child and you can't afford a nanny there is home day care which as the name implies is in a home setting and has fewer kids.

fabworkingmom: Home day care is tough to find. There is only one home day care provider on the commonwealth licensing list by my office. If you don't have friends with babies to ask about child care (I didn't) or family living in the area (or even on the East Coast) your choices are totally limited. I always feel like there is a secret network of high quality, inexpensive home day care providers out there but I just don't know the right people.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 10:49 AM

I can answer the question on living space, because I live in a fairly small home compared to the rest of my neighborhood. We are a little snug, but since we are only a 3 person family, we fit nicely. I am lucky to have a big master bedroom, and we all sleep in it together. My son's bedroom has turned into his playroom. He won't sleep in it. In the beginning, I let my son sleep with me because I was nursing and it was easier on me to have him in the same bed. We liked the family bed thing. I am afraid that it has become a habit we haven't been able to break yet. But I do think that all the togetherness has made us very close. I love waking up in the middle of the night and having the two guys I love most in the world there with me. I love listening to them breathe when I wake up in the middle of the night. As for the rest of the house, we spend most of our time in the kitchen and family room anyway. The limited space does force us to spend time together, and I like that. Eventually, I do want a bigger space to live in, but not a huge space. I would be happy with another bedroom and maybe a basement for the toys.

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 10:50 AM

"Why would the title "babysitter" somehow be at odds with "parent"?"


I personally don't get too tweaked by this, but I think the reason some people do is because typically the word "babysitter" is associated with someone who only has temporary responsibility for the child, whereas a parent has a full-time, ongoing obligation. When someone refers to a dad babysitting, it implies that his responsibility to watch the child is only temporary, whereas the mother's obligation is ongoing.

Posted by: Megan | October 12, 2006 10:51 AM

Scarry, if I used the term "I watched the kids", people would jump out of the woodwork to call me a liar.

How about:

I spend a lot of time listening to my kids.

Sound better?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 12, 2006 10:54 AM

I knew a woman who liked to use the term "tending to the kids" or "tending the baby."

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 10:57 AM

"Don't dismiss the wisdom because you don't like the verse."

I stand by my "stupid and naive" categorization. The chick needs counseling to get over her bitterness. Just because her head's on screwy doesn't mean that she's any wiser for it, perhaps just in need of some Lexapro.

Posted by: To pittypat | October 12, 2006 10:57 AM

alex. mom - FYI one good resource for family day care is Infant-Toddler Family Day Care of Northern Virginia. I don't know if they have branches across the country. Their website is www.infanttoddler.com

They provide a list of home day cares in your area and they train these providers and check up on them to make sure they are up to par with the state regulations. I didn't end up using them (I was lucky to have my mom) but I did visit one near my house and it was very well run.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 10:59 AM

oh father of 4 that they would and then me and your wife would have to threaten them with bodily harm and we would be called violent.

We just can't win. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 11:00 AM

To Childless by Choice,

My heart goes out to you. Growing up in that environment must have been difficult. I think if that had happened to me I would also choose to remain childless.

Posted by: Jen | October 12, 2006 11:05 AM

We also use the term "kid duty". But not necessarily as a synonym for "babysitter". Instead, we use it to designate which parent currently has the primary responsibility for supervision of the kids. The other parent is free to run errands, play soccer, go for a run, etc. It's more logistical than anything else.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 12, 2006 11:07 AM

Childless by choice is nasty and mean. She is also a cheat, so save your sympathy for someone who needs it. How you were raised doesn't have to define who you are.

Posted by: to jen | October 12, 2006 11:11 AM

Today there are posters still claiming their day care choice is better, not having kids is better, what name you're being called while being with your kids...sigh.

People want self-validation rather than actual discussions.

look at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9494812&dopt=Citation for unplanned pregnancy stats from 1994. About 22% live pregnancies were unplanned. Does not trying to NOT have kids equal unplanned? I guess mine were unplanned then by their definition! ha ha!

Posted by: dotted | October 12, 2006 11:14 AM

Another great book is "The Not-so-big House," by Sarah Susanka. She has a whole series with the idea that you can make your house smaller, but nicer, with well-thought-out plans for how to make your house more user-friendly and utilize each space well. So many houses have rooms that don't really get used because they are out of the way or harder to get to.

Growing up, I lived in a 3500-sf house. During three seasons of the year we were all isolated in different parts of the house and rarely hung out together. During the winter my parents decided to heat only the kitchen and living room-- so we were all crammed in together, and since we hadn't learned how to deal with each other for the rest of the year, it led to a lot of conflicts.

We have been progressively moving to smaller and smaller houses-- from 2600 sf to 2400-- and now, our current house is 1800 sf (we have 2 kids and a home office). This house is the perfect size for us-- every room gets used every day and there is not as much to clean. None of us feel as isolated in our own domains, and I think it helps us function better as a family. Of course, we don't have teenagers yet. Plus, we live in a cohousing neighborhood so we can go play in the community's kids' room when we get sick of our small house. This is a huge help with cabin fever in the wintertime. So, as usual, your mileage may vary, but I really like the "Not-so-big-house" idea.

Posted by: Ms L | October 12, 2006 11:15 AM

My wife is going to her girl scout leaders meeting tonight and "sticking" me with the kids.

Kids are sticky!

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 12, 2006 11:17 AM

To:
"So, how do my in-laws raise a fine, upstanding hardworking son and a louse of a daughter?"

The odds are that your SIL was sexually abused as a child by a man in her family or close to her family. Has your SIL sought treatment?

Posted by: June | October 12, 2006 11:17 AM

I got stuck with them last night too.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 12, 2006 11:19 AM

Thanks, fabworkingmom. But this list also only has one provider listed near my office. Infant daycare is extremely difficult to obtain around this area.

You are TOTALLY lucky to have family in the area. I am often envious of people who live close to family and are willing to/can help out. I don't think people understand how lucky they are to have that type of support.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 11:21 AM

"The greatest majority of kids are unplanned and unwanted; they are merely endured because it's illegal to put them in a bag and throw them in a river."

You are sick, Childless by Choice, and you desperately need professional help with your issues. And no, I am not being snarky! Competent therapy and possibly medication could help you so much, I hope you'll consider it.

Your posts amaze me and frighten me with their twisted, sociopathic themes. There is no shame in asking for help to recover from a difficult childhood.

Posted by: LoveMyKids | October 12, 2006 11:24 AM

I grew up w/ a very large family - so it made sense that our house was bigger - but we definitely didn't have much unused space, and I don't remember spending a lot of time alone in my room because I always wanted to be in the dining room or the living room with everyone else. I agree with the posters that smaller is better for fostering closeness - to this day, when my sibs all get together at my parents' house, I am disappointed if they stay in a hotel or at a friends' house because I like to be crowded in and spend all night talking to them!

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 12, 2006 11:24 AM

FYI

The November 2006 Scientific American has an article "Broken Mirrors: A Theory of Autism" on page 62.

Posted by: DZ | October 12, 2006 11:26 AM

to jen wrote:
Childless by choice is nasty and mean. She is also a cheat, so save your sympathy for someone who needs it. How you were raised doesn't have to define who you are.

--------

I have read posts by Childless by choice in the last few days. I have seen the venom in her words. But her post today showed me some of the reason for it.

I agree with Pittypat. Don't ignore the message because you don't like how it was said. Isn't that the whole point of today's blog? How the home environment affects development? That means emotional development too, not just intellectual or physical.

You're right, how you were raised doesn't have to define you. But how we were raised does influence who we are. It's how we respond that defines us. Childless by choice may need help to get over the scars from her upbringing (to stop letting it define her), but she may not want that, now or ever. It is up to her to make that choice.

Posted by: Jen | October 12, 2006 11:32 AM

the book "Freakonomics" (popular last year, I think) had some interesting comments about Nature vs. Nurture in child-rearing. It cited numerous studies of adopted children, especially twins separated at birth, to see whether genetic factors or home environment had a stronger effect on the kind of person the child turned out to be. At least in the studies the author cited, genetics won every time. I think his conclusion was that we parents desperately WANT to believe that every thing we do is critically important for our children to turn out "right", but in reality it might not matter all that much.

I don't quite believe him, but it's food for thought!

Posted by: Nature or Nurture | October 12, 2006 11:34 AM

Actually, I felt better about my daughter going to a loving center than a home daycare, where I would have less idea about her day. The ratio at our center is 1 to 4, which I believe is also the ratio at home in Virginia. A woman in my neighborhood operates a home center and her care out in the public areas does not inspire great confidence about what goes on behind closed doors. However, I also know friends who have had wonderful experiences with home daycares and nannies.

For John: It really depends on your wife's personality. Some women love the full-time mom gig, others need a part-time job or volunteer gig that allows them a non-mommy role. Being at home can be isolating, even with playgroups and activities and such. You're lucky to have the choice, and what works will likely shift over the years as your family grows.

Posted by: restonmom | October 12, 2006 11:34 AM

Jen,

You are a voice of reason.

Posted by: moi | October 12, 2006 11:35 AM

loving center

I believe this is the oxymoron of the day.


Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 11:39 AM

Fabworkingmom, I don't actually refer to myself in third person at all. (Great beer commercial - "Leon can't do EVERY-thang!") I suppose I do on rare occasions, when asked by others, but I don't think most of us who are not professional athletes use the third person much.

But the fact is that I do realize when I am playing the role of "chef", "mechanic" and, yes, "babysitter". I just don't know why acknowledging that I am playing the role of babysitter is a bad thing.

I acknowledge Megan's assertion that some folks do add the connotation of

(If you had not guessed, I am sensitive about this because I get needled about it at home.)

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 11:41 AM

Anyone else think "Childless by Choice" is a phony? I just can't believe it. I'm thinking it's some lonely guy using an anti-social alter-ego to get attention or something. The internet is full of such fakes, you know.

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | October 12, 2006 11:44 AM

1 to 4 is a pretty good ratio for a daycare center. I guess at the end of the day we really can't generalize. As long as everyone is comfortable with their child care choices. I know I still struggle with having my son in preschool all day. I would prefer for him to go to school half the day but I can't afford a nanny and preschool and I really want him to have the social interaction.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 11:44 AM

Fabworkingmom, I don't actually refer to myself in third person at all. (Great beer commercial - "Leon can't do EVERY-thang!") I suppose I do on rare occasions, when asked by others, but I don't think most of us who are not professional athletes use the third person much.

But the fact is that I do realize when I am playing the role of "chef", "mechanic" and, yes, "babysitter". I just don't know why acknowledging that I am playing the role of babysitter is a bad thing.

I acknowledge Megan's assertion that some folks do stand on the portion of the definition that implies that babysitters are temporary. But that's factually correct given that as (s)he gets older (s)he won't need a babysitter. So I'm still not sure why this rubs moms so raw sometimes.

(If you had not guessed, I am sensitive about this because I get needled about it at home.)

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 11:44 AM

Get Real: Is that a polite way of telling me to shut up? I have a full-time job and a life outside work, therefore I have just as much right as you to find balance in my life. Just exercising my First Amendment rights and rattling your cages at the same time. ;-)

When my grandmother had ten kids, she was producing farm hands, not children. She raised them during the Depression and WWII. Farm families in those days did that and many didn't survive infancy because of the lack of medical care. None finished high school because they had to drop out to work and bring money to the family or go into military service. Times were hard then; you affluent yuppies don't have a clue.

I still say prevention is the best policy. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 12, 2006 11:44 AM

Fabworkingmom, I don't actually refer to myself in third person at all. (Great beer commercial - "Leon can't do EVERY-thang!") I suppose I do on rare occasions, when asked by others, but I don't think most of us who are not professional athletes use the third person much.

But the fact is that I do realize when I am playing the role of "chef", "mechanic" and, yes, "babysitter". I just don't know why acknowledging that I am playing the role of babysitter is a bad thing.

I acknowledge Megan's assertion that some folks do stand on the portion of the definition that implies that babysitters are temporary. But that's factually correct given that as (s)he gets older (s)he won't need a babysitter. So I'm still not sure why this rubs moms so raw sometimes.

(If you had not guessed, I am sensitive about this because I get needled about it at home.)

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 11:45 AM

To Jen--
I agree with Moi. Thanks for a reasonable approach.
I agree wholeheartedly.

I'm amazed that many don't like the "vicious" tone of Childless by Choice but respond just as viciously, if not more so. People need to practice what they preach.

Posted by: JS | October 12, 2006 11:46 AM

Sorry 'bout the multiple posts. No idea what's going on. Actually, yes I do. WaPo needs a new hosting provider.

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 11:46 AM

Being a librarian, I had to rise to the challenge to find the author/title information for the book mentioned. I don't know this book, so I'll just provide the information.

Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski, 1987.

BTW, I have a friend who always calls me first if she wants to see a movie because I'm the only friend-who's-a-SAHM who doesn't have to "ask her husband for permission" to see the movie or ask if he will babysit. It's co-parenting. I only have to confer on scheduling.

And I totally agree with the expression kid duty. We also use it logistically to explicitly pass off the being-in-charge baton. Kid duty can change hands several times in a day...especially on vacation.

Also, babysitting is something you do because you have to or you expect to get paid. My husband looks forward to sole kid duty nights so he can spend time with our children doing stuff I hate, like watching the Three Stooges.

And no mother was EVER called a babysitter by the father of her children. Can you imagine a man saying to his friends, "Yeah, I can make happy hour Friday night...my wife says she's free to babysit then?" If you actually call your wife a babysitter, as well as calling yourself that, then you are possibly the only family in the country that does.

Posted by: another librarian mom | October 12, 2006 11:47 AM

Regarding "babysitting"-- I was irritated when my husband used it all the time when I was a SAHM, as in "What night do you need me to babysit?" Since he became the SAHD, he hasn't used it once-- nor have I.

anon 9:56, if it seems to be an issue for your wife, there are more neutral terms, like "watching the kids" or "kid duty."

Posted by: Ms L | October 12, 2006 11:48 AM

My wife and I decided early on that we would live on less so that one of us could stay home with the kids. In our case, there was never any doubt who that would be. She loved being a SAHM, and considered it a joy. So we lived without the new cars/exotic vacations and other goodies that so many in our material world so value. Frankly, that loss hasn't bothered me as near as much as not being able to save for college educations as much as I would have liked. That is a legitimate trade-off discussion.

Mom pittered around a bit when the youngest finally started elementary school, got really involved as class Mom and eventually PTA president, and then to the local area council of PTA. She just this year has truly restarted working, for the school district, in more of a career fashion.

So for us, outside childcare in the early years was just a personal choice we chose not to make. One engineers salary was not a huge amount, but we did at least have the option of living on it. I feel most for those who have no SAH options but greatly desire them.

Finally, and in bringing the topic back to my point a few days ago, children are much brighter and more perceptive than they are given credit for. Just as they know when they are treated as social baggage and not included in activities, I feel they know when they are being shunted away and not being treated with the appropriate level of parental priority.

If kids understand that the family must have the income to survive, they adjust to their circumstances and make do. But if they see they they are being put in day or after school care just so Mommy/Daddy can meximize their self-actualization visions, they quickly get a feel of where they fit in the value equation. And a good number react/act out accordingly. Some of them are likely the types of "terror" kids CBC seems to enjoy describing.

I knew a Dad down the street that could easily have picked up his kids after school, but they chose to enroll them in an after school program until their Mother picked them up. It wasn't justified as being for any high minded "enrichment for the kids" BS, he just didn't want to be bothered to deal with them.

But even in less extreme cases, no matter how you dress the topic up or make clever arguments, kids see through the words to our actions and choices to glean how much they are truly valued. And I am convinced it affects them mightily.

An argument can be made that society is currently going through a large uncontrolled experiment on these type of effects on the next generation. God help us if we turn out to have been seriously wrong...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 12, 2006 11:50 AM

Uh oh. Better duck and cover.

I hear the cannons rumbling in the distance after that post...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 12, 2006 11:54 AM

To "anon 9:56" -- I will quote a sentence from your post that pretty much sums up our argument, in my opinion.

"I just don't know why acknowledging that I am playing the role of babysitter is a bad thing."

You are not PLAYING at anything. You may be "filling the role" of babysitter, just possibly, but being a parent is not something that gets turned on and off like a faucet or a part in a play. You are not an actor portraying a dad. You ARE a dad. If your child comes screaming into the room with blood pouring from her arm, do you go looking for your wife so she can fix this because you are not currently in the role of babysitter?

Words matter. Use them with more care. Your children are learning your contempt for childrearing (my perception, which could well be wrong) when you describe yourself this way.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 11:55 AM

"I agree with Pittypat. Don't ignore the message because you don't like how it was said."

Sorry, this is a load of morally relativistic bull. For example, there are people who deny the Holocaust. I ignore the message because it's crap *AND* I ignore how it's said b/c it's venomous. I don't need to take the message into account just because someone decides to spew it. Same goes for Childless by Choice's rantings against anyone who seems happy.

Childless by Choice, so what if your grandma had kids for help on the farm? Most of our ancestors were born for that exact purpose. It doesn't make you stick out from any of the rest of us, except that most of the rest of us aren't obsessed by it like you seem to be. Times change ... now make that counseling appointment so we don't hear about you lopping the heads off infants, k?

Posted by: To Jen | October 12, 2006 11:57 AM

"Why would the title "babysitter" somehow be at odds with "parent"?"

The problem is that people consider it at odds with "mother," but not with "father."

Fathers tending to kids = "oh, he is babysitting".

Mother watching kids = what? status quo? nothing to remark on?

Seriously, no one has ever come up to me while I am watching my child and said "oh, so your babysitting today, eh?" But this happened frequently to my husband.


Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 12, 2006 11:57 AM

"An argument can be made that society is currently going through a large uncontrolled experiment on these type of effects on the next generation."

An argument can be made that society has always been going through large uncontrolled experiments on its children. I don't see how after care is any worse than sending kids in large numbers to work in a coal mine (1840s England), or forcing them to drop out of school at 13 to work as a maid (my grandmother), or just sort of tossing them out into the street (turn-of-the-20th-century New York) or treated as miniature adults from the get-go (17th century New England).

If you really want to worry about kids, worry about the ones who are scraping along at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. Their worst-case outcomes are far more dangerous and tragic than a middle-income kid angsting that her parents didn't love her enough.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 11:57 AM

I have no idea if staying at home or daycare is better. I suspect that if the family is loving and kind, and the child feels secure, that it does not make much difference. But I do think that the way the family interacts and its stability, are in the end the factors that matter the most. This is why parents need to set good examples and be kind to each other and their children. This is why it is so wrong to fight in front of the children. Divorced parents especially should not quarrel in front of their children or use their children as weapons against each other. I think children pick up on how parents treat other people also. Modeling good behavior for them, in my opinion, is the best way to make sure your kids grow up to be pleasant adults.

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 12:00 PM

to LM in WI - I agree with the 60/40 split. My parents also did a great job with 3 kids and my In-laws did a great job with 4 - so we have excellent role models. I have a Brother in law that is a substance abusing, good for nothing gypsy, but as my Father is Law said - 1 out of 4 ain't bad. The law of averages caught up with them.

My husband and I work our butts off, cross our fingers and hope to God we are doing the right things for our kids and so far they are fine.

Posted by: cmac | October 12, 2006 12:01 PM

There were six of us when I was growing up, all squeezed into a 1000 square foot house. My younger brother actually ended up sleeping on the couch for a while until my dad could enclose and insulate the back porch so my older brother could move out there. My sister was the only one with her own room. Needless to say there wasn't a lot of privacy, but since we had 45 acres of farmland to play on that's where we went when we wanted some alone time!

Posted by: John | October 12, 2006 12:01 PM

Dead on, Lizzie!

And in addition to worrying about them, consider legislating an actual child-centered agenda that would help them to be born to moms with decent pre-natal care and nutrition, and that would help them to make it through those early years with high-quality child care EITHER in daycares or at home.

Posted by: another librarian mom | October 12, 2006 12:03 PM

Great point Rockville. However, I really do wonder - why do we have all this angst (at least I do). I'm sure I'd be just as insecure in my decisions if I was a SAHM. I don't think in fact I'm sure my mom did not have this level of angst when she was raising us. She worked and took care of the family - just did what she had to do. That's why she totally does not get why I worry so much about how our decisions affect our son.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 12:05 PM

Excellent point, Lizzie. Looking at the enormous array of child rearing techniques, styles, strategies, whatever you want to call it across time and across the globe, I firmly believe there is no one way that is "right" or "natural," as so many self-appointed parenting gurus (and I mean the ones who write books, not the individuals posting here) would have us believe.

I understand and agree to an extent with you Texas Dad of 2 that kids can tell when they're loved and when they're unwanted. But I don't think any particular childcare situation is the sole indicator for kids, and it shouldn't be for other parents either.

Posted by: Megan | October 12, 2006 12:05 PM

Many years ago, in my single days, I volunteered as an after school tutor in a DC public school in a high crime neighborhood. To be perfectly honest, it was heartbreaking. Many of the kids lived in horribly unstable environments, some of them did not have food at home. The two means they got at school was the only food they could consistently rely on. One child begged me to take him home with me. He promised he would be good and not bother me. Other children were so disturbed that they could not behave. They were violent and unhappy and insecure. I wish I knew how to help such children. I just don't know the answers.

Posted by: Rockville | October 12, 2006 12:08 PM

>>> But if they see they they are being put in day or after school care just so Mommy/Daddy can meximize their self-actualization visions, they quickly get a feel of where they fit in the value equation. >>>

Texas Dad of 2: You must be kidding! If my child could identify "Mommy/Daddy can maximize their self-actualization visions," he would have quite an academic career.

Look working parents show a child that having a job and an income is an important part of being an adult...self suffiency! As is planning for the future, which is why many women, who could afford to stay home, work because no one knows what the future holds. Financial planning is important.

And not all working couples drive luxury cars, participate in a material goods orgy and take exotic vacations! (Although, you do live in Texas...hmm, I might stand corrected. Just kidding!) I am not sure why I keep reading this gross generalization. There are working couples out there who live on one income and SAVE the other paycheck for bad times. And that bad time may extend to Boomer parents who didn't save for retirement and never did any financial planning. Our national savings rate is below zero, this is not good!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 12:12 PM

To Texas Dad of 2:

Your comment expressed my feelings exactly in regard to daycare. I completely understand that in many families, both parents need to work in order just to survive. I agree that if a child sees that he must be cared for by someone other than mom and dad because of the necessity of work, it's a lot different than a child seeing that he was put into daycare because the parents chose "lifestyle" over family. I'm a stay at home mom and while I do sometimes miss being in the adult working world, I think it's very important for my son to know that family is the most important thing and not that mom was able to "have it all" and build a career along with taking care of the family.

Posted by: RT | October 12, 2006 12:15 PM

Rockville, my husband teaches those kids. Has for six years now; my sister taught kids like that for eight years down in Norfolk. It's extremely difficult and heartbreaking work, and after hearing so many of their stories I have extremely limited patience for the idea that daycare or after care or two working parents will cause unforgiveable psychological harm to a kid.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 12:16 PM

To Texas Dad of 2:

Your comment expressed my feelings exactly in regard to daycare. I completely understand that in many families, both parents need to work in order just to survive. I agree that if a child sees that he must be cared for by someone other than mom and dad because of the necessity of work, it's a lot different than a child seeing that he was put into daycare because the parents chose "lifestyle" over family. I'm a stay at home mom and while I do sometimes miss being in the adult working world, I think it's very important for my son to know that family is the most important thing and not that mom was able to "have it all" and build a career along with taking care of the family.

Posted by: RT | October 12, 2006 12:17 PM

My in-laws treated their children differently. By different, I mean that my husband has always been held accountable for his actions. As the oldest child, he was expected to be responsible. My in-laws refuse to allow my SIL to pay any type of consequence. When my SIL lost her car to the casino, my FIL wrote out a check to get her car back. She was 28 and a mother and both my DH and I felt she should have lost the car and been made to buy her own car. In fact, she has never bought a car herself, her dad has always bought one for her. My DH was told to join the army if he wanted to go to college but my in-laws were willing to pay out of state tution to UNLV for my SIL. As a parent, I realize my in-laws are motivated by a sense that they need to protect their child. But they fail to see that not letting her get hurt is more detrimental than saving her all the time. Yet, when it came to my husband, my in-laws failed to see or feel the need to "protect" him as they did for my SIL. Despite having strong values and being devoted parents, when it came to my SIL, they screwed up.

Now, as for MY youngest sister, I have no clue. Why she would continue to seek out married men is beyond anything we can understand. Not to mention that all the men my sister is attracted to are, to be polite, in need of work. I am the first to say that a woman doesn't need a man to support her, but having men use you for money isn't good either. One child and several tens of thousands of dollars later, I hope my sister is finally getting that. I am baffled as to how her self-esteem could have sunk so low. Myself and my other siblings (boy and girl) were and are (my brother is 16) actively involved in school activities, get good grades and are very self confident. My other sister and I were National Merit Scholars. My parents recognized that our youngest sister was not the same as my other sister and myself and never pressured her to try to emulate us, and encouraged her to do different things that what we had done. Yet she has still made these awful choices. The part that is so frustrating for us is that we all know, and she knows that she was wrong. She was wrong the first time she got involved with a married man. Yet she just can't seem to see that having an affair with a married man violates the very morals she claims are so important to her. Needless to say, Thanksgiving is going to be a very awkward holiday this year.

Posted by: For June | October 12, 2006 12:17 PM

The most toxic environment for a child is when parents bad mouth one another in front of the child, especially when divorcing. Vile behavior!

Posted by: to Rockville | October 12, 2006 12:18 PM

Rockville, my husband teaches those kids. Has for six years now; my sister taught kids like that for eight years down in Norfolk. It's extremely difficult and heartbreaking work, and after hearing so many of their stories I have extremely limited patience for the idea that daycare or after care or two working parents will cause unforgiveable psychological harm to a kid.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 12:19 PM

To Texas Dad of 2:

Your comment expressed my feelings exactly in regard to daycare. I completely understand that in many families, both parents need to work in order just to survive. I agree that if a child sees that he must be cared for by someone other than mom and dad because of the necessity of work, it's a lot different than a child seeing that he was put into daycare because the parents chose "lifestyle" over family. I'm a stay at home mom and while I do sometimes miss being in the adult working world, I think it's very important for my son to know that family is the most important thing and not that mom was able to "have it all" and build a career along with taking care of the family.

Posted by: RT | October 12, 2006 12:19 PM

Rockville, my husband teaches those kids. Has for six years now; my sister taught kids like that for eight years down in Norfolk. It's extremely difficult and heartbreaking work, and after hearing so many of their stories I have extremely limited patience for the idea that daycare or after care or two working parents will cause unforgiveable psychological harm to a kid.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 12:19 PM

Rockville, my husband teaches those kids. Has for six years now; my sister taught kids like that for eight years down in Norfolk. It's extremely difficult and heartbreaking work, and after hearing so many of their stories I have extremely limited patience for the idea that daycare or after care or two working parents will cause unforgiveable psychological harm to a kid.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 12:19 PM

i also take exception to the idea that somehow junior hates after school care. my son loves the time he spends after school. one of the arguements in favor of me continuing work is that if i quit work my son can't continue in after school care. my son has asked that i not pick him up until 6pm (when after care closes) so he can have as much time there as possible. so the arguement that my son feels like he's second or third on my priorities is a fallacy.

Posted by: quark | October 12, 2006 12:21 PM

Ah good, now we've come to the portion of the day where the SAH proponents judge whether or not the rest of us really have to work by whatever standards they see fit and assume that our children hold the same standards and feel neglected accordingly, which will surely trigger a backlash from the WOH proponents about how lazy and irresponsible and spoiled SAH parents are. Good times!

Over and out.

Posted by: Megan | October 12, 2006 12:25 PM

To: "And not all working couples drive luxury cars, participate in a material goods orgy and take exotic vacations!"

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the above?

Are than any posters who have children with average intelligence?

Posted by: George | October 12, 2006 12:28 PM

To george: Are than any posters who have children with average intelligence?

Yes, I do. In fact, my kid has a speech delay and the preschool called me recently to tell my 2 1/2 year old does not hold her pencil correctly. We may not be Harvard bound but heck we love her to bits anyway. I always wondered if 85% of parents claim they have gifted children, then why is there only about 10% of adults that are gifted. Do they get dumber as they get older????

Posted by: foamgnome | October 12, 2006 12:33 PM

I guess Brian didn't really get his point across that the childcare vs. stay-at-home debate is largely meaningless when compared to the home environments we are raising are children in. At some point, the child is in the home and the contents of that home, as well as the people and their behaviors and routines are going to have a huge impact developmentally (at least until age 4.5 according to government research). If your child knows they are your priority, that they're loved, and if he or she is developing well, pat yourself on the back and be proud of your decisions.

Sometimes I look at my own posts before I hit the "submit" button and I ask, "Would I want my child to speak this way to someone else?" You'd be amazed at how much I edit ; )

Posted by: marc | October 12, 2006 12:40 PM

Alex Mom,

I have to agree with Texas Dad of 2's suggestion that kids pick up on way more than we realize, including how much we really care about them.

Case in point: As a child, I knew by the age of 8 that certain parent(s) and grandparent(s) only wanted to be around me when I was docile, pretty and girlish. Any other behavior from me, and they were out the door.

Did they know I had picked up on these biases of theirs? Doubt it. Did it affect my behavior around them AND my emotional state? Yup. Was I a particularly insightful 8-year-old? Nope.

If I could do that, then, without even trying, then surely 8-year-olds now can do the same. It's amazing how much more they can know about us than we even realize.

Posted by: Mass. Prof. | October 12, 2006 12:41 PM

To George:

As much as I hate feeding potential trolls...

=========================
"...drive luxury cars, participate in a material goods orgy and take exotic vacations!"

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the above?

Are than any posters who have children with average intelligence?"
=============================

>>

Does that last sentence include yourself?

Obviously, the relationship mentioned was not to debate the "intrinsic" value of such things in a vacuum, but to speak of when such things when they are achieved at the expense of family time and interaction, because when "things", "status", or worldly accomplishments are valued more than children, don't think kids don't see it.

One can make an argument that the (usually large) time spent making a major worldly accomplishment is worth more in a sense to us all than what the one impacted family pays for it, but we shouldn't pretend that that a cost isn't being paid.

Fire away...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 12, 2006 12:47 PM

My infant daughter (6.5 mo) is in an "institutional day care". I love that place. The people that work there are caring and conscientious, and really seem to love my daughter. I was more comfortable with this than I was with in-home care because I didn't know the in-home people and I knew she would be with just 1 person (maybe 2 on occasion) all day. The employees of our center are background checked and most are working on childcare education/certification or have it. The center has a very low turnover rate, which also makes me feel better. I also interviewed a LOT of nannies before deciding to go with the center. There were a lot of them I liked (and some who were pretty scary!), but in the end the situation made me uncomfortable and it was about 2X the cost.

We all make these decisions the best we can. My friends and family members have used in-home care, mothers-in-law and mothers, stayed at home, you name it. The children are fine and pleasant and bright. I'm just not getting into judging other peoples' decisions and think it would be nice if others would extend me the same courtesy (I'm not going to hold my breath on that one though!)

As far as the "babysitting" semantics, I never thought about it, but when I am somewhere without the baby and someone asks where she is, I tell them "she's with her dad."

Posted by: MaryB | October 12, 2006 12:54 PM

To: "And not all working couples drive luxury cars, participate in a material goods orgy and take exotic vacations!"

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the above?

Are than any posters who have children with average intelligence?

Posted by: George | October 12, 2006 12:28 PM >>>

Yes there are something wrong with the above things I mentioned. I don't believe in a shallow, consumer driven culture. (I lump luxury cars into this.) The participation in the "material goods orgy" that permeates our culture in is not healthy. In a recent book (Born to Buy), the author points out that in her research children who participate in the consumer culture are unhappy and have higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation.

The exotic vacations are nice if you can afford them. It exposes your children to foreign cultures.

As for my son, I have no idea what his IQ is. Not sure that I care even since I think IQ tests are culturally biased. I just want him to be happy.

But in defense of all On Balance parents, I think it is natural for parents feel their child is the smartest, best looking, best singer, best personality..etc. They love their kids and are proud of them. Wouldn't you feel bad for a child if you heard his/her mom or dad say, "my kid is an idiot, fat, ugly, freak etc."? There have also been some parents on this site who have mentioned having children with LD and/or special needs.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 12:56 PM

MaryB said "I'm just not getting into judging other peoples' decisions and think it would be nice if others would extend me the same courtesy"

I agree and I apologise for my generalization on infants in daycares earlier today.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 1:04 PM

'there are more neutral terms, like "watching the kids" or "kid duty'

we call it hanging out with the kids, instead of babysitting.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 12, 2006 1:04 PM

I hate the word "gifted". I was labeled "gifted" as a child, worked with "gifted" children for 10 years as a teacher, and I still hate the word. It has always sounded sooooo inherently superior...

Sometimes kids are given advantages. This doesn't always make them "gifted". It makes them "lucky."

Posted by: Just saying... | October 12, 2006 1:05 PM

To Texas Dad of 2

You seem to make a lot of gross generalizations without any support. The whole point of Rebeldad's blog was that, THE DAY CARE SITUATION BEING EQUAL, children are more affected by family interactions. But your post seems to suggest that the choice to work and use day care in and of itself is a reflection of family interactions that affect a child's development. But whether a child is in day care or not is a constant in this analysis. So you're not even taking into account one of the premises of the study.

I typically empathize with the SAH posts because I wanted to be a SAHP myself and see the value in it. But your post today was incredibly condescending and judgmental. To suggest that someone's chid feel undervalued because their parents stick them in day care to fulfill career dreams or pay for a nicer house or car is insulting. If the parents ship them to sleep-away camp for the summer (one thing I know a SAHM does to her two children because they'd "drive each other crazy at home all summer") or go off on weekends alone after having not seen their kids all week because of work, that's one thing. But if the parents spend almost all of their non-work time with the children, read to them, ask them about their day, etc., then the children will realized that they are wanted and that the parents enjoy being around them.

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 1:05 PM

great post MaryB! a breath of fresh air. Yo go girl..Your daughter has one good mother.

Unfortunately, your prediction of other's courtesy is probably right on...that is sad.

One's need to self-justify should not trump good manners.

Posted by: dotted | October 12, 2006 1:05 PM

thanks, fabworkingmom... apology accepted!

Posted by: MaryB | October 12, 2006 1:05 PM

I do believe that the difference in at-home care and away-from-home care is minimal, it all depends on the family and what is going on at home. This, I believe holds true for schooling as well. Your child might not be in the best school in town but if you suppliment their education by taking them to museums, zoos, apple picking, reading at the library etc... you can greatly improve their chance of succeeding accademically. I also think the whole Mommy Wars issue is so....tired, does anyone on this blog really care that someone else is enjoying their job at 11 a.m. this morning and another is enjoying finger painting with their toddler at 11 a.m. this morning?

Childless By Choice has a valid point, there are many unwanted children in this country, they are the children who end up in Foster Care and who we hear about in the paper because a parent beat them to death. Her point that "most" children are unwanted though, I do not believe to be true.

Posted by: WOHM2 | October 12, 2006 1:10 PM

Just a side comment on "where all the children are above-average". My aunt was a second grade teacher for many years and had a way of dealing with parents who felt their extra-gifted child needed extra-special attention. She would invite the parent to come into the classroom to help with the subject (art was a class she mentioned) a few times. Usually after helping their child and the other children the parent realized that their child was pretty much on the same level as the other children and calmed down.

Posted by: Running | October 12, 2006 1:15 PM

"Sometimes kids are given advantages. This doesn't always make them "gifted". It makes them "lucky""

Um...pretty sure that's what "gifted" means, lucky. You are gifted with intelligence (through no special doing of your own). That's why they have "Gifted AND Talented" programs. The gifted kids have a natural gift, the talented kids presumably worked to develop their talent. And like it or not, both sets (gifted and talented) are by definition "superior" (at least academically).

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 1:21 PM

To Running: funny story! I can see how that puts parents in their place. I had a friend tell me once that her daughter was *perfect*. I smiled, tried not to roll my eyes and thought of a comment my dad made to me once during my perfectionist-obsessed teenage years, "Jesus was perfect and looked what they did to him!"

(We weren't a very religious family so I am sorry if that offends anyone.)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 1:23 PM

From To Jen:

"I agree with Pittypat. Don't ignore the message because you don't like how it was said."

Sorry, this is a load of morally relativistic bull. For example, there are people who deny the Holocaust. I ignore the message because it's crap *AND* I ignore how it's said b/c it's venomous.

----------------------------

Judging the validity of the message is acceptable regardless of how the point is made; deciding that the point is invalid because it is stated poorly is not.

Here is a quote from the original post by Childless by Choice, made at 9:17 this morning:

"No matter who raises the kids, it should be someone who isn't bitter, angry, and resents her role as mother. This is picked up by the kids who feel they are unwanted and unloved, causing many more problems. Nor should they be spoiled, overindulged and made to believe THEY are the center of the universe."

That she followed it with a comment about drowning babies did not help her earn any respect, but it does not invalidate the part that I have quoted here.

This is interesting; when I first posted I was expecting CBC to be angry (something along the lines of "I don't need your sympathy") but I wasn't anticipating this type of response at all....


Posted by: Jen | October 12, 2006 1:25 PM

Anon 11:55, thanks for the lecture on meaning of words. Feel free to gallop away on that high horse. If you think I don't realize that I'm actually a parent then we are too far apart to even have a converstation. On the other hand, if you superiority complex will allow you to concede that perhaps I used a simple figure of speech, maybe you're open-minded enough to discuss the argument on its merits.

How dare you assume that I have a contempt for child-rearing simply because it's convenient to your world-view of Dads??

(See how those nice, unfounded assumptions feel?)

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 1:27 PM

I have no idea what is best for most people but here is some of what I think is important for my son to experience in our home (beyond the obvious safety things):

1. Security. My husband and I try to provide this in a variety of ways - we have meals at set times, so that he knows food appears regularly (I also BF on demand), we respond to his needs right away, we are financially responsible and stay away from getting over our heads in debt, and one of us has a regular paycheque coming in (right now that is both of us, but at least one - doesn't matter who.) We also have pretty consistent routines. In terms of care I think a consistent daycare routine would be a lot the same - and a lot of daycares are even better at routine than I am.

2. Love & respect: we model treating each other and our extended 'village' well and respectfully, including our son. When we lose it (and we do sometimes) we apologize sincerely. I think this is where the *kind* of care outside the home is really important. There are daycare situations that do not model these things and where the kids are not 'loved' (I don't mean like a parent, but appreciated for who they are). But I also think there are a lot of care situations where both are provided. And in any case it's something you do regardless.

3. Connection: we make an effort to connect our son to his extended family and to find and create a supportive community (playgroups, volunteering). I think childcare can go either way here - a child in care outside of the home is connected to his or her daycare community. For us though this is something we provide at home and a lot of it is during the hours he might otherwise be in daycare. (But if he were we'd work it out in other ways I'm sure.)

3. Joy/enrichment: this is the zone which impacted the most on our childcare choices.

We both find, because of who we are, that we have more room for joy in our lives when we are not rushing around from commitment to commitment. One way to handle this was for both of us to maximize our incomes and then outsource cleaning, yard work, etc. But we weren't that happy with that for other reasons, so we made the decision to go to 1.5 jobs between us and I took on more chores, etc. so that my husband's time was freed up to enjoy/share joy with our son.

To us it mostly comes down to one parent *almost* always having the time to sit and look at the fascinating spider that just crawled in with our son. And then we get to do that too.

Slowing the pace down works for us because it does, but for some people joy would probably be the reverse - having a busy life with lots of accomplishments to talk and share in.

So here it's not a *childcare* choice but a family lifestyle choice that we made. I am in no way slamming different choices! Just saying what we have done so far.

I don't know if that really answers the question but that is one way we have framed the discussion around lifestyle choices.

Posted by: Shandra | October 12, 2006 1:29 PM

To Shandra.

Great post. Thanks.

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 1:39 PM

In order to get into the school-based GT program in Fairfax County a child needs to achieve "advanced proficiency" scoring on the Virginia SOL's. A child who did not achieve for instance, advanced proficiency in math might not be readt to take a 7/8th grade algebra class in 6th grade. Some children are ready for that. Art class is not an academic class, all children take the same art classes so what the teacher in 'Running's" post did was rather pointless.

Posted by: gifted and talented | October 12, 2006 1:40 PM

Dear Anon 9:56,

I hardly know where to start. First of all, you aren't hurting my feelings, although I do believe you tried. I don't know you well enough for your opinion to matter that way. That's simply being realistic.

On the other hand, I'm assuming you don't value child-rearing based on your words, not on a hypothetically negative world-view of dads. Which words I might add, you have admitted get you grief about at home, as well. So why do you keep using them? And I quote:

"(If you had not guessed, I am sensitive about this because I get needled about it at home.)"

If they bother your wife (or some other adult who is needling you), I'd recommend you think through whether my premise that words matter might actually be true, rather than throw ad hominem attacks at me.

And racist figures of speech remain racist and offensive, even if the pure heart of the speaker did not intend them to be. In that case, the speaker apologizes and attempts to quit using said figures of speech. Offered as an example.

Posted by: Anon 11:55 | October 12, 2006 1:42 PM

I'm going to add a different angle that I'm surprised hasn't really come up here. The posters are arguing about what kids think or feel about their parents working or staying at home. It seems like people are really projecting a lot of feelings onto their kids. Well, what about YOUR experiences?

I am a child of daycare. Mom went back to work after a brief maternity leave. I've been in at-home care, "institutional" care, after school programs, and was then a latch-key kid once I was old enough. We lived in a nice house and were very fortunate to have financial stability, from what I could tell. We didn't have fancy vacations or expensive toys, but neither were we hard up for much of anything.

I can tell you that I never once thought my parents were choosing a big house or nice cars over spending time with me. I always thought, Mom and Dad go to work, I go to day care/school. We all had "jobs" in my mind.

I don't feel like my care providers raised me - my parents did. I knew other kids had moms that stayed home, I was never jealous, actually more just curious. I never felt neglected or unwanted. Although mom or dad had to go on business trips, or stay late for meetings, I never thought that meant I came second. I always knew family came first in a million other ways - I saw them work their butts off to have dinner as a family almost every night, they planned family outings on the weekends, they helped us with our music/sports, they created a home filled with laughter and love. It's cheesy, but it's true.

I think I turned out just fine. I have a great education, great job, and a happy marriage. But, that's not really the point - the point is that there is a whole world of real people raised in a gazillion different ways, and I'm guessing that the factors determining their self esteem or happiness in life has little or nothing to do with if their parents worked.


Posted by: Happy Child of Daycare | October 12, 2006 1:42 PM

In order to get into the school-based GT program in Fairfax County a child needs to achieve "advanced proficiency" scoring on the Virginia SOL's.>>>

Standardized testing only shows that a child is good at taking a standardized test. They now based gifted programs on this?! WOW! How times have changed since I was a kid.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 1:44 PM

I'm going to add a different angle that I'm surprised hasn't really come up here. The posters are arguing about what kids think or feel about their parents working or staying at home. It seems like people are really projecting a lot of feelings onto their kids. Well, what about YOUR experiences?

I am a child of daycare. Mom went back to work after a brief maternity leave. I've been in at-home care, "institutional" care, after school programs, and was then a latch-key kid once I was old enough. We lived in a nice house and were very fortunate to have financial stability, from what I could tell. We didn't have fancy vacations or expensive toys, but neither were we hard up for much of anything.

I can tell you that I never once thought my parents were choosing a big house or nice cars over spending time with me. I always thought, Mom and Dad go to work, I go to day care/school. We all had "jobs" in my mind.

I don't feel like my care providers raised me - my parents did. I knew other kids had moms that stayed home, I was never jealous, actually more just curious. I never felt neglected or unwanted. Although mom or dad had to go on business trips, or stay late for meetings, I never thought that meant I came second. I always knew family came first in a million other ways - I saw them work their butts off to have dinner as a family almost every night, they planned family outings on the weekends, they helped us with our music/sports, they created a home filled with laughter and love. It's cheesy, but it's true.

I think I turned out just fine. I have a great education, great job, and a happy marriage. But, that's not really the point - the point is that there is a whole world of real people raised in a gazillion different ways, and I'm guessing that the factors determining their self esteem or happiness in life has little or nothing to do with if their parents worked.


Posted by: Happy Child of Daycare | October 12, 2006 1:44 PM

Final one for today...

I acknowledge the generalizations inherent in my postings. Generalizations by nature leave our exceptions, unique circmstances, and cases that don't fit. We can occasionally find things in them of value nonetheless.

Thought I'd offer why I am so sensitive about this topic. Without getting too much more into specifics, I am a local elected official where I live (not don't groan, so us are truly masochistic enough believe in public service!) In this role, you end up feeling as though you take on all the problems of those you serve, and end up sort of being Mommy/Daddy to your whole community. (Ironically, these feeling was even wrose when I was President of my HOA--another long subject ;-)

In slaying the dragons of others that you serve, you often wonder if you leave the dragons at home alone. Sort of like the lawn service guy who doesn't mow his own yard often enough, or the painter who's house paint is peeling. The point is that I see the results of parent/family relationships, and unfortunately too frequently see both the subtle and blatant examples of how kids deal with not being the priority they deserve.

And while my own kids say they are proud of me for what I do and the time I spend doing it, I always have an (Irish Catholic alter boy upbringing) nag on my shoulder asking me if I do enough for my own kids.

For instance, one of my pasions is getting a no smoking ordinance passed for my town. My little town is setting up to copy the ordinance of Houston that is begin debated next week. Houston council is being set upon by interests that want to water down the current language. I am considering taking time off work next week to go address the Houston council, to try and get the ordinanace to be as strong as I can. If I do so, I take vacation time that I could otherwise spend with my family. I can come up with lots of clever arguments to convince me that's the right thing, but in the end the undeniable result is that my kids and spouse lose some of my time.

So honestly, my "gross generalization" above was really more to say that we should all look at our rationalizations about why whatever we do that detracts from our kids may be justifiable, but it is still a cost paid.

And some times the look in my kids eyes when I've gotten too busy reminds me that the trade-offs are often less valuable than I originally judged them to be.

I hope this helps explain my tunnel vision on this topic a bit more. Not to mention my glaring masochistic stupidity... :~)

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 12, 2006 1:45 PM

I'm a bit late, but I concur with the earlier post about Infant-Toddler Family Child Care based in Fairfax. We don't have family close by, but after two children with the same wonderful provider, I feel almost like I do! I would highly recommend pursuing I-T as a possible option to anyone looking for high quality child care.

RE: houses...we live in a very small house and I can definitely see its advantages for families (with small children), for example, I can see our two boys playing in their BR or in the LR while I get ready in the bathroom. Master BR is basically the attic while the kids sleep on main floor, and always have - even when babies. It worked fine, even with nursing. But, we barely fit in our kitchen to eat a meal anymore, which is the real problem.

Posted by: telecommutingmom | October 12, 2006 1:50 PM

This blog reminds me of an article I read in the NYTimes magazine a few months ago. It was about an RN in the south (Louisiana, perhaps?) who drove around a rural area and took care of very young, poor moms who were pregnant or had young children. She offered advice and prenatal care, and checked on the status of the moms and children both. It was a state gov't program (barely any money, of course). The state of poverty was unreal, and just getting these mothers to take proper care of their babies was difficult, but in some cases, she did have a positive impact.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 12, 2006 1:53 PM

To Texas Dad of 2:

You may want to learn how to spell "altar" before you come up with the clever arguments....

Posted by: George | October 12, 2006 1:53 PM

Texas Dad of 2:

Thanks for explaining yourself further. I would suggest those kids would never be a big priority to their parents, regardless of work/home circumstances. Basically, bad parenting comes down to bad parenting, not because of day care choice, working or being a SAHP.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 12, 2006 1:54 PM

To Texas Dad of 2

That's similar to why I'm not involved in the kids' PTA like I should be. I'm gone from them all day. The last thing I want to do when I come home is to leave them to go to a meeting. But that means I'm not pulling my weight at school . . . (which really needs parental involvement). Tonight I'm going to a meeting over school boundaries, though, because it's a situation where I think each additional voice may make a difference.

Didn't mean to be so negative. But I just think that if kids really know you want to spend the time you have with them, they won't feel unwanted. I'm in a weird situation where I know I'm working so we can have the extras, but I'm not the one who wants us both to work so we can have them. My husband wants me to work and I can't quit without our selling our house to move somewhere else. Can't see doing that now anyway that the kids are in school, but it bothered me that I couldn't stay home for a long time, and there's no way I can look them in the eye and tell them we really need the money. But I can't help but think they know that our family is the most valuable part of my life, even though I can't honestly tell them that I have to work for us to get by. Right now the current story is that I'm working to save for their college education. So, needless to say, your post stating that kids will feel unwanted if their parents work when they don't have to hit a nerve. Particuarly since I've run into a few SAHMs who seem extremely anxious to get their kids out of the house during school breaks.

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 1:56 PM

To Rebecca: I know the article you're talking about. It was in the New Yorker, not the NYT, and yeah, the poverty was astonishing.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 1:58 PM

Happy Child of Daycare makes some good points. We're projecting a lot of our own feelings onto our children.

Happy's post got me to thinking: about how my Dad worked all the time when I was growing up, never was home for dinner, etc. And yet, I love him, never doubted his love for me, and I've always been extremely grateful for all the opportunities his hard work paid for (private piano lessons, a trip to Europe, fully paid college ed.) It never occurred to me that he wasn't putting his family first or that I should feel cheated out of "quality time." That's just the way it was in my family (Mom worked too, but not such long hours), and I've never felt bad about it.

Probably our kids are smarter than we think -- they can eventually understand the big picture of why mom and daddy make certain choices. As long as our intentions are good, we parents should stop agonizing about the day-to-day implementation!

Posted by: Another Happy Child | October 12, 2006 1:59 PM

Anon 11:55, I explore the irritants around the word 'babysit' b/c I care about my wife and I want to understand why it bothers her.

Maybe there is no 'real' answer, but what I've gotten from examining it here breaks down into two categories: (1) An affirmation that synonyms exist - missing the point and (2) the assertion that babysitting is time-constrained - which I concede.

And my words, even those quoted by you, display no devaluation of child-rearing. Again, you project your own bias onto my words, which I would bet is an ongoing problem in your world.

Your notion that words matter is unchallenged by me. I agree. What I disputed was whether my use of the term (playing) was a normally accepted colloquialism. You, on the other hand, attempt to analogize my slip with someone who "slips" and tosses out a racial slur. Thats a huge reach. But probably not for someone who professes to be able to discover "contempt for childrearing" in others based upon his sincere attempt to understand the sensitivity around a term to describe same.

Get help.

Posted by: anon 9:56 | October 12, 2006 2:02 PM

"Right now the current story is that I'm working to save for their college education."

Is this necessarily a "story?" Could you fund their college educations if you quit working? Could you also say that you and Dad have decided that it's not fair to put all the burden of supporting the family onto him?

My mom quit work for around 12 years when I was born. I was very very happy when she went back to work; having time in the house by myself when I got home from school was awesome. God, how I loved it. Now she is supporting herself and my dad, who took early retirement after a stroke, a heart attack, and a buy-out. She wishes she made more money.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 2:02 PM

Texas dad of 2 you are popular today. I agree with some, but not all of what you said.

Please, can we agree that it's not neccessary to point out spelling errors. It just makes me feel that people don't want to adress issues so they use that as a "you are stupid argument" Come on, maybe someone has a reason they can't spell like dyslexia (sp) or like me they just suck at it. :)

Posted by: scarry | October 12, 2006 2:02 PM

I should have said SOL scores are one way children are evaluated for GT classes. Sorry!

Posted by: gifted and talented | October 12, 2006 2:02 PM

I am the mom of a 7 month old and starting checking out these discussions a few months ago when I came back to work, in search of some tips, ideas and life lessons I could apply to my new life as a "Working Mom." Unfortunately, so many of the topics seem to hedge into personal debates and angry snarling. Is this how we find 'balance...' by working ourselves up on a daily basis over topics that could be debated forever? I'm finding the best roads to balance are lots of deep breaths, thoughtful communication with my husband, and a year's worth of kisses and cuddles with my baby every day. I'm finding I get frustrated and dissapointed in our community, and lose my sense of balance when I read a lot of these discussions too much. Not to be a overly idealistic, but I'd love to come to a place like this for a sense of community in raising children, not a forum for questioning every word choice each poster presents.

I apologize for the off topic/big picture nature of this post, and did not write this in any way to offend previous contributers, rather to voice my dissapointment and perhaps even confusion as to what "On balance" is about.

Posted by: Dissapointed | October 12, 2006 2:03 PM

I just wanted to say that I've been really blessed by the discussion today. Thanks to you guys I'm seeing some things in a different (better!) light.

Sorry I've posted so much today - slow day at work ;-)

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 2:03 PM

I'm not a big fan of making judgments about how other people raise their kids. The temperament of the parents and the children is half the battle here. Plus these temperaments are shared half the time! A parent who is too lonely staying home with the kids is often the parent of a child who is actively looking for social outlets anyway. Both of these individuals are better served with the kid in care. (In my case, I am the gregarious one and my shy wife stays home. Unfortunately for us we have one gregarious kid and one shy kid ... my wife and the shy one are constantly battling the outgoing sister who always wants to get out. Everyone's happier when my eldest is in school.)

When Brian raises the issue of what happens inside homes, there are only a few things I'm willing to weigh in on. Dealing well with divorce is something others have mentioned. Also I think we are too quick to dismiss kids' needs for stability. I'm thinking of employers who insist on families' relocating frequently (and I include the armed services here -- don't we all know 'army brats' who are totally damaged by moving too much as kids?). Also employers are also on my list when they do not respect the 40-hour work week and thus effectively cause their employees to miss dinner with their kids or keep the kids up late if they want to dine together.

Posted by: james | October 12, 2006 2:04 PM

to dotted:
The study you mentions the figure of unintended pregnancies being 49% in 1994.

quote from the article:
"Excluding miscarriages, 49% of the pregnancies concluding in 1994 were unintended"

Over half of the unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Presumably few intended pregnancies end in abortion. So it means that 22% of the live births are unplanned, even though they were a much higher percentage of the original pregnancies.

to alex mom:

Fairfax county's website gives average price ranges for family care vs. day care center. Generally the Family care is cheaper, but still a significant cost.

Do you have co-worker's who use home day care or have neighbors who provide it? If you go to church, or have friends that do, you might be able to find someone that way. Do you know any stay-at-home mom's? They also know of someone who provides in-home day care.

I have my almost 2 year old daughter in an in-home day care. It is larger than most(12 young children), because the owner hires two helpers. I think it provides more personal attention like a traditional in home day care and interaction with peers like a day care center. Unfortunately I do not know of any other similar situations. I found out about it through a co-worker who knew a friend of the owner from her church.

Posted by: East Falls Church dad | October 12, 2006 2:05 PM

The spell checking/editing was truly horrendous in my last posting...sorry. I'm a bit rushed today, and will have to read any remaining posts tomorrow.

I'll be happy to start a write in campaign to get WaPo to add a spell checker button, though... :~)

But thanks for the English lesson, George. Always the helpful one, I see...and don't worry, I feel thoroughly chastened now.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 12, 2006 2:05 PM

To the person who told about the gifted and talented programs in Fairfax County - your information is incorrect. When my daughter was put in the program is was a combination of test scores for aptitude (not SOL's), teacher recommendations, optional parent recommendations (the county web page with the requirements is http://www.fcps.edu/DIS/gt/identification.htm)
As for Algerbra - it can be taken in the 7th grade, and this is where the SOL's come in, in addition to the apptitude test the child must score with advanced proficiency on the 8th grade SOL.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 12, 2006 2:06 PM

"don't we all know 'army brats' who are totally damaged by moving too much as kids?"

I don't. As a matter of fact, I know one guy whose three kids have lived in KS, MA, VA, HI, and are now in Germany; the oldest is about 9. I hope my kids turn out a fraction as smart, witty, engaging, and loving as his kids are.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 2:08 PM

Divorced mom of 1, please see my follow-up e-mail. My child is taking algebra in 6th grade in a Fairfax County Public School. I should have put the FCPS link here, thanks for doing so.

Posted by: gifted and talented | October 12, 2006 2:13 PM

To Texas Dad of 2

The irony is that the only misspelled word in that post was a word you should have learned how to spell many years ago...

Posted by: George | October 12, 2006 2:15 PM

My kids is gifted with my fists if they dont beehave.

Posted by: Mom of 14 | October 12, 2006 2:19 PM

gifted and talented - our posts crossed (things got posted while I was typing)

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 12, 2006 2:27 PM

"Is this necessarily a "story?" Could you fund their college educations if you quit working? Could you also say that you and Dad have decided that it's not fair to put all the burden of supporting the family onto him?"

Right on the first count, now that the children are out of day care. Before they were out of day care we had no extra money to go towards college, so it seemed like I was just working to pay for day care and a higher standard of living (bigger house)than I thought we needed. (My stupidity for wanting a big house before having kids.)

Right on the second count also, though I did not feel that way for a long time. And it's hard to explain that to little ones. The biggest mistake I've made is to let them know at all I wanted to stay home with them. Before they were in school they had no friends with SAHPs, so it was perfectly natural to them that we both worked. (Well, my son asked quite a lot why we had to go to work and he had to go to school.) The biggest obstacle has been my own insecurity and unhappiness about it. So I've probably screwed them up more by not wanting to work and letting them know how unhappy I am about it, than they would've otherwise been by being in day care, even if Texas Dad of 2 was completely correct!

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 2:28 PM

Another good term for a dad that babysits his kids is "Brat Saddled". Phonetically, it's a pretty catchy phrase, and besides if a dad has ever crawled around his house on all fours with a kid on his back that swats him on the hindquarters, kicks him in the stomach, and say "giddi Up", he has most definately earned the right to use the term. Fair enough?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 12, 2006 2:35 PM

LOL, Fo4! :)

Posted by: Jen | October 12, 2006 2:39 PM

Dissappointed said "Not to be a overly idealistic, but I'd love to come to a place like this for a sense of community in raising children, not a forum for questioning every word choice each poster presents."

I understand your point - sometimes there is a lot of vitriol here - although in my opinion today is one of the most civil days we've had on here.

Anyway, in terms of looking for more supportive online community for working mothers, I've really been thinking about that. A blog isn't really sufficient. There are some online communities that address parenting(ivillage comes to mind) but there isn't one that really addresses the needs of working parents. I'm in the process of setting one up - my plan is to have a site with articles and blogs written by working parents of all stripes and a myriad of discussion forums. I will keep you all posted.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 12, 2006 2:40 PM

The distinction between parents who have to work vs. parents who both want to work is a spurious way to seem non-judgemental while actually being judgemental as heck. I've heard that condescending, smug "Oh well, if you *have* to work, I *totally* respect that, *of course*." used in reference to my own hard-working single mom (by her own family members). The implication is, "poor thing, I'm so sorry your forced into a clearly inferior situation". Also implied is a lack of respect for anyone who has free choice and simply choses a different arrangment from yours. Funny thing is, while I spent plenty of time in numerous day care centers and with baby sitters (not all of them great), I'm the first person in my family to get a master's degree, I'm working in a well paying job and financially secure and I'm in a loving marriage. Guess daycare didn't screw me up that much.

I was actually incredibly inspired by my working Mom. Lots of other single moms I knew growing up were fixated on finding a husband to support them and lamented their single situation; my Mom bootstrapped it largely on her own, never fixated on finding a man (and when she found one, didn't look to him for salvation) and made a success of herself and created a better life for both of us. When I think of my childhood, I can't even remember the name of most babysitters I had and I only have fuzzy memories of daycare-- but my Mom looms large in every way. In addition to my good qualities, I got most of my bad habits from her, too-- she was the biggest influence in every way, even if I never saw her between 8 and 5:30 on weekdays.

I agree with all those, including Rebeldad, who've said that parental modeling and the home environment are the key factors. The childcare arrangment, as long as it's safe and healthy for the child and working for your family, is fairly incidental in my opinion. No kid ever grew up wrecked because his Nanny didn't say "I love you enough" or because the daycare provider missed his graduation. (That being said, I'm sure I'll obsess about my work arrangments and the childcare for my little one due in March-- but parental obsessing doesn't necessarily have anything to do with facts :o)

Posted by: JKR | October 12, 2006 2:42 PM

spell cheker's :)

Firefox will have a built in spell checker in version 2.0

There is a plug-in for Internet explorer(iespell) that works in the browser. It is free for personal use.

Posted by: East Falls Church dad | October 12, 2006 2:43 PM

You can also type your response in word, spell check it and copy and paste it over. Typos don't bother me, I always know what most of the people are trying to say.

Posted by: scarry | October 12, 2006 2:50 PM

For the anonymous poster who thinks that loving center is an oxymoron, you should visit the daycare center my daughter attends. They are terribly upset every day we keep her home due to a doctor's visit or family travel. When she is home sick, both she and her head teacher light up when they see each other upon her return. I would stay home if we could afford it, but since that isn't possible, then I'm glad my child spends her day with people who love her and take pleasure in her growth and development. Is it still hard to leave her every single day? Absolutely. But there's some solace in knowing she's in good hands.

The sooner we advocate for more part-time professional work and telecommuting and create babysitting co-ops that allow parents to work part-time more easily and efficiently, without spending a ton on childcare, the faster we will all gain balance. Until I can create that reality for myself and others, I'll keep my daughter at her loving center and be incredibly grateful for it.

Posted by: restonmom | October 12, 2006 2:51 PM

"My aunt was a second grade teacher for many years and had a way of dealing with parents who felt their extra-gifted child needed extra-special attention."

I've always thought that one of the best classroom solutions to having bored, bright kids in with slower learners is that the bright kids could help the slower kids in a kind of peer-tutoring way. The slower kids would get extra academic attention, and the bright kids would learn to share their gifts and develop patience with others less able than they. And both groups would learn to feel more comfortable with one another.

Posted by: pittypat | October 12, 2006 2:52 PM


Shandra (and a few earlier posters who took up this tone) ---

Great post!

Let me think of some of the specific things I do in interacting with my kids, to purposefully model healthy/kind/thoughtful behaviors:

This is particular to both my own and my oldest daughter's personalities, we both tend to be perfectionists, mortified by our own mistakes. I have made it a point since she was a toddler to acknowledge my mistakes readily, with humor and a light heart, saying and gesturing expressively and cheerfully, "Dumb old mommy! *What* was I thinking?!" or "Now that was silly!" or the like when I make some incidental goof. I want her to internalize that the world doesn't end when you make a mistake, that you're still lovable and happy and you. I also emphasize things like learning to play a new song on the piano, you start by making lots of mistakes but through practice and persisting through the mistakes you get better . . . she's an amazing artist (really, outside awards here, not just proud non-artist mom speaking) who has self-taught herself from hours of working with drawing books, she loves it, and this has helped her through some frustrating stages when her project doesn't come out the way she visualized, and she crumples it in exasperation . . . seeing mom make mistakes and take them in stride really helps . . . in fact seeing mom make mistakes when we play duets together really makes her loosen up and enjoy beginning piano a lot more :-)

In the same vein, important to me as I grew up in an authoritarian family where adults were always right (but only because 'might makes right'), I readily acknowledge when I was wrong or thoughtless in something I did/decided for the kids. I get down at their level and really apologize. I explain that I am sorry and that I just didn't think or realize xxxx which they are bringing to my attention, and try to do what I can to make up for it. I try my best to always treat them with respect and not trample over their prerogatives, and when I have inadvertantly trespassed I admit it and ask their forgiveness, just as when they harm someone (on purpose or not) I expect them to take responsibility, to apologize and help make it better.

I was quite a stoic in terms of open affection before kids, but with my kids my heart is on my sleeve, I am very openly affectionate in both words and hugs, etc. Although I mean to be, it really just pours out. It is the most reflexive thing in the world for me to admire and show affection to and interest in my kids.

I try never to say a reflexive 'no' out of sheer laziness, of not wanting to change my expected plan or generate a mess to clean up later or take a risk. I try to open myself to those possibilities and instead clean up later, or spot my child as she climbs high, etc. (I will tell my kids not now if I really am too tired or can't shift attention/time right now, but I try to say yes when, on second thought, there's no reason but preconception or laziness preventing a yes)

I try never to raise or harshen my voice in anger, and if I do have to yell or be stern, the only words I allow myself to yell are their names, the only things I say sternly are facts (stating what happened, repeating it calmly but firmly for my wishful in-denial girl), rules, and reasons, e.g "It is not ok to xxx. It is never ok to .. ." I totally refrain from characterizing/labeling their personality or behavior when I am angry (i.e. no words like liar, mean, selfish, you get the gist). I emphasize that I always love them but we simply don't tolerate xxx in our family, we all deserve a family that treats each other respectfully and follows the rules.

I don't denigrate either child by negative comparisons to each other.

I allow absolutely no namecalling, even by play guests. I say "In our house we don't do or say hurtful things." (Very hard for me to correct someone else's child, but on this I am resolute.)

Of course, we do loads of reading and talking and shared passions together.

One thing I really wish I did better was structure and routine, it doesn't come easy to me (bedtimes and mealtimes seem to naturally slip in my universe) but it really benefits my youngest, she seems to thrive on structure . . . and both kids would appreciate a cleaner house, and especially a dog, which I just can't manage . . .

Posted by: KB | October 12, 2006 2:57 PM

"I've always thought that one of the best classroom solutions to having bored, bright kids in with slower learners is that the bright kids could help the slower kids in a kind of peer-tutoring way."

A lot of people think this, and it is almost always a terrible idea. Children are not in school to serve as unpaid tutors for slower kids; they are there to learn. If they learn quickly, they should be given more material, not be made to go over it with the slower children. Moreover, the fact that a kid understands a concept doesn't mean that she'll be able to explain it in a way that a less intelligent peer will understand. The quality of "instruction" offered by this kind of peer tutoring is pretty uniformly poor.

Lastly it also sets up a very unhealthy dynamic between the kids who tutor and the kids who get tutored. There are ways to try to mitigate that dynamic, but it's better and smarter just to avoid the situation in the first place.

The administration where my husband teaches is very big on the idea of peer tutoring. He resists it strenuously. It is an okay idea - not a great idea - in theory and is pretty much always dreadful in practice.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 3:00 PM

"Come on, maybe someone has a reason they can't spell like dyslexia (sp) or like me they just suck at it. :)"

It's a little-known fact that Einstein was pretty much incapable of spelling accurately. It's an overrated skill.

I love the t-shirt message I saw a few years ago:

BAD SPELLERS OF THE WORLD: UNTIE!

Posted by: pittypat | October 12, 2006 3:03 PM

First I would like to apologize to everyone for this, essentially private, conversation. I think it's ending soon or now.

Anon 9:56,

Let ME start by apologizing. If you honestly thought I was trying to equate you calling yourself a babysitter with being a racist or even an unintentional racist, I truly apologize. What I was trying to do is illustrate that when words hurt someone or anger someone, caring people recognize the hurt, try to apologize and then FIND OTHER WORDS to express their ideas.

I applaud your desire to work with your wife to figure out why the word babysitter in this context bothers her. I only meant to suggest that since it does, you figure out a different word in the meantime. And that is the only reason for the quote I used, not to document my impression that you see parenting as a part-time sort of thing that you deign to do, for which I used the word "contempt" (more on that later).

I also realize that the expression "playing the role of..." is a colloquialism, i.e. conversational language, but that doesn't change the fact, in my mind at least, and apparently in the opinions of your wife and others here, it simply is NOT a synonym for parenting. The time-constraint implied by babysitting is hours or maybe even days. Parenting actually never ends. Once a mom, a mom until death, once a dad, a dad until college? Doesn't sound right, does it? However, this is implied by your own words:

"I acknowledge Megan's assertion that some folks do stand on the portion of the definition that implies that babysitters are temporary. But that's factually correct given that as (s)he gets older (s)he won't need a babysitter."

I ask you some simple questions. Does any mother in your circle of family/acquaintences think of what they do as babysitting? Why not? What does that imply about how nearly every woman actually interprets the word?
In my first response to you I explicitly stated: "Your children are learning your contempt for childrearing (my perception, which could well be wrong) when you describe yourself this way." Note that while I used harsh words, I admitted that this was my IMPRESSION, not a fact that I know. You, on the other hand, used a number of expressions to imply that I'm not capable of introspection, "Again, you project your own bias onto my words, which I would bet is an ongoing problem in your world," and mentally unsound, "you (sic)superiority complex" and "Get help." Please let me know how these expressions encourage anyone to take you seriously, or disprove my point, for that matter.

I do apologize for the word "contempt" which probably was the cause of all your emotional response. Words that strong are, at best, awkward on a blog, and that was definitely my own very bad judgement call.

Posted by: Anon 11:55 | October 12, 2006 3:13 PM

In our family we make an effort to walk that treacherous fine line between support encouragement and discipline.

"No! Dont! Stop!" When invoked at high volume, and repeated in order, is the most effective communication and educational tool for the upbringing of all children.

Especially ours as they are tifted and galanted, and of superior eye queue, intelligence and firepower. They are better than your kids because I made my wife abandon all professional ambition and become a hummer mom.

Projecting? Both my parents were lawyers who commuted to NYC. I didnt marry a lawyer, dont want my kids raised by nannies.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 12, 2006 3:15 PM

... beacause ninnies cant teach my kids the proper way to pour a draught off the CO2 powered beer dispenser.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 12, 2006 3:18 PM

KB

If your kids REALLY REALLY want a dog, see if you can work out something. Your kids forget a lot of stuff, but they will NEVER forget the void in their lives created by the denial of a much wanted pet.

Posted by: June | October 12, 2006 3:20 PM

"don't we all know 'army brats' who are totally damaged by moving too much as kids?"

Actually - all the military Brats I know are really well-adjusted. My husband is one - they moved 4 times before he was 10 and then they settled in Northern VA. Both of my neighbors across the street are "brats" and they loved moving around - both settled here when their parents retired. My friends 3 kids - 12, 10 and 8 are great kids, great manners - they have been in Florida, Iceland, London and finishing up in TX. Not a huge sample but that's my experience.

Posted by: CMAC | October 12, 2006 3:23 PM

Sam, I'm sure your kids know exactly how much you love them, and they will not be screwed up by knowing you're upset about working.

My mom was extremely depressed when I was a child, and she worked and was conflicted about that too, and she is the most loving mother a person could ask for. I've never in my life doubted that she loved me more than anything. I may well have been confused by her emotions when I was a kid, or worried, I don't really remember. What I remember is how much she cared for me and all the things she did for me. I know that she made an effor to hide her depression when I was really little, but when I was in junior high and high school she became more honest about it and talked about her treatment and seeing her learn how to deal with her illness and her emotions was a great learning experience for me. She is an inspiration and a great mother and we are still very close.

If you love your kids, they know.

Posted by: sad mom, happy child | October 12, 2006 3:24 PM

sad mom, happy child--that is a truly touching story. Thanks for sharing that we can love parents who aren't "perfect."

When my siblings and I get together we frequently gripe about our mom. Let's just say that she is capable of "the mom look" across 2,000 miles of phone lines!

But she is turning 70 soon, and we've decided to give her a video/DVD of all of us thanking her for things she's done for us, and values she's modelled. Our first plan was to end up with 70 "gratefuls." That had to go out the window when we realized we were up to 200 and couldn't drop any of them!

Again, thanks for your story!

Posted by: touched... | October 12, 2006 3:31 PM

speaking of child care, how much can a couple take out before taxes for their flexble spending account. Is it 5,000 a piece.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 3:31 PM

So, Texas Dad of 2, le tme see if I have this straight. Your criticizing people who don't "have" to work, whatever that means, because it means their kids will see that their not loved, but the reason your being so critical of others is because you are doing something that you don't have to do that takes time away from your kids and you feel guilty? What? Keep your judgments to yourself next time then. If you can't feel confident that your kids know you love them and are in fact learning an important lesson about community service by your work, then theres no need to take that out on other working parents by making it sound like their kids will all doubt that they loved them because they didn't make the same choices you did.

Posted by: huh | October 12, 2006 3:35 PM

Re FSAs, I think it's $5,000 per family.

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 3:37 PM

Thanks sad mom, happy child

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 3:39 PM

Thanks sad mom, happy child

Posted by: Sam | October 12, 2006 3:39 PM

I think the best childcare situation is the one that makes the family (parents included) happy. A big reason I stay home with the kids is that my husband and I aren't really high-energy people. For me, its a lot easier to put up with the isolation and find my own intellectual stimulation than to work a full day, then come home and do all the house stuff (yes, my husband contributes, but still...)

If we couldn't afford my staying home, I am certain we would have fewer kids.

It's hard to parent well when you're stressed out. I've known quite a few moms who are substantially less stressed when they are employed outside the home.

Maybe, recognizing the different needs parents have, we can all stop talking about who "needs" to work? As if it weren't a nosy question about someone else's finances.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 12, 2006 3:40 PM

To George, it's a good thing you were able to crow about his spelling since you can't fault his logic.

Posted by: Rufus | October 12, 2006 3:41 PM

"A lot of people think this, and it is almost always a terrible idea. Children are not in school to serve as unpaid tutors for slower kids; they are there to learn. If they learn quickly, they should be given more material, not be made to go over it with the slower children."

It is a terrible idea! All this does is reduce the amount of learning that the faster kids are allowed to do. Having them act as tutors is not only a task for which they are unprepared but it's boring as hell for them.

Posted by: Rufus | October 12, 2006 3:48 PM

"My infant daughter (6.5 mo) is in an "institutional day care". I love that place. The people that work there are caring and conscientious, and really seem to love my daughter. I was more comfortable with this than I was with in-home care because I didn't know the in-home people and I knew she would be with just 1 person (maybe 2 on occasion) all day."
To MaryB - Bingo! That's exactly how I feel.
There are many benefits to the in-home care situation and the nanny situation (assuming you can actually find a nanny), but also, I concluded, too many risks for my comfort. I resisted the in-home care option for my kids, despite many recommendations from other parents. Even if you have a great care provider, you never know when her/his meth-addicted or boozing cousin or ex will show up to disrupt things, for example. (Maybe more of a risk where I live because we have a LOT of flaky people around here, including some who are connected to perfectly responsible people.) I concluded that the so-called "institutional" option was far better for our family because there many specific regulations and laws that must be followed, there are detailed licensing requirements, there are outside inspections and there are enough workers to give each other breaks when needed. There are also some pretty firm rules that parents have to adhere to, or else they risk losing their kids' spots. (In my case, I wound up sending my kids to in-demand Montessori preschool programs -- expensive and lots of rules for me to follow, as well as the caregivers, but worth the peace of mind. My decision might have been different if the "institutional" options were lousy.)
Two specific downsides of the structured preschool-type option are: lack of flexibility (drop-off and pick-up times are firm; there's no weekend or evening care; you have to get organized to get the kid out of the house on a specific schedule) and, probably the biggest, more exposure to germs. The germ-passing vectors are multiplied when there are more kids in contact with each other; there's just no avoiding that.

Posted by: anon mom | October 12, 2006 3:50 PM

"I have my almost 2 year old daughter in an in-home day care. It is larger than most(12 young children), because the owner hires two helpers. I think it provides more personal attention like a traditional in home day care and interaction with peers like a day care center. Unfortunately I do not know of any other similar situations."

To my mind, this is THE best care situation. There's another small in-home center like this in Wheaton (suburban MD). We've done two larger centers and this small in-home one with our two kids, and while we had nothing in particular against the larger centers, the one in Wheaton was the best. It gives kids, especially infants, the closeness of an in-home provider, but you have the backup and accountability of multiple caretakers. I like the idea of in-home one-person care, but the lack of accountability--even if they're licensed by the state--makes me nervous. Also, in a smaller infant/toddler center, you don't get the "germ pool" from school-age kids that attend before and after care in larger centers. Except, of course, one of the infants/toddlers may well have an older sibling in school. :)

We became close friends with the manager of this center. She even took care of our oldest overnight when our next was born.

And Sam's right on the flexible spending, it's $5,000.00 per family annually. Like that even comes close to covering full-time care for one kid in most parts of the country!

Posted by: niner | October 12, 2006 3:50 PM

Ihave to agree with Rufus, I also think it is demeaning to the other children. What makes someone gifted anyway! The star of the football team is gifted, the fast runner is gifted, the poet is gifted. It's all a matter of opinion. I think if they want to set up a peer tutoring groups that kids can go to if they want, that's different, but kids shouldn't have to do it, either way.

Posted by: scarry | October 12, 2006 3:53 PM

Is anyone else using Firefox being told that they're a spambot and unable to post?

Posted by: niner | October 12, 2006 3:54 PM

East Falls church Dad:
Since all the conversation is about caring for children, and children are alive, one doesn't count miscarriages, abortions etc. in computing the unplanned children rate.

mother of two unplanned, surprise-just-this-once-wont-matter, children (ha ha ha)

laugh, you know you want to.

Posted by: dotted | October 12, 2006 3:55 PM

I am both a former day care kid (all kinds - in home, kindercare type places, etc) and military brat. All kids learn to adapt and in the original vein of Brian's question it comes from the home environment. My parents worked to make every house we had a home (the joke was that the "stuff" was the same, it was just the position of the 4 walls that changed!) and instill confidence in me. After one move this meant catching me up to my classmates in math mid-school year and making me realize I with a little hard work upfront I would be on the same track as my new peers. I never really thought about why or how long they worked because I felt safe and loved.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 12, 2006 3:56 PM

I completely agree with Restonmom, MaryB and anon mom about high-quality daycare! One additional advantage is that by not relying on one individual to provide care, you rarely have to worry about unexpectedly having no care when the provider is sick. This is not a trivial issue if you work for a company with an inflexible attitude toward life emergencies. However, some individual providers will take care of a sick child when a daycare absolutely WON'T. Guess this is yet another compromise.

Oh, and about the germs. My son has just started public school, and the principal said she can always tell which kids did daycare since infancy because they don't go home sick during the first few months of their first year. Obviously a generalization, but she's been a principal for over 30 years. I'm very interested to know if the underlying observation (the kids have already gotten the regular colds) is true.

Posted by: another librarian mom | October 12, 2006 4:00 PM

Scarry,

What makes someone gifted really isn't a matter of opinion, but a matter of that someone performing or achieving at levels far superior to their peers with thier "given" talents. And yes, it's a bad idea (in my opinion) to make them teach the "less gifted".

Posted by: Gifted kidz r better than u | October 12, 2006 4:02 PM

Dotted, my best friend's two kids are both unplanned. Her slightly irritated comment, when she found out about the second was, "good grief, we plan our vacations with more care than this!" And ya know what? I think she's right about a lot of us.

As it turns out, both kids are great and very much loved. Wait...are they yours???

Posted by: laughing out loud! | October 12, 2006 4:05 PM

I see your point but if one kid can out run another kid in a race, then isn't he more gifted than the other kid.

I just feel that while it's okay to recognize people's abilities and accomplishments, why do the kids all have to be labeled?

Posted by: scarry | October 12, 2006 4:06 PM

Sam, you're welcome.

Posted by: sad mom, happy child | October 12, 2006 4:12 PM

Wow...lots to sift through.

One caution here. Many people here project their own values onto other people's relationships and that is not fair. What may be insulting, belittling, or "wrong" for you may not be the case for another family. Case in point, for those people who don't like the term "babysitting" for a parent taking care of their children, don't use it in your family, but don't judge another family by their use. I do know some female friends who talk about "babysitting" their kids when their spouses are off doing something else. "It's my turn to babysit the kids tonight" which doesn't demean their parenting skills. I also know parents of both genders who say they "play chauffer" or "my turn to be chief cook and bottle washer" or any other "job titles" to describe the various hats they wear *AS PARENTS*. I've seen in publications talk about the various job titles or jobs that encompass being a mother or parent as part chauffer, part babysitter, part cook, etc. These are common references. It's really up to each family to decide how they want to describe themselves. As long as they describe you and your family in terms that you approve of, they deserve the same respect to define or label their own family relationships how they choose.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 12, 2006 4:15 PM

The thing about labels is that sometimes it can help people find the resources they need. There are a lot of personality traits that often go along with being gifted (like perfectionism and being very sensitive-- in the sense of hating tags on their clothes, etc..) Gifted does get used far too often by adults who want to brag about their smart kids, but it can mean a specific group of kids who have their own challenges.

A link with more info about gifted kids:
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/characteristics.htm

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 12, 2006 4:19 PM

YetAnotherSAHM,

Re: your 3:40 posting...bravo...well said.

Your first sentence says it all. I've seen many combinations of WOHP, SAHP or WAHP and the ones with the best family dynamics and the best relationships are the ones that are happy or at least satisfied with their situation. I've seen them all types work well, but working on finding the right balance for the individuals in the family is the most important.

Different parents and children have distinct needs and each family situation requires a unique solution to make it work. I've seen kids that need more attention, less attention, more peer group interaction, less peer group interaction, more/less activities, etc. Also parents that need more/less "me" time, more/less work/activities to be fulfilled, etc. Each child and family is unique, why assume that they need the same solutions?

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 12, 2006 4:28 PM

Curious. Could DadWannaBe actually be our very own Anon 9:56?

If not, then realize that Anon 9:56 actually pointed out that his very own wife, and presumably mother of his children, objected to the term "babysitting" for parenting.

While I find it personally irritating, I wouldn't have tried to explain to him why so many of us do if he had stated something like, "Gee, I call it babysitting when I take care of the kids and my wife thinks that's a riot!"

Certainly every family gets to use their own vocabulary. But would you also be so tolerant if a family regularly referred to their youngest child as "the bloomin' idiot," even if they claimed it was all in good fun? At the risk of being repetitious, words count.

Frankly, both my husband and I sometimes say that it's the other person's turn to "sit on the babies." But since the babies are old enough to ride the Ferris wheel alone, and beg to be sat on for real (come on and try, Mom!), I don't think anyone is terribly damaged by this.

Posted by: Anon 11:55 | October 12, 2006 4:33 PM

Hey Anon 9 whatever, if you're still reading this, another reason your wife might be irritated by it is that usually "babysitting" is something that is done for pay or as a favor. If she's already feeling like she has no time to herself or like she has lost her identity to being a mother (which a lot of new moms go through), it might be aggravating to her to feel like she has to ask you for a favor to get time to herself, as opposed to it just being something you're supposed to do as part of being dad. I think you're smart to try to figure out what's underneath her frustration because if it's become a really big issue there probably is something more to it.

Posted by: honey, I sat on the kids | October 12, 2006 4:42 PM

Alas no. I am not anon 9:56. Many people here and on the Achenblog have heard plenty of my background and it is extremely different from anon 9:56's personal background. I have a wife, but as my nickname suggests, no children as yet, although we are interested.

I agree that words count. However, I read his description of being needled at home differently than you did. In my sphere, needling is often affectionate banter and not necessarily annoyance or a suggestion that something is undesirable. I think it is up to anon 9:56's wife to decide whether she approves or not of his use of the term babysitting.

You read that needling equates to objecting to and I don't think that is accurate. As you say, words count and reading your own interpretation into the word needling and then judging and criticizing him for it is not fair.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 12, 2006 4:47 PM

I'd like to insert a small disagreement with the idea that it's bad to have the kids who understand material help the kids who don't. While situations like that have the potential to be abused (and what situation doesn't?), there are some valuable lessons for the helping kids to learn. When I was asked to help classmates, I gained a deeper understanding of the material because I was forced to explain it, sometimes in many different ways. Not only did I get that deeper understanding because I suddenly had to come at the material from different learning styles, but I also learned to communicate better. Also, "smart" kids are going to have to learn to deal with kids who aren't on the same level as they are in a respectful and constructive way. Helping them out does that. As adults, we often have to deal with people who have different speeds at which they get things, it's important to develop those skills early. Again tutoring situations in schools can be abused, but they aren't necessarily all bad. In my experience, the both kids have a lot to learn from each other.

Posted by: jpd | October 12, 2006 4:52 PM

DadWannaBe--If you both wish for children, I sincerely hope you have them!

You seem very thoughtful and kind. Certainly more likely to assume the best in someone than me (self-deprecating smile).

However a quote from Anon 9:56 indicates that my interpretation of needling wasn't that far off..."I explore the irritants around the word 'babysit' b/c I care about my wife and I want to understand why it bothers her."

On the other hand, you are totally right that I assumed that meaning before I got the extra piece of information. I got lucky, I guess! I'll try to be more careful.

Posted by: Anon 11:55 | October 12, 2006 4:58 PM

jpd, I think you've got a good point but I wonder how old you were then? I was a TA in college and learned much more as a TA than I had as a student in the same class for the very reason you describe - having to explain material requires a much better understanding of it. But it seems like the younger the kids, the less likely they will be able to manage the situation and reap that benefit, though I have no experience to back that up.

Posted by: honey I sat on the kids | October 12, 2006 5:02 PM

The experience I talked about was in elementary through college. I remember starting to do it in thrid grade. The same kids I would help in history and writing were able to help me with math.

Posted by: jpd | October 12, 2006 5:16 PM

I'm very late to the conversation today, but wanted to say:

thank you to sad mom, happy child - I worry how my depression affects my kiddos

And for a different perspective on military brat kids ... I am one of the unhappy ones. I appreciate NOW, all the things I was able to experience. I loved the DoD Dependents Schools. As an introverted kid though, it was misery. I didn't have parents that worked to make each house a home after each move - a lesson in life for me for what to try to not repeat with my kids.

I don't know how to decorate - we never bothered to paint, never bothered to put art on the walls. I try it now ... with mixed results from visitors/critics, lol.

*nauseating personal anecdote alert*
Two schools for 1st grade (two different ones in England).
Three schools for second grade (England, Alabama, Arkansas). After that, preety solid until 5th.
My mom pulled me out of school in 5th grade (Arkansas) when she went on temporary duty for a month and took me with her (to Mississippi). By the time I'd come back, rules had changed and I wasn't allowed to go back to the first school I'd left and had to start a new one. Lovely. 3 schools in one year. After that, I went to my gramma's for a year for 6th grade (Alabama).
I was pulled out of the last month of 6th grade and we moved to Germany - she didn't bother enrolling me in school until 7th grade started. How much fun is summer in a place where you know no one and you're the only person who speaks the language because you're living off post?
7th through 9th - Germany
10th through 11th South Carolina
12th - Germany again - at least I wasn't like one of my friends who had to leave Spring Break of senior year.

I know what I went through is probably nothing compared to what kids in foster care go through.

So back to the main point - when parents make a lifestyle choice OVER their kids, I agree it is a bad thing (such as the example by TexasDadof2 about the dad that didn't want to be bothered with kids and left them in Aftercare - there's a difference between not wanting to be bothered and recognizing your kids enjoy the time spent there). My mom did the best she knew how, but that doesn't make it any easier on me and my issues. She's never been at ease with us kids until after we move out. I think to a certain extent work was her escape.

I'll take that Prozac, Xanax, or Lexapro now, thank you.

Posted by: LGB | October 12, 2006 5:30 PM

"The same kids I would help in history and writing were able to help me with math."

This is qualitatively different from what Pittypat was talking about. She specifically said that an advantage to having mixed-level classes was that the more intelligent students could tutor the slower ones. This isn't differing degrees of ability that can all be grouped under "smart kids;" it's setting up the smart kids in Grade 4 or whatever to tutor the slow kids in Grade 4. This is a bad idea.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 12, 2006 5:43 PM

Re:peer-tutoring

It sounds pretty humiliating for the "slower" kids.

Are the kids invited to join these programs, or are they forced?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 12, 2006 6:23 PM

Good gosh, if my kids were ever stuck peer tutoring, I would pull them out of the school IMMEDIATELY. If my kids were on the receiving end of being peer-tutored, I would pull them out immediately as well.

School is for learning from experts - that'd be the teachers who have to jump through hoops and undergo years of training to do their job. It's **NOT** for a 10-year-old. Either way, I would be highly miffed.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2006 7:28 PM

"and especially a dog"

KB, sounds like you do a lot of wonderful things with your children!

Might I suggest looking into adopting an older dog from a breed-specific or general rescue? They'll be able to tell you a lot about the dog, generally, it'll be housebroken, hopefully someone else has spent time with it, you'll know if it's good with kids. 5+ years old, they're a piece of cake. And your children won't love it or you any less.

Posted by: Fract'l | October 12, 2006 8:19 PM

Agreed with the rescue idea, and also the Washington Humane Society does excellent temperament evaluations and they have shelter in-house training programs for their dogs, as well as some dogs in foster homes.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 12, 2006 11:07 PM

"If your kids REALLY REALLY want a dog, see if you can work out something. Your kids forget a lot of stuff, but they will NEVER forget the void in their lives created by the denial of a much wanted pet."

Where were you when I was a kid and REALLY REALLY wanted a pony? Maybe mom would have given in :o) !!!!

Posted by: petlover | October 12, 2006 11:12 PM

KB - as everyone seems to be telling you to get a dog - are there any reasons you can't get one - allergies, a lease that says no pets, etc. She never said why she wasn't getting one. (if she did I missed it)


Posted by: divorced mom of 1 | October 12, 2006 11:19 PM

I don't know if anyone is going to read these 'words of wit', but I"ll write them anyway. I didn't get to read much of today, but some.

Alex's mom: as a mom who has lived in a one bedroom apt (1 infant), two bedroom apt(one toddler) two bedroom duplex (infant and preschooler), three bedroom townhouse (toddler and preschooler), 4 bedroom rambler(schoolage) and 5 bedroom mcmansion(el and ms), here is my experience. Townhouse, the worst. One bedroom-not great. Two bedroom apt--fair. Two bedroom duplex--good. Rambler-fabulous. Mcmansion--too big. We can be up in our bedroom and not hear the kids in the basement AT ALL. I loved the rambler. Everything was on one floor if you needed it to be (broken leg or something). Now --it's nearly midnight, and I have to climb 30 stairs to go to bed. Another con of having 10 foot ceilings. Just more stairs.

About peer tutoring. Don't knock it. Sometimes it is just easier for a kid to explain something to another kid because they are in their head. Teachers often use vocabulary and examples that have no meaning to students. When I was in algebra 20 years ago, the teacher, while nice and helpful and knew math, sometimes just could not convey the concept. Or maybe it was just me. But the girl in front of me explained the lesson to me, then I explained it to the girl in back of me. This is the same concept used by parents who have their kids in daycare--they learn from other kids! When my daughter was not quite 2, I watched a neighbors' children while he worked for two weeks--mom was gone for some reason. Four girls, 3,5, and 7. After two weeks my kid was speaking in full sentences. Btw, the 'peer tutoring' was never official. It was more like 'hey, do you understand this?' There was one girl in my class all through high school that I helped. She was mainstreamed special ed and I had known her since kindergarten. The teachers didn't know her! But I did, and while it may seem condesending, I tried to protect her. She was never going to go to college, but that was no reason for her to be miserable all through school. I guess that experience is why I became a teacher.

And to whoever had 30 kids in one class in a MoCo school--what??? My kid never had more than 19! And that was the most! The least was 12. Love those title whatever schools.

As a mom, haven't you ever learned something from another mom? That whole village thing is true. If you don't have it, it can really make a classroom ugly. If you do, it will inspire you to teach 'just one more year." Last years' class made me want to eat glass. They made "Mean Girls' look like a cotillion. This year they make me want to renew my contract. What neat people. Not everyone thinks ms is just something to be born.

Posted by: to Alex's mom (pt) | October 12, 2006 11:34 PM

Even an adult dog is some work, and parents shouldn't bring a pet into the family unless they intend to do all the care-- it's not fair to the animal to take it on the condition that kids care for it.

We have a dog, but she's aging, and I am not sure we will get another when she's gone. It was a lot easier to give her the attention she deserves before we had the kids. It may be different when our kids are older though.

My point is: If KB doesn't want a dog, she shouldn't get one.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 12, 2006 11:37 PM


Oops, I got busy and missed the interest in my dog comment.

Actually, after years of cajoling, my oldest is starting to come around to my perspective on the dog (largely due to her reading of books about how to choose your dog, being a pet owner, etc). That we can't really care for a dog without all of us - not just the parents - making some lifestyle changes.

During the school year, with early evening activities (soccer practice, piano/music, gymnastics), we are all out of the house by 7:45 am and rarely in it again for more than 2 hours before 9pm bedtime. And that time is busy with changing for soccer, piano practice, snacks, bathtimes, sometimes homework, sometimes dinner. Even during the half of the school year which is not soccer season, the most we could be home some weeknights would be 3.5 hours, including dinner, dinner prep and cleanup, bath, etc, etc. That is not really a fair amount of attention, I think, even for an adult dog.

The girls are not eager to cut back on their activities.

Also, if we had a dog we would have to keep on top of our messy habits a lot more --- no more toys, projects, and papers strewn about in harm's way, or kids' socks, for example, routinely left on the living room floor. A dog would further strew our already overstrewn life --- the last straw knocking us off the balanced tightrope that our life currently is (well, usually we're teetering anyway, at least us parents).

They do have a guinea pig after soulful kid pleading 3 years ago, and they pay her little attention (except when the oldest takes on her daily feeding for a period, to earn something she wants). Even the guinea pig is some trouble --- the hay and bedding bother 2-3 of us when our allergies flare, the weekly cleaning of her large cage is a sneezy hefty job for either parent, and having to find petsitters for every family camping trip or vacation is often a last-minute stressor. The tradeoffs with a dog would be much heavier.

The girls so enjoy the many dogs they see out and about in our neighborhood. But they can pet and love them (with owner's permission, of course) and then move on without a 24/7 obligation of care, cleanup, and entertainment. The oldest is interested in doing some petsitting/dogwalking in the neighborhood.

We have flexed a bit --- we've offered a deal where if the girls pitch in and help clean up what is at least half their messiness (they are 6 and 9), to the extent that we are never saying 'no, we can't have a playdate over until we get this disaster of a house cleaned up'- our usual mode of sliding into disaster and massive cleanup every 3-4 weeks (though I get the dirty socks more often, lol) -- that if we can by working together keep the mess under control over a period of 6 months - so that the improved habits would hopefully stick - then we our lives would/might be in control enough to add an adult dog. (Though even then the amount of time the dog would be alone in the house might be an issue.)

The girls are wavering on whether they're up for this deal.

Posted by: KB | October 13, 2006 8:42 AM

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