I’m enjoying this series on NPR about working moms, child care, and its costs (mental, emotional, economical, ecological, physical, psychological, astrological, pharmacological, etc):
Oh, you know I’m not going to keep my mouth shut about this one.
The comments on the stories are emotional, immediately jumping to who’s Right? Working moms or stay-at-home moms? People get crazy on this subject, and fast. We all feel passionately about it and believe that our opinion is the right one. But this debate is getting old.
We get crazy because we’re mama bears, and we instantly compare any comment that anyone makes to our own experience, and then we judge ourselves and that mom and all the choices we’ve made and that she’s made and then have to convince ourselves that WE made the RIGHT choice.
Because it’s our kids’ welfare that we’re talking about, and if nothing else, despite all the mistakes and screw-ups we make, all we really want is what’s best for our kids. And if something threatens that we go on the defense.
But it’s not fair for any of us to judge our fellow moms. If anything, we need some solidarity and support. As long as they can keep us fighting amongst ourselves, the government and employers really don’t have to address the issue of working moms (and family support and paternity leave for fathers, for that matter). That’s why I love groups like MotherWoman, who are out there really taking political action for women’s causes.
We’re all doing the best we can for ourselves and our children. What works for one family may not work for another and that’s OK. No matter what you choose, someone will point a finger and criticize you, and someone else will be on your side. “It takes all kinds,” Dave reminds me when I get on my own high horse about some crazy person’s behavior.
I have to make at least a little comment in defense of the providers, who are smack in the middle of the debate and get criticized because they’re an easy target (this argument often becomes a bit kill-the-messenger).
The truth is, we work long hours for little pay, we work sick and injured, and we have NO BENEFITS including paid maternity leave. So the policies that working moms are discussing don’t ever apply to child care workers. We are a very abused workforce and when we speak out, sometimes our frustration shows.
At the same time, we are expected to provide the highest standard in safety, education, nutrition, and social development for our kids. If we make a mistake we risk losing everything. We are under intense scrutiny for providing the utmost in loving care for each child, and we hear about it if someone’s not 100% satisfied. We are required to attend classes after work and make costly investments for equipment and changes to our homes that are required by law but never funded.
We work in a very stressful environment and are in fact highly skilled workers, but we are still seen as a necessary evil or as someone who just stays home and changes diapers all day.
We are emotional about this subject because clearly, we love kids. But we must accept that the job we chose requires us to be available and “on” for at least ten hours a day, five days a week. And we have to keep our focus on caring for and loving those kids while they’re with us, because that’s all we can control. We can’t change family dynamics, but we can give our children a healthy child care experience. Such a thing does exist.
There are no hard and fast rules for ANY PART of raising children. Who knows how to handle anger, dating, puberty, freedom, facebook, bullies, sex, drugs, and everything else our kids have to live with? We’re all just thrown into it and doing our best to stay afloat.
My job has given me the chance to work with all types of family lifestyles, and challenged me to accept that they’re all OK. If the kids are growing up relatively happy despite all the pressures we live with today, then their parents are doing a damn good job.