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An Unpopular Opinion August 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — oshikagang @ 3:47 pm

I don’t think this will be a very popular posting. In fact, I suspect this will be the least popular posting on my whole blog. I hope if you don’t like what I say, you can accept that it’s my opinion and my belief and respect me for it.

I woke up this morning in an extremely cranky mood. I didn’t want to deal with anything, and especially not my kid, who seemed to want to do nothing except wipe her grubby little hands all over my glasses. (Yes, baby hands are always grubby for some reason, even right after a bath. I don’t know how they do it.) I realllllly wanted to put her in the jumperoo and leave the room, returning only when it was naptime. But instead I chose to put away my grouchiness. I took off my glasses, and got down on the floor and played with my kid – and when naptime came round I found myself in a much better mood, and glad for the choice I made.

I’ve been asked when (not ‘if’) I’m going back to work, and when I mention that our plan is for me to stay at home with the kids at least until they’re in school, almost everyone says “Good for you” or “We’d love to do that too but we just can’t afford it”. Despite the nearly unanimous support of our choice, very few other families make the choice – or the sacrifices necessary – to have a parent at home.

Here are some common arguments and some of my thoughts about the subject:

It’s not affordable.
I appreciate that some families genuinely need two incomes to make ends meet. I wonder, however, how many of those who say they can’t afford it have really sat down and done the math. Do they make the choice to live in a place with a mortgage they can comfortably carry with one income? Do they consider being a one-car family? Do they cut out things that are not really essential but are ‘nice-to-have’?
In the long run, will my kid be glad I provided them with a 4-bedroom house and brand name clothes but left them in a daycare situation, or would they rather live in a smaller place in a lesser neighbourhood, but had a parent at home to raise them?
Besides, with the average current costs, the first $20K of the second income goes directly to daycare anyway. If you want a ‘better’ daycare, with a smaller child-to-adult ratio, with more experienced and educated caregivers, that cost goes up.

What about my career?
I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t have a career. But let’s say you’re going to work for about 40 years of your life. If you give 7-8 of those years to caring for your children during those all-important ‘formative years’ before they go to school, you still have more than 30 years of working left. That’s a long time!
We only have so much ‘life energy’, if you will, to give to our jobs and our partners and our kids and our volunteer activities and our own interests. Why give it all to a company that, in most cases, would barely recognize our absence? Why do our jobs come first, before our primary and most important relationships? Why do companies that really don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things get the best of our efforts?
How many of us will get to the end of our lives and think we found the right balance?

It’s better for kids.
I don’t want to be the annoying person who says “studies show….” and then drone on about all that stuff. But studies really DO show: it’s simply better for kids to be raised by a parent, not a daycare. They do better socially, psychologically, emotionally, and ethically. They do better in school, they are more likely to be successful in relationships, they are more likely to achieve well in school.
And as we all know, our kids are the future. What’s best for our kids is also best for the future of our entire society.

Who is that daycare provider, anyway?
How well do we know the people we leave our kids with? Sure, we meet them a few times before committing to their services. We might even sit in for a day or two to observe them, if we’re really diligent. But for the most part, we’re leaving our kids with a total stranger. We don’t know how they handle stress or what their reaction is going to be if something really frustrating or challenging happens. If they wake up grumpy some day, are they going to choose to get down on the floor and play, or choose to turn on the TV until naptime finally comes around?

How much do my kids see me?
Evening and weekends really isn’t a lot of time. Including commuting, the vast majority of most kids’ awake time is with someone other than their family. Let’s say a parent has a 1/2 hour commute and works the usual 40-hour workday, with not a minute of overtime. That’s 45 hours out of the week that baby is with someone else. Let’s say baby is awake in the evening till 8pm, which gives parents about 2 hours in the evening plus two weekend days – let’s say they sleep about 12 out of of a 24-hour period. That’s a total of about 34 hours with a parent, plus or minus, per week. It’s still less than what the daycare provider spends with them!
Parents love their kids, no one is disputing that, but they’re essentially abdicating their role as a mommy or daddy by letting someone else raise their child.

Quality vs. Quantity
I’ve heard the argument that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your kid, it’s the quality of the time. Well, I don’t really know how to measure that, and I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with the sentiment. But I do know that commuting is not fun. Work can be frustrating and stressful. Grey Vancouver winters don’t do much for a mood either. And rushing everywhere and worrying about keeping all those balls in the air, so to speak, can be enormously exhausting.
How can all these things add up for a parent to be giving the best of themselves at the end of a workday? I can easily see how the evening rush – fight traffic, pick up baby, maybe a quick trip to get groceries, make dinner, eat dinner, bath for baby, bedtime – degrades in the quality of the time parents spend with their kids, no matter how you measure it. How can that be good for the parent-child relationship?

Sacrifices
Every choice we can make comes with pros and cons. If I stay home, my family has less money. If I go to work, my kid spends most of her waking hours in daycare. So we make the choices we think are the best, knowing that we’re going to lose a bit in some respect. But are those choices based on what’s best for us, or best for our kids? I think that as parents it’s our job to make sacrifices to do the best we can by our kids. That doesn’t mean giving them everything they want, but rather creating a life that will shape them into being the best person they can be. I think too often parents see that kids seem to be ‘doing ok’ in daycare situations, and figure it must be ‘good enough’, because they don’t want to make the sacrifices they would otherwise have to.
What if ‘good enough’ really ISN’T good enough? Why do we make choices that our children have to pay for? Why do we have kids if we’re not going to raise them to the best of our abilities? Why do we have kids just to let someone else raise them?

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