SAH early years vs teen years

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-22-2005
SAH early years vs teen years
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Sun, 06-13-2010 - 4:26pm

This past weekend I shared a room at a church youth conference with a mom of three girls (6 years, 13 years and 15 years). In getting to know each other, she mentioned that she has recently quit her job after being a working mom her entire children's lives. She was concerned about her 13-year-old and decided to stay home so that she could focus more fully on some problems that have been surfacing.

I nodded in approval and casually mentioned that I thought that if there was a more critical time to have a stay home parent, it wouldn't be the infant years; it would be the teen years. She nearly burst out crying and said that she was SO RELIEVED to hear somebody say that. She said that she always hears people talk about how we should stay home when our kids are really little, and so she felt guilty (her words) that she didn't choose to stay home when they were little and yet she was choosing to stay home now.

My take on the matter, which I conveyed to her, was that when they are small children we WANT to stay with them but nothing serious is likely to happen by trusting another loving, responsible person to take care of them while we work. By contrast, when they are teenagers, they are much more independent and much more capable of getting into serious trouble. For some families, having a stay at home parent would be a good way to increase the diligence factor (eliminate the distractions of work and use that time and energy to get more involved and keep an extra close eye on things).

She had never thought about it this way and was really, really grateful to hear it. You could tell it was something that had been eating her up. She thought that society was somehow looking down on her for her choices because "all you ever hear is messages about how important it is to stay home when the kids are little; you never hear anything about staying at home when the kids are teens."

So my question is: Why do you think hardly anyone ever touts the benefits of staying home once the children are teens?












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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 5:33pm

I think both can be important, and it can be fine if you don't SAH at either stage. The early years are important because that is when attachment is first forming, and self esteem, and for kids who need to be close to mom (or dad) and for kids who are not in very good daycare situations, not having a SAHP can cause some problems IMO. I think my oldest dd is having some issues that stemmed from me not SAH with her, I think she would have done better with me SAH. But that's her, and our circumstance, not necessarily generalizable to all situations. It's also true that some kids may do better with a WOHP. It's really up to the parent to figure out what they can manage, and what they think is best. If a parent thinks SAH is best in the early years but can't swing it and must WOH, then you go with that and deal with any problems in another way as I have done or hope to do.

The problem with the woman you spoke with is definitely societal attitudes and her own internalization of that conflicting with her choices. I didn't internalize the same message she did from society. I grew up believing SAH was not important and WOH was very important. So I always planned to WOH and never anticipated even wanting to SAH. Then, when my oldest was born I was hit with the overwhelming desire to SAH and couldn't swing it. So I did feel guilty, but in my case I don't blame it on society, I blame it on my own internal conflict between what I wanted and what I could manage.

On to older kids. We have two teens in my house and I definitely see an advantage to me SAH while there are that age, mostly because if/when they need a ride somewhere I can take them. But it won't be for long as I will be working again in another year or so. I think we will be okay because the teens in our house are fairly responsible, not having any problems currently, and overall our situation is pretty good. For a person in the situation you described where mom is concerned about the teen and feels SAH would benefit the teen, and she can swing it, that's great. I don't know why society doesn't tout the benefits of that other than we live in a society that does value WOH and independence, and valuing WOH conflicts with valuing SAH (of course, this all depends on how you interpret societal messages, we don't all get the same messages).

Either way, its up to each of us to work out what we think is best for our family and wrestle with any conflict that has with what we think of societal expectations. The bad news is that we are really very caught up in what society says we "should" do. The good news is that if we are aware that what society says we "should" do is in opposition with what we know is best, then we can separate the two and worry less about what society thinks. The other good news is that society has less rigid expectations of women these days than of our mothers and grandmothers.

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' -Kahlil Gibran



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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 7:56pm

I, for one, have been touting the benefits of SAH (or at least being home when your teens are) for years. I work PT, but it became clear to me years ago that being home as much as possible when my kids got off that bus was hugely important.


ITA that others can meet the basic needs of a baby or younger child (for the most part; obviously, there are some needs that are best met by parents, but they don't have to SAH), but when it comes to teens, no one is going to know your child like you do.


I don't believe that teen problems come up simply because both parents work, however; the teen years are confusing regardless of their parents' work status. It's great when a parent can be there during those after school hours as much as possible.


The main thing for me is just being able to read my kids when they get off that bus. They don't always want to talk, but even that tells me something. And sometimes

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 8:34pm
ITA that others can meet the basic needs of a baby or younger child (for the most part; obviously, there are some needs that are best met by parents, but they don't have to SAH), but when it comes to teens, no one is going to know your child like you do.



If a non-parent can be a substitute caregiver for a young child all day long, why wouldn't a non-parent be able to be a substitute caregiver for a teen a few hours in the afternoon? I understand wanting to be there yourself for your teen, but I am not following the relevance of "no one is going to know your child like you do" as pertaining *only* to older children? I think that's true at all ages. I think the issue for teens is more likely nobody else is there, rather than someone is there but "doesn't know your child like you do."

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' -Kahlil Gibran



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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-2009
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 8:48pm

As a parent of a teen, preteen and a almost tween, life is significantly harder than the infant, toddler, preschool years.

IME, the day to day parenting is much more difficult at this age than at the younger age.

It's less about supervision and more about where to supervise and when to let go. It sucks to be a parent of a 15yo with her first (really nice) boyfriend.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 9:23pm
Well we have two toddlers plus two teenagers (and two others). The teens are not significantly harder to parent, day to day the toddlers stress us out way more. I'm sure it's different family to family. In any case, my point was about non-parents watching the kids. In our house non-parents are capable of watching either age. In both cases the parent might know the child better, but it isn't like non-parents are okay for watching small children and non-parents are somehow a less appropriate choice when it comes to looking after teens after school.

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' -Kahlil Gibran



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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-2009
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 9:39pm

Really? I really find that hard to believe.

I will never let anyone supervise or parent my tweens, teens except me. I was more than willing to let my trusted caregivers supervise my infants, toddlers, preschoolers than the people I hired.

They are now smarter than me, they have issues that I can't imagine and I was a rather diffident teen. I love my children, but I'm not stupid. They will rebel, they will be stupid, and I will catch them and put them on the right track,

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-22-2009
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 10:12pm

I sure it varies from person to person but I found the teen years to be much easier that the infant/toddlers.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-22-2009
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 10:25pm

Unless someone home schools and is always with their tweens/teens it is impossible to not have anyone else supervise them.

While I never used childcare to supervise my children because of work they spent time being supervised by others, teachers, church youth worker, their friends parents, relatives,

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 10:35pm
Really? I really find that hard to believe.



Because?



I will never let anyone supervise or parent my tweens, teens except me. I was more than willing to let my trusted caregivers supervise my infants, toddlers, preschoolers than the people I hired.



Nice that you have that option, I guess. In our case it is unnecessary. We'd have a hard time if my dh had that attitude, given he has to work.



They are now smarter than me, they have issues that I can't imagine and I was a rather diffident teen. I love my children, but I'm not stupid. They will rebel, they will be stupid, and I will catch them and put them on the right track,



I guess that's why teens in our house aren't harder. They are not yet smarter than us, they don't have issues we can't imagine (we aren't stupid either). They do rebel (especially the 16 yo), he gets caught, is put back on the right track, all with a working parent who is able to delegate to others when he can't do it himself.

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' -Kahlil Gibran



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"The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding."
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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 06-13-2010 - 10:47pm

Just out of curiosity, what does everyone consider to be the age range for "tween" versus "preteen"? I had not really considered it before. In looking around online it seems tween means a child ages 8-12, preteen is more 10-12. I tend to refer to our middle kids as the elementary schoolers or the 4th graders, but I suppose they are tweens/preteens as well.

Also I guess my youngest aren't officially toddlers anymore because they just turned 3. What do we call a 3 yo? I was thinking preschooler but they aren't in preschool?

Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' -Kahlil Gibran



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"The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding."
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