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?