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The Choices We Make

New parent-to-be and Post workplace columnist Amy Joyce wrote a thoughtful piece this weekend about impending motherhood and the life choices she is about to make. So many questions, so few answers. Amy, in case you're reading this, that doesn't change, even years after that baby has been born. At the risk of poking my toe into On Balance's topic territory, there's one element to this conversation that confounds me: Since when did the type of parents we are depend on supposed black and white work choices we make? And why is it that research and media always portray this topic in terms of working and not working as though there isn't any world in between 0 and 40+ hours per week?

In Joyce's live discussion yesterday, a longtime stay-at-home parent and reader from Bowie, Md., wrote: "Surely, a parent can do a better job raising a child than a daycare provider or nanny, who will not have the emotional investment of a mother or father. In addition, the prevailing myth that a parent who works outside the home will do just as good a job at parenting as a full-time parent, needs to be debunked."

Whenever I hear such comments, I think of a group of moms I met five years ago, shortly after the birth of my first son. We met at a new moms group in our neighborhood and we were all on maternity leave at the time. We were, and often still are, a support network. We listen. We advise each other. We worry together. And we show the different choices parents make -- without the judgment calls. Two moms stay home; another works full time. A third, who is about to give birth to baby number 3, spent most of the past five years working part time solely from home for the employer she was with before she had kids. She has also been the primary caretaker with a very supportive husband who gives her the work time she needs. A fourth has been staying home and is about to start working part time, 15 hours a week, at her child's school. I work part time -- some from my office, some from home -- and spend a significant amount of time when my children are asleep on the computer working from home.

There's a larger conversation to be had here. Stay-at-home moms can raise good kids -- and bad ones. Same for parents who work a little or a lot. One consistent life choice in the moms in my core group is that we all spend significant amounts of quality time with our children. Those of us who work full time -- and close to it -- have amazingly attentive nannies and teachers. And flexibility is key. I get my job done at odd hours so I can make it to school shows and doctor's appointments. I keep my cellphone in my pocket on vibrate in case my office needs to reach me on my day off.

For us, parenting is about how we interact with our children as we raise them, about the people that we are encouraging them to become and about giving them the support they need. Whether we work and how much we work are simply facts of who WE are, not who our children are learning to be.

What about you? Do you see as much gray area in this debate as I do?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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Comments


Of course this is not black and white. The stay at home mother from Bowie made such an ignorant comment because it justifies her life choice. Sometimes when people are jealous or unhappy with their own life, he or she makes disparaging comments about other people's choices. I choose to ignore ignorant people like that.

With regard to black or white--we are always making choices based on what life gives us. Many of us can handle a career and still be great parents whereas there are people who have difficulty with this and decide to spend more time at home. Some stay at home full time and many, like you, do the part-time thing. Where there is flexibility in a job, it makes it easier to be full time.

Just think what it is like for lower wage earners who have no flexibility, no paid sick days and rigid schedules. And yet, those people do not have the "choices" we have. This is why this Bowie woman is so ignorant--the vast majority of people in this country do not have the choice to not work. There are a good number of single mothers and a good number of 2 parent families that could not survive without two parents working.

So the point is, it's only black and white for the lower SES families. Those who are upper middle class and above have these choices and it's not black and white.

Personally, I feel that I would be setting a bad example for my children to not continue my career, especially since I enjoy it. That's my opinion but I don't fault others for doing what works for their family.

Posted by: Working mother and proud of it | May 16, 2007 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I guess the person who thought a full time parent had to be doing a better job of parenting has never met my four cousins. My aunt was a stay-at-home saint who took wonderful care of them. All four of them will tell you so. But all of them have had serious problems making the transition to responsible adulthood. I can't help but think that their wonderful mom, who did everything for them, because she was at home and could, contributed to the fact that they have had such trouble living as independent adults.

Not every stay-at-home parent hovers and overparents, of course. But the parents who stay at home so they "can be the best possible parents to their kids" are setting themselves up to raise more adults like my cousins.

I believe studies have shown that working parents spend about as much quality time interacting with their kids as stay-at home parents. For those of us fortunate enough to have a choice, there is still no one size fits all answer.

Posted by: Mom from Herndon | May 16, 2007 7:41 AM | Report abuse

It's quite true - no one size fits all, and being able to choose and to work out a flexible solution are precious gifts - lots of moms do not have these choices.

We happened to move abroad when both my boys were babies, and I ended up staying at home with them until the younger one turned 3 and a half. All-toddler-all-the-time is not for everyone, but those were the best years of my life (so far) and I keep thanking my lucky stars I had the option to just do the "mom thing" and not have to do the rush-rush time-slot juggle that I do now that I work full-time. I still count myself lucky, with flexible work time, but having been able to do just one thing for those few early years was wonderful.

Posted by: Mom abroad | May 16, 2007 7:53 AM | Report abuse

It's quite true - no one size fits all, and being able to choose and to work out a flexible solution are precious gifts - lots of moms do not have these choices.

We happened to move abroad when both my boys were babies, and I ended up staying at home with them until the younger one turned 3 and a half. All-toddler-all-the-time is not for everyone, but those were the best years of my life (so far) and I keep thanking my lucky stars I had the option to just do the "mom thing" and not have to do the rush-rush time-slot juggle that I do now that I work full-time. I still count myself lucky, with flexible work time, but having been able to do just one thing for those few early years was wonderful.

Posted by: Mom abroad | May 16, 2007 7:53 AM | Report abuse

It's quite true - no one size fits all, and being able to choose and to work out a flexible solution are precious gifts - lots of moms do not have these choices.

We happened to move abroad when both my boys were babies, and I ended up staying at home with them until the younger one turned 3 and a half. All-toddler-all-the-time is not for everyone, but those were the best years of my life (so far) and I keep thanking my lucky stars I had the option to just do the "mom thing" and not have to do the rush-rush time-slot juggle that I do now that I work full-time. I still count myself lucky, with flexible work time, but having been able to do just one thing for those few early years was wonderful.

Posted by: Mom abroad | May 16, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I see a ton of gray. I don't know any SAHMs who are as judgmental as that Bowie woman. Most of the SAHMs I know are very supportive of working moms, many have worked outside the home at some point or are doing freelance work or extensive volunteer work. I work p/t and have always felt like I have a foot in both worlds.

I think your point about quality time is right. I have always tried really hard to really be present for my kids when I am at home. On the other hand, I notice on my days off that being around all day does make a difference. Sometimes those special moments just happen because you are there at a particular space in time. And, SAHMs get to be there for those, which is a wonderful gift.

I think the key about the choices we make is that as moms we have to be honest with ourselves about what we can handle and work it out with our spouses to come up with the best arrangement for OUR family. It may not work in another family but if it works for you, more power to you. I have days where I just miss my kids so much and wish I could run home. Then, I have other days at work where a project comes together and I feel like those tortious hours in law school library were all worth it. It's all a give and take.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | May 16, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

This is one of the more thoughtful pieces I have read on this topic. Yes, I agree that this is one big gray area. I stayed home until my daughter was in K and now work part-time. Was I lucky to be able to do this? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that we had the money, thus a choice, and no, because we had the money due to specific decisions we made over the years prior to having a child. We deliberately live in a low cost area, in a smaller home, and where the job market is vibrant. We tried to take luck out of the equation. Personally, I have found working part-time a good balance. But I would not presume that is right for anyone else. I DO NOT like the full timers somehow equating full time work as righteous decision nor do I like SAHM dooming workers to bad parenting world. The middle ground is where most stand.

Posted by: NC Mom | May 16, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

The article posted by the Bowie Mom struck a cord with me. I did my thesis work regarding the work life balance and how working mothers struggle to balance being a mother versus being an employee. During my research, I came across a study conducted by the University of Maryland that showed that mothers today (regardless of whether they stay-at-home or if they work) spend MORE quality time now with their children versus their parents back in 1965 (when mothers stayed at home all of the time). I may be misquoting, but I think mothers spent about 10 or 12 hours a week of quality (one-on-one) time with their children in 1965 versus a whopping 14 hours in 2005.
Overall, I think it is a choice that must be made by each individual and be one that they can live with. Just because a child is raised by a mother who stays at home does not mean that they are better off in life. My mother stayed at home but didn't spend any quality time with us (there were 6 of us) because she had so many other things to do.
What this woman in Bowie needs to understand is that we're all mothers and we should all be on the same side and have the same goals - to raise healthy, confident children who will eventually be released into the wilds of society one day.

Posted by: Mom in Gettysburg | May 16, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Why is it all about the choices moms make? What about dads? I personally know a couple of stay-at-home dads, regularly see a few more out and about with their children, and know several who wish they could be SAHDs, at least for awhile. Can we please start honoring family men by including them in these discussions?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

What folks have to remember is that child-rearing is a long, long process. What seems like such a huge thing when kids are pre-school age is one element in the huge multivariate equation.

Anyway, my daughter is almost 16 right now (I also have a son who's 12) and she's a lot like me. So my suggestion is to be the person you want your kids to be when they grow up - model the choices you hope they make.

Posted by: Virginia Mom | May 16, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The reason men aren't included in discussions like this is because nobody ever says a man isn't a good father if he chooses to go to work instead of staying at home with his child(ren).

Women are constantly being judged by the decisions they make regarding work and motherhood. Men aren't.

Posted by: mesmom | May 16, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

What always bugs me about this subject is that it is always based on the idea that a child needs constant attention, be it from a parent or a nanny or whatever. One of the most valuable lessons you can teach a child is that the parent has a life that doesn't always revolve around that child, whether that life includes working outside the home, or whatever. When this generation of over-indulged children grows up, we're really in trouble...

Posted by: jj | May 16, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately I've met quite a few moms--and gals who intend to be moms--who are just as self-righteous as the Bowie mom.

Not sure the source of the quote, maybe someone else knows, but the line I hear over and over again is:

"Well, we all agree that chidren are best raised by their mothers than by paid strangers."

This is supposed to shut up anyone who dares think their child will not shrivel up an die if they aren't umbilically attached until kindergarten.

I've also been stuck in the checkout line behind a gal, pregnant with #5, with the four homeschooled others up to age 7 literally clinging to her skirts, going on and on with the store clerk about how anyone who doesn't have lots of homeschooled kids must just be selfish and want material things too much.

If she feels that way, fine, that's her business. But I don't hear people going on and on in public about whether they approve of, for instance, interracial or interreligious marriage. People are way more likely to loudly announce their moral judgments on parenting, in front of other parents, than they are on other personal decisions.

I'm not sure why parenting gives people a license to have such poor manners.

Posted by: di | May 16, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I haven't noticed this debate as prevelant in places in Europe I have been. It's not that they don't struggle with it, but I think the stronger social safety net of European socialism makes things a little less stressful.

That said, Americans are very competitive (generally a good thing!) and in this case I think a lot of this stress has to do with a need for some individuals to feel that they are doing the only right thing. That is to say, some of us want to "win" at parenting; not exactly healthy, in my opinion.

Posted by: David S | May 16, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

"The reason men aren't included in discussions like this is because nobody ever says a man isn't a good father if he chooses to go to work instead of staying at home with his child(ren).

"Women are constantly being judged by the decisions they make regarding work and motherhood. Men aren't."

This precisely the reason they should be included in the discussion. Until we include them, they will continue to be unaccountable.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

"I see a ton of gray. I don't know any SAHMs who are as judgmental as that Bowie woman. Most of the SAHMs I know are very supportive of working moms, many have worked outside the home at some point or are doing freelance work or extensive volunteer work. I work p/t and have always felt like I have a foot in both worlds."

This is just about what I was going to say, except I also was going to add that I don't know any WOHM moms who are as judgemental as some portrayals make them out to be either.

Except on the Internet. :)

Posted by: Shandra | May 16, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I agree with PT Fed Mo2. Every parent tries to do what is best for their child. Whether you work full time or are a SAHM/D, I think you still struggle with your decision sometimes, at least I know I do. I have an 11 month old who is in a nanny-share, and i work full time. I do really enjoy my job, and 90% of the time I am very happy with my decision, but every Monday morning when I wake up and look at my precious little boy, I still wonder if i am making the right choice (and I am fortunate enough that it is a choice and we can afford excellent childcare) to work out of the home for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. My mother worked full-time with 4 children, and was the primary breadwinner in our family, so this is the model that I grew up with. I think each of us have plenty of our own guilt about our decisions without someone else who knows nothing about us or our life making us feel even more guilty. We all do the best we can, and we mothers/fathers need to support each other!

Posted by: Emily | May 16, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I live next door to a two-faced judgmental SAHM -- like my other neighbors are not going to tell me what she says behind my back? But our kids love to play together so what is a person going to do? Anyway, in her case, I think she is just trying to rationalize her decision to stay home. For me, I work full time outside the home, and it took me a long time to feel comfortable with my decision. Now, that I feel comfortable, the judgmental types (of which there are many -- including my extended family) dont bother me anymore. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I try to teach my daughter (and son) that she has choices. She can stay at home with kids (like so and so) or she can work full time like mommy or part-time like so and so. One day she wants to be a stay at home mommy. Another day she wants to be a teacher (she thinks this is part time work -- I am working on changing that opinion) and other days she wants to be President.

Posted by: Lisa | May 16, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

The debate should not be whether stay at home moms are better than moms who choose to work. The debate shoud be over good parenting vs. bad parenting. My husband and I have one son. I worked full time before he was born and returned to work six weeks after he was born. Neither my husband nor I ever missed a game, concert, play, Boy Scout event, PTA meeting, or any other event that involved our child. We used vacation time, sick time, personal time, leave without pay...whatever it would take to support our child and his many activities. He is now 25 and a fine, upstanding, productive, educated young man who contributes to society in a very positive way. We've heard nothing but accolades over the years for the wonderful job we've done in raising such a fine young man. My two sisters were stay at home moms with one and two children. The one sister has a child who is now in his 30's and she hasn't heard from him in over 10 years. He is a troubled young man. The other sister with two children has had constant trouble with them - alcohol, drugs, teen pregnancy - you name it. My mother was a stay at home mom. A devoted wife and mother of six children, but she rarely spent much quality time with any of us. Maybe that was because with six children there was so much she had to do by herself with no outside help. So you see, it doesn't matter whether you choose to work or stay at home. What does matter is whether or not you choose to be a committed parent who makes sound decisions in raising your child. It's not easy being a parent. I was fortunate to have the love and support of a wonderful husband who took the job of parenting as serious as I did. And parenting never ends no matter the age of the child. It is a lifelong commitment. One that should give every parent tremendous joy and happiness.

Posted by: dat1123 | May 16, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"Women are constantly being judged by the decisions they make regarding work and motherhood. Men aren't."

Why do we care if others are supposedly judging us?? I hear this so often on the two Post parenting blogs - women are judged because they work, women are judged because they don't work, women are judged because they don't breastfeed. Why can't we get past what we think others think of us, and be confident in our ability to make the right choice for ourselves? I have to work, and I'm not thrilled with it (wish I could spend every moment with my son), but we need to eat, so here I am. I breastfed and supplemented with..formula. Egads. Let the world judge me.

And don't think that fathers aren't judged. My husband is a SAHD, and proud of it. And I'm pround of him. But he is absolutely judged, by former coworkers and bosses, by mothers on the playground, people who wonder what's wrong with him that he's not working. And I'm sure he'll be judged by future potential employers because of the time he did not "work". But so be it. It's the right decision for us, and that's what matters.

Gotta go, DH is calling from the grocery store.

Posted by: kali | May 16, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"Why do we care if others are supposedly judging us?? "

I agree. Do people really give a hoot about this stuff? It seems so high school.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Dat1123-- love your post! May i ask who watched your 6-week old baby when you returned to work? And were you able to breastfeed-- i.e. pumping?

I am thinking of doing this but can't decide between daycare, nanny or au pair-- or perhaps you had a relative watch you baby? Sounds like your mom would have been exhausted after raising so many children, but sometimes that is great option!

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Seriously -- how many times are we going to have this conversation? How many articles are going to be written? How much news coverage is this going to get? It's like being fat -- you're fat because you eat too much and don't exercise enough. Does a newspaper really need to tell you that? Do we really need to devote this much energy to this topic?

Posted by: Enough | May 16, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

You can't say how a child turns out is due solely - or even primarily - to the kind of parents they have and if they work or not. As your kids grow older you realize you had a lot less influence than you thought. I know plenty of families with working parents and an at-home parent who have one kid who turned out well while another is having issues. To the mom above with the wonderful son, congratulations. Don't be so sure that if you had another child, the results would have been the same. Flip side is also not to judge the parents of kids who stray. Most people try their best given their dispositions and those of their kids. How well things turn out is often no more than crap shoot.

Posted by: Trudy lou | May 16, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

To Enough -- I agree that it can get tiresome, but for some people, they still struggle with the whole balance issue -- work v. SAH. I hope that by reading these blogs, people will learn to be comfortable with their choices.

Also, I dont know that any blog can come up with new topics every day to entertain everyone. Its gotta be hard. Look at the Balance blog. No matter what the topic, people revert back to arguing about the work v SAH issue. That is what people want to talk about.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

My wife stays home, and we are sacrificing a lot of material things so that she can do so. We decided that that was the best thing for us. My wife decided that she would be happier taking care of our child and going without a few other things - including the enjoyment she has always gotten from her job. She has a job that she can always go back to, and we're not commited to a mortgage, so it works for us.

However, if we couldn't make ends meet and she was forced to go back to work, it would only be after deciding that that was the best move for our family. Similarly, if she found that she drew more energy from her job than from staying at home, and that that would ultimately make her a better, happier parent, then so be it.

The point is that everyone has to do what's right for them, given their lifestyle, finances, and career aspirations. I'm sure that the vast majority of people in either situation put a tremendous amount of thought and care into how they choose to raise their kids, and while there may be "status" moms who would rather drive nice cars than raise their own kids, there are also "status" moms who stay home to show the neighbors that they can. There are good and bad parents on either side of the aisle.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | May 16, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Trudy Lou, I think you are right that things are not guaranteed, but I personally have a lot of uncertainly about going back to work when my next child is only six weeks old and it is REALLY helpful to hear Dat1123 share that she did this and her son turned out great!

I don't personally know anyone who watched by someone other than their mother at 6 weeks old that is now an adult and i distrust the "studies" on these matters (all the researchers seem to have a bias) so i am grateful for such anecdotes. I know they are limited, but they seem better than anything else out there! I see lots of kids whos mothers went back to work at 6 weeks post partum and they seem fine, but I do wonder what they will be like us adults. Dat11123's testimony is much appreciated by me!

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Women also fret over this because we never feel like we've made the right choice. We are vulnerable to criticism because we are unsure ourselves and blame everything that goes wrong on ourselves. We have few role models and a whole society of critics. We need to cut ourselves some slack and recognize that you can never get the balance right. If you work, even part time, there is always the time you have an important presentation and the whole family comes down with the flu, including the sitter. If you stay home, you worry that you can't pay for college or that you are a bad mother on those days you have a short fuse and your kids are driving you up a wall.

As I posted above, I still think the kids themselves have a huge impact on how well they turn out. My kids are in their teens and I'd encourage all young mothers out there to lighten up, give yourself a break and do the best you can given your circumstances. That, and try to get enough rest, eat well and get some exercise. Looking back, so much of the other stuff I worried myself sick over just doesn't matter in the end.

Posted by: Trudy Lou | May 16, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Jen S. - my sister took only 6 weeks off with both of her children. My 13 year old nephew is great so far - excels at school and sports and is very polite. My niece is 8 and also appears headed on the right track as her brother. They were watched by a licensed home daycare provider.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Jen S. - my sister took only 6 weeks off with both of her children. My 13 year old nephew is great so far - excels at school and sports and is very polite. My niece is 8 and also appears headed on the right track as her brother. They were watched by a licensed home daycare provider. The most important thing is for the child to feel loved while their parents are working as they don't remember anything else.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

To Jen S.....
My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer right before my daughter was born. So I went back to work after 6 weeks, and then took a week off every month for the next 5 months to travel with my baby to see my mom. I found a WONDERFUL family day care home provider who took my daughter at 6 weeks and then ended up taking care of both my children through their pre-school years. Lots of good options out there.....

Posted by: Virginia mom | May 16, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I returned to work at 6 weeks. A happy and fun-loving nanny watches our daughter, who is turning out to be happy and fun-loving (and bilingual to boot).

Posted by: drmommy | May 16, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Jen S. - While I was pregnant my husband and I interviewed several people to find the right person to watch our baby. And although I did return to work six weeks after my son was born it was not an easy choice. It was one that was financially necessary. And no, I did not breastfeed. It was a personal choice that I made long before I even became pregnant and it had nothing to do with whether I was going to stay home with our child or not. Had I stayed home, I still would not have breast fed my child. It was just my personal choice. We had two different people watch our child the first two years. One was a young mother of two and later a woman in her 50's who we absolutely adored. She was very kind, loving and nurturing to our son. When our son turned two we made the difficult decision to enroll him in our church's daycare center. As our son was an only child, we felt the daycare would be the best way to help him learn to interact with other children and enjoy the benefits of structure offered by the center. He stayed in this daycare until he entered grade school which was just next door and also associated with our church. Most importantly, my husband and I made the best of the time we had with our son while he was growing up and we still continue to do so today. We feel his independent time away from us was an important step in making him the wonderful person he is today. The bottom line is we made the right choices for us and our situation - that's all that matters. Jen S. The best to you in making the right choices for you and your child. Good luck and be happy!

Posted by: dat1123 | May 16, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

thank you so much for all the feedback-- I appreciate that people took the time to decypher my typo-ridden post (oops!)and to take my post in the spirit it was intended.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Jen, what specifically are you worried about? I also went back to work at 6 weeks after my first child and my son is a teenager and is fine (he's a bit quirky but I wouldn't connect that to a short maternity leave). I was a mess, however. The milk stopped, I worried all day and I was exhausted. Your baby will be fine, but 6 weeks might be too soon for you. If you have no choice and want to continue breast feeding, find a way to express at work (With kid 2, I did it by hand in a bathroom stall). You will feel better and can continue nursing in the evenings. Youn need to do what gets you through these hard times healthy and sane. Your baby, with the right care, will be fine.

Posted by: Trudy Lou | May 16, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

i should say that in my circumstances gong back to work at 6 weeks post-partum is not economically necessary. I hope that doens't sound like I'm bragging or something-- it's just a fact that does make this more of a "choice" for me than it is for others--- for better or worse! I.e., by child could in fact throw this back in my face some day-- "I can't believe that you went back to work when I was only 6 weeks old and it wasn't even economically necessary! what kind of a mother does that?"

On the other hand, I stayed home with my first for almost two years, but since he has no memory of that, he often thinks that he went to "Baby school" (i.e. daycare) as an infant just as most of his current school-age playmates did.

It's weird to think that all that time I spent with him and all that money and promotions, etc. that I missed out on seemingly mean absolutely nothing to him. I enjoyed the time, but to him-- no actual memory of it, zero impression.

So, since i have the choice I guess i really should do what I want since it doesn't seem to make much difference to the kids (assuming the caregiver is a loving, responsible one, of course).

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Not being a parent myself, I'm not sure what I might do in this situation. I know that my mom stayed home with me after I was born for two reasons - A) she wanted to and B) her entire paycheck would have gone to daycare, so what was the point? We were lucky that my dad made enough to support us and I feel lucky (now that I can look back on it) that my mom was there for me. She started to work outside the home when I went to junior high. She now works two part-time jobs and stays busier than anyone I know.

I think I turned out alright, but I've had my share of problems, like any other kid. I don't know that I would or would not have had these problems if my mom had returned to work sooner than she did. I think that I probably would have because it really didn't have anything to do with that decision. I know that I am loved by my parents and where and how long my parents worked really had no bearing on that. So, to me, that's what matters.

Posted by: Jenn in SF | May 16, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Trudy Lou, what am i worried about? That if I rush back into work I'll be too exhausted to provide excellent workproduct and that if I stay out for too long, I'll lose my edge.

I'm a creature of habit. Once I get into a pattern it is very difficult to break it. So I think I will actually try to work part time immediately after child birth-- from hoe if necessary, but only working the hours that I can handle. And then slowly increase to the level that works, making adjustments along the way. My husband can take off six weeks of paternity leave, so that will provide me with a trustworthy partner to handle the childrearing stuff while I am trying to keep busy at my job.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

To Jen S. -- I have 2 kids (3 & 5) and have a busy career. I tried to go back to work too soon after my second was born (at 8 weeks). I was driving my son home from a dr. visit and I started to feel funny. I pulled into an emergency room and they thought I had a stroke. Fortunately, it was a severe migraine brought on by stress, but waking up in a hospital and seeing my husband's scared face made me realize that I needed to slow down a little. I still work more than full time but I listen to my body and when I need a break. I take it. So my (unsolicited) advice to you is not to decide when you will go back to work until after you have the baby and see how you feel.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"I see a ton of gray. I don't know any SAHMs who are as judgmental as that Bowie woman."

I do. My cousin called me from out of state one night to tell that she is selling some product (I think Mary Kay) from home. She has worked from home since shortly after she married, previously selling some other similar type product (party selling). She told me all about what a great business her new product is and how I should start selling so I could quit my job and "love my children the way I was meant to love them." Pardon me, but it isn't possible for me to love my children any differently, less or more.

My children are in elementary school, and I am a teacher, so my schedule actually allows me to be present for most of the time they are not in school. Selling that product (or any similar one) would take me away from my children when they are home from school, leaving me to have free time to myself when my kids are in school. Her husband "babysits" on nights she has parties, which she described as a great time for he and their children to bond.

I was very tactful with her, which is more than I can say for the way she handled the decision to approach me.

Posted by: single mother by choice | May 16, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Trudy Lou, i am also somewhat worried about how it is possible for a daycare worker to care for 4 infants at the same time-- just one kept me exhousted! And I have issues of trust regarding au pairs and nannies-- I've seen great ones and I've seen horrible ones and i'm not confident that i'll be able to glean one from the other in a half hour interview.

that said, my concerns are much reduced on these matters from where they were when my first child was born because I've gained some maturity and confidence. Just not enough to make all these concerns fade away completely, unfortunately.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 16, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

single mother by choice

"I was very tactful with her, which is more than I can say for the way she handled the decision to approach me."

I would have hung up on her long before your cousin started judging me. Learn how to avoid toxic people.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

i went back to work when my son was 9 weeks old. i found an excellent day care provider close to where i worked. i was able to drive to her house at lunch time so he could nurse. he was the day care baby - spoiled by the older kids. when he was older & got another baby he was proud to be one of the "big kids". his day care provider & her family loved him. they were wonderful to him. that is why comments like "a paid provider can't love your child the way you can" drive me nuts. his day care provider gave me a lot of insight into infant care because she was so experienced. it was nice to hear her insights. she knew my son well so it wasn't generic info from a book. it was info geared for my son.

Posted by: quark | May 16, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Frankly IMO ideally the long and thoughtful judgement and self awareness of whether you and your life is right to raise another human, what your style will be, and even basic ideas of how to handle the long term hurdles should all take place well before conception.

And I admit, except in cases of true unexpected pregnancies, people who don't do this I consider slightly irresponsible.

I also will never understand why people think biological bonds have anything to do with being a good human raiser. Other than knowing the medical history, giving birth is simply a biological function. Considering all the abusive and alcoholic and crappy parents in the world, and all the truly happy adopted families out there, you think we'd finally put this myth to pasture.

As for black and white- if you're lucky enough to realistically have those choices, what matters is is that you keep the foundation in place- security, maturity, responsibility, being the example as much as possible in all ways for the human you are raising. The rest is just details.

Posted by: Liz D | May 16, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, gotta love those holier than thou at-home-sales moms. Mary Kay in particular has explicit religious teaching on staying at home and you'll hear all about it if you say no!

If an inner city minority mom receives public benefits to stay home with her kids, she gets called a welfare queen.

If a white suburban mom hits up everyone for money so she can stay home with her kids, she's God's gift to parenting.

Go figure.

Posted by: di | May 16, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

stay at home or working, I hope you don't raise your children to be as judgemental as many of you have proven. Why in Joyce's article was the man reading the Economist (a British Conservative magazine) the jerk whom she had to shove out of the seat? Heaven forbid he be reading something like Newsweek...and Why are the "white suburban moms" being targeted by others? And maybe the woman from Bowie truly believes her statement about who can best care for a child. Some of you are very opinionated about your right to work. Nobody's accusing you of being "ignorant" or "self righteous".

Posted by: ki | May 16, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"And maybe the woman from Bowie truly believes her statement about who can best care for a child. "

And serial killers truly believe they know what's best.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

by that logic anybody who believes in what they say is a serial killer....has the woman from bowie been brought up on charges? I fail to see the relevance.

Posted by: l. mine | May 16, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

To Jen S. ... you said "It's weird to think that all that time I spent with him and all that money and promotions, etc. that I missed out on seemingly mean absolutely nothing to him. I enjoyed the time, but to him-- no actual memory of it, zero impression."

That's so untrue, please don't feel that way. The first major lesson that we teach our children is trust. Cry and mom/dad will be there - always. Smile or coo and mom/dad will be there - always. Have a messy uncomfy diaper and mom/dad will be there - always. While your child might not have any specific memories, what you laid was the lifelong FOUNDATION of trust for him. That is huge.

To Liz D. who said that "I also will never understand why people think biological bonds have anything to do with being a good human raiser." I know what you're getting at - that you don't need to pass a Good Parent Test to bring a kid into the world, but I think you're painting with way too broad of a brush. Studies have shown that newborns prefer the scent of their mother to that of other women, and even the taste of their breastmilk (eww @ however they figured that one out lol). Breastfeeding a child releases hormones in the mother to make her relax, and triggers hormones that are believed to make mother and child bond more. Those studies are showing that there's a lot more intricacy to the biology of raising infants than just the birth process.

Me? I'm a student (duh). I took this semester off since I was due at the beginning of it. My mother will be watching her when I return to classes in the fall. Honestly, if it weren't for my mother - who dotes on her even more than I do at times!! - then I would postpone going to school until DD was school-aged herself.

Posted by: StudentMom | May 16, 2007 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Why oh why can't people tell the difference between judging people vs. judging behavior?

I have no idea if deep down someone is a nice person or not. Not my department.

But it is extremely rude to tell me to my face that I am an unholy and selfish mom if I don't agree with them.

I am not targeting "white suburban moms" in general. I am objecting to the behavior of those particular moms who tell me that if I do not buy Mary Kay cosmetics I am anti-mother because I am not supporting their Christian choice to stay home.

If you like that choice, go ahead and do it.

Just don't tell me that I am morally obliged to share my husband's paycheck with you to reward you for your virtue.

Posted by: di | May 16, 2007 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Studentmom said, "To Liz D. who said that "I also will never understand why people think biological bonds have anything to do with being a good human raiser." I know what you're getting at - that you don't need to pass a Good Parent Test to bring a kid into the world, but I think you're painting with way too broad of a brush."

I don't think you do know what Liz was getting at. She made a specific reference to families formed by birth and families form by adoption. You are not de facto a better parent than I am because you gave birth to your children or because you are staying home with them this semester. Your worth or value as a parent won't plummet next semester when you go back to school. I am not a better parent than you or anyone else because I have been fortunate enough to love a career that enables me to spend a lot of time with my children (when they are not at school themselves).

Good parents strive to find the best balance of situations. While I would love to be home with my children more, I realize that the benefits of a stay at home mom are far outweighed by the disadvantages of being homeless, so I work. When my children were preschool age, I thought about my situation and found the best care I could. I considered a variety of factors and found what was right for my family. You have done the same. Jen is attempting to do the same now.

And for the person who would have hung up on my cousin, don't think I didn't consider it. But she isn't someone I have to deal with regularly. We live far away and rarely get see that side of the family. I can afford to be polite to her.

Posted by: single mother by choice | May 17, 2007 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Most of what I can say has already been said here. If I didn't have a strict "no toxic people" policy, I would be paranoid to have kids. My job makes 2x what my husband's does, and I actually LIKE my job, so that decision was easy: SAHD all the way.

Funny counter-story to Jen's about how her son doesn't remember his time at home with her: My mom got her IRS reckoning a while back that showed every cent she had ever earned since the 50's. There was a huge drop one year in the 80's. My mom stared at it saying "I never took time off! I never took a pay cut! Why is that so much less?" And I stared at her "Mom, that's when my sister was born."

This is the same woman who nursed me for two years because she liked the bond.

Posted by: Kat | May 17, 2007 3:56 AM | Report abuse

I joined a moms's group when my first was just a few weeks old. It was great to get the support and get out of the house with my baby. Then the other moms started to go back to work--back to their "real lives" as they said. It was then I started to see the divide between us. I had realized more and more that there was no way I was going to put my baby in another's arms and walk off to spend the day at the office. The other mothers' talk turned to the absolute need for the baby sleeping through the night, finding day care, breast pumps and office clothes. My concerns were how to get by on one salary, how to adapt to being dependant on my husband financially, how to get dinner on the table, etc. I also felt I had to hide my feelings that led to my decision to stay home. I ended up leaving that group of mothers and finding a different one where most of the mothers had made the same decision I had.

I love being home with my children. Sure some days I am frustrated, but there were days like that at work too. I value the time I have with my children. If my 5 year old suggests we go for a walk and a picnic, I make room for that. Making room for them in my life is my job. And it's great.

Are all mothers who stay at home good mothers? No. Are all mothers who return to work bad mothers? No. These are ridiculous simplifications.

But I know that if I were working I wouldn't have the time and energy for my children that I do. I wouldn't share in their lives as I do now. I wouldn't have time to drop everything and go on a spring time picnic.

Posted by: kate | May 17, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Kat that is hilarious! I'm sure your mother must have blushed!

Kate, I understand what you are saying and those moments of impromptue magic are lovely. But I wonder if I can have that while working part time? i recall moments as a SAHM when the diapers and messes and crying really wore on me and to have an office to escape to would have been great. I was also struggling with PP Depression, so my experience may have been unique-- and maybe it would have been made worse if I had gone back to work, who knows? It gradually went away with medication and I certainly have fond memories of that time.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 17, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Hey StudentMom,

Those are excellent examples and definitely on the mark- there is a biological component to helping an infant be physically more progressive and healthy. I didn't even know it was that well researched.

But that doesn't mean the person is a good parent, the biological parent didn't DO anything to have that resource or those benefits, they simply gave birth.

And of course, children are not at any real risk of health problems simply because they do not have any contact with their biological parents.

Posted by: Liz D | May 17, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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