It's OK to do what you want
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|Thu, 07-05-2007 - 7:54pm|
I am going to argue that the decision to stay at home or work is something that should be based on the reality of the family’s financial situation and the mother’s desire to do either. I do not think a mother should sacrifice what she desires for the sake of a child’s development or for the sake of more money if it isn't truly needed. Why? Because I don’t believe staying at home or working really affects the child’s development in a significant way. A lot of people think or just feel in their hearts that it does matter. How could it not logically right? What seems logical to some does not always coincide with reality.
First, I am going to give two examples from my experience in life. Then, since I’m no expert I will provide some research. After I had my first child a very wonderful woman who I respect very much advised me that I should stay home with my daughter. My husband and I thought about it. I loved my job and my boss couldn’t be more child friendly. I made significantly more money than my husband but if we sold our house and moved and he could find a good job maybe we could do it. But this would mean leaving my stepdaughters- his daughters. It really wasn’t an option. I either work or we live close to the poverty line. I thought about what my friend said. She said she stayed home with her first two but couldn’t with the third because she couldn’t afford it. (I guess she didn’t realize my first was really our third) She talked about how much she enjoyed it and the close bond that developed with her children. I thought about all three of her children. They were all wonderful children and you certainly could see there was a strong family bond with all the children not just the first two. If it is only logical that the mother staying home is the only way to have a well-developed child and a strong bond between mother and child wouldn’t it also be logical that the third child should have behavioural problems and be distant from her mother? That is when I realized staying at home or working really does not make a difference to child development. That is as long as the child is receiving high quality care by whoever is providing it.
My own experience as a child confirmed for me that a mom staying at home does not necessarily result in proper development and strong bonds. My mother stayed at home. She had three children. She was depressed, trapped, and lonely. I was a severely sad child and I can only guess that was why. My earliest memories are of soap operas, which she watched everyday. Basically, the TV raised me. I don’t feel that my parents really had a lot to do with my upbringing. I had to find my own way and I almost didn’t make it. Recently my sister confided in me that she felt the same way.
Do I feel close to my mother? Not really I love her and I would look after her but there is not a close loving bond. I would have much preferred if she worked, left my Dad and was happy. I visited neighbour’s any chance I got and some of my fondest memories are of baking cookies with a mother who lived next door. The point is just because a mother stays home does not mean you will end up with a well-developed child who has a strong bond with their mother. It is always the quality of care that matters and many people other than the child's mom are also capable of providing quality care.
When I had my first child my mother came for the first 5 months. She also advised I should try to stay at home. I didn’t. When she came back the following year and she saw how happy my daughter was, how happy our whole family was and how much we enjoyed each other’s company she admitted she was wrong. She visited the daycare she thought it was fantastic. She admitted she did not play with us and that she was depressed and that she thinks my situation is much better for my daughter, my husband and me. She now firmly believes working is the way to go. I don’t, I think doing what you want to do is the way to go.
Now that I am about to go back to work after my second child I had to remind myself of these things. Not because a friend has given me some friendly well-meaning advice but because it seems many stay at home moms have for some reason taken to bashing the working mom. Like a lot of moms I too am quick to feel guilt and self-doubt. I think I will still feel guilt but I will remind myself that it is irrational. What I choose to do does not affect my children in a significant way as long as I continue to provide unconditional love and ensure they are being provided high quality care.
Now here is a summary of the latest most extensive research: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development conducted one of the most extensive studies into the long-term effect of day care. By sixth grade, the researchers detected few differences between the daycare centre kids and the others. What mattered more than early childcare, in terms of school performance and behavior, were parenting and genes. The study found that kids who went to high-quality daycare centres had an edge over all the other kids on vocabulary scores. This association didn't decrease, as the kids got older. Children who spent three to four years in low-quality day care before the age of 4 1/2 had a slightly higher risk of disruptive behaviour in school by grade six. (http://www.slate.com/id/2162876/)
My argument is if you feel you are sacrificing to be home with your child perhaps you should rethink what you are doing. This could lead to resentment or strange behaviour like verbally attacking a mom who chose to do what she wanted and still ended up with great kids. If you stay home because you wouldn’t trade it for the world or you enjoy and love it do it. It shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice if this is what you want to do. If you don’t stay home don’t beat yourself up and don’t let anyone else beat you up. Your child will prefer a happy mom stay at home or working rather than an unhappy one and will, as long as they are receiving good high quality care, turn out just the way they were supposed to.