Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Caring for the children

The argument made in Ruth's blog was that women have always had help in the home so they could get things done. They were housewives- not mothers - as their primary purpose. They ran the social and cleaning schedule of the household- as well as cared from the children. Hummm- true- but really if push came to shove - the children came first.
In the 50's, when convince became a rule of thumb, women had more "leasure time" to play cards and tennis. Then late 60's pushed a number of those women into the work force- mostly (from my perspective) in divorce. Men saw that women could make money and care for children- so did the courts- and off came the gloves on the family.
Before the 60's children were rarely, if ever, placed with non family caretakers for long periods of time (and I would say that 50 hours a week- long periods of time) unless the families were extremely wealthy (nannies) or extremely poor (those are the horror stories) any time before the 1980's.
My mother did not "homeschool us". She did not see herself as "the educator" - because that was not what she was "taught to do". Instead she ran the household. We lived in a relatively safe place- rode our bikes unattended, played kick the can in the street, and played summer softball. She had help (if I remember- about 2 days a week).That woman was one of the key people in my religious life- so I am glad she was there. I would probably be a very different person if she had cared for me full time. I am not sure if that would have been good or bad.

Now a parent who stays home with their child is often looked down upon as someone who is lazy. They often make their staying home case by becoming homeschoolers. I don't have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with people returning (or beginning) to work. Still- I am out on the issue on whether it is better for the family for non family to care for children.

What do we know? Early childhood- the first five years (the bible says seven) are crucial.
Yes, we will have universal preschool- is that good? Would it be better to pay a family member to stay home?
We know that our lives revolve around both parents working.
We know that the next generation is putting off marriage - and child bearing.....but it only the men putting off the child bearing- since we are at a 60% rate of unmarried mothers having the future generation in some places. (Mothers who HAVE to return to work).
I have great concern over the "women have always worked and children have always been cared for by others" rhetoric. I worked. I am educated. I have a number of friends who are the sole or "most valuable"paycheck in the family. But what is the cost-----Really?
Is the argument "Our mothers did it" a good one?


Teresa said...

Then you have families like mine. Both of us worked, but dh worked days and I worked evenings. We saw each other on days off and passing the kids. The kids weren't in daycare and the only sitters we ever used were family or very good friends. My parents did the same. My mom did stay home until most of us were in school, but she did go back to nursing, evening shift. So she was home in the day and my dad in the evening. Now, my dd is a mom. She isn't married, and her bf is out of a job, again. She works for my dh in our home and brings the baby to work with her.

Janette said...

So, that would leave her "in family care"- more like the generations before. IMHO.

RAnn said...

Actually, Janette, I pretty much agree with you. Daycare as a job outside the home is a new thing. My comments regarding attachment parenting, which, from what I've read is a parenting sytle so child-focused that the children (particularly the baby) are mom's main focus all day and night. That's fine if you don't have too many babies too close together, if you don't have other work to do (and thoughout history most women HAVE had other work to do, and plenty of it)and you are physiologically able to handle it (getting up a night several times to nurse a toddler for years would have done my mother in--she needed her sleep and getting rid of that 2am feeding made her physically feel much better). My disagreement is with those who would state that such a parenting style is a moral imperitive or is historically normal. Its not.

As far as mom working outside the home, again realize that historically speaking, Dad hasn't worked outside the home for very long--longer than mom for sure, but not very long in a historical sense. Child care was like most other household chores--shared not only by the nuclear family but the extended family as well. Today we don't live close to our families, much less with them, so we do what we have done to many other chores--we hire someone to do them. Like most other things, I see good and bad, but I think in the end, kids who are loved and cared for generally do well, and those who are neglected, whether by parents or sub-standard daycare often have problems.